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Terceira Island, Portugal

Terceira is part of the central group (with São Jorge, Graciosa, Pico and Faial), known for the city Angra do Heroísmo – a UNESCO heritage site. It’s unfair because there’s so much more; the cuisine, charming villages, caves, beaches and a beautiful golf course. In size, it is the 3rd largest in the Azores with a perimeter of 90 km – in the history of Portugal, it was often the 1st.

The 1st name of Terceira is Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo das Terceiras – the Infante Dom Henrique, governor of the order of Christ (successors of the Templars in Portugal), gave the name to 7 islands (Flores and Corvo were still unknown).

The Azores were the third (1st were the Canaries, 2nd Madeira archipelago.) With time, the island became known as Terceira (third place in Portuguese) for having the vital port for the Carrier Ships from India and Brazil.

 In Angra, it is easy to spend a day seeing the magnificent historical buildings, the imposing fortress and the fantastic Mount Brazil.

Monte Brasil

In the middle of the island is the region known as Terra Brava, aptly named for its dense vegetation. The highest point is the fertile Serra de Santa Bárbara (1021 metres) – the summit hides among the clouds almost daily. On the northwestern side is the Serreta forest, a wonderful collection of cryptomeria and eucalyptus surrounded by endemic vegetation.

Serra de Santa Bárbara

Charming Praia da Vitória is the other unexplored town. Different and smaller. See the view across the eastern part at the top of Serra do Cume if you can.

Praia da Vitória

Between May and September, bullfights on a rope occur in almost every village, and it is usually the youngsters who take the most risks. For centuries, the ritual of facing the bull has symbolised facing the great beast: fear. And in the past, cultivating this bravery was vital to ensure the community’s survival.

Bullfighting on a Rope

You can visit elegant Angra do Heroísmo in the morning and spend the afternoon and early evening at Monte Brasil. Then explore the West Coast to Biscoitos, passing through sleepy hamlets.

If you are without a car or making a short visit, the best accommodation is in Angra because, besides the city, you can visit Praia da Vitória.

There is a bus service between 07:00 and 19:00 from the main square to Praia da Vitória – it takes less than 1 hour.

As far as cuisine is concerned, you can’t miss the delicious alcatra, prepared in an earthenware bowl with wine (Verdelho from the biscuit region, but nowadays, you can also use vinho de Cheiro). It cooks slowly with pepper (black and Jamaican), cloves, garlic, onion, and bay leaf.


It is a gastronomic marvel, an essential part of the Divine Holy Spirit Festivities on Terceira.

At the time of the Holy Spirit (between Easter and Trinity Sunday), families received the same amount of meat, bread, and wine (alms) – once a year, everyone (noble, people and clergy) ate as if they had the same possibilities.

It was a practice that preached, without words, that the strongest had duties towards the weakest in the community. Nowadays, they also make fish rump, an innovation to the traditional dish. Crustaceans and limpets (a mollusc that appears on rocks) are a much-appreciated snack in the Azores and Madeira.

Combine your coffee with the Donas Amélias queijadas – sweet but not too sweet, with a fantastic texture.

Donas Amélias

It was created in honour of a visit by King Dom Carlos and Queen Amélia (1901) – they are made just as they were made for the Queen. By direct flight, it’s 2 hours and 15 minutes from Lisbon and about 5 hours from Boston (however, most flights from the US have a stopover in São Miguel).

What to do:

Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira Azores

Given its Renaissance setting it is difficult not to go back to the times when Angra was the centre of the Atlantic universe. Traders and treasures gathered or passed through here, both from the East Indies and the New World.

Praia da Vitória, Terceira

In contrast with other cities in the archipelago, Praia is always open and bright. It has a central square and pedestrian shopping street. The extensive plains of this eastern half of the island have produced large quantities of wheat.

West Coast of Terceira, Azores

Just 3 km west of Angra is the pretty village and one of the most important fishing ports of the Azores. Between 16h00 and 17h00, the boats land to sell fish on the quay.

Nearby Terceira Island:

Terceira has as closest (in order) São Jorge, Graciosa and Pico. There are regular air connections, namely between the airport of Praia da Vitória and:

  • São Jorge: (half an hour trip),
  • Graciosa: (half an hour trip)
  • Pico: (35 minutes).

Between May and September, from Angra’s marina and Praia da Vitória marina, it has maritime connections to other islands (see more in Atlânticoline). It is a 3 to 6 hour trip (non-stop) between the islands of the central group. The price is around 30 euros.