A capital that is a Unesco heritage site (Angra do Heroísmo), a blanket of green-grass patchwork woven inside the largest crater of the Azores (Serra do Cume) and a unique volcano in the world that we can enter and look at the sky from inside (Algar do Carvão). Just because of these three attractions it is worth visiting the third largest island of the archipelago, but Terceira offers much more to those who visit it. There are dips in clear waters between lava flows in Biscoitos, biodiverse trails between mistérios negros, steaming cauldrons and the largest areas of endemic vegetation of the whole archipelago, and all these plans are combined with delicious gastronomy, good wine and festivities, lots of festivities.
In this guide we try to reflect all that Terceira has to offer with practical tips, itineraries from 2 to 7 days, where to sleep and even where to eat to make your trip as incredible as ours was.
- Basic facts for traveling to Terceira
- Best time to visit Terceira
- How to get to Terceira
- How many days to spend in Terceira
- Things to do in Terceira
- Map of Terceira
- Center and south of Terceira
- Angra do Heroísmo
- Serra do Cume and Miradouro da Serra do Cume
- Algar do Carvão
- Furnas do Enxofre
- Gruta do Natal
- Mistérios Negros Trail
- Lagoa das patas
- Serra de Santa Bárbara and Miradouro da Serra de Santa Bárbara
- Cinco Ribeiras natural pools
- São Mateus
- Natural swimming pools: Silveira, Poça dos Frades, Piscina dos Cães
- Miradouro Cruz do Canario and the IIhéus das Cabras, Feteira
- Porto Judeu
- Gruta das Agulhas (Agulhas Cave)
- Natural pools of Salga and Forte das Caravelas
- Farol das Contendas and Ponta das Contendas
- Fortes de São Sebastião
- North, East and West of Terceira
- Impérios do Espírito Santo: the colorful temples of Terceira
- The best hiking trails in Terceira
- Where to dive in Terceira
- Where to stay in Terceira: best areas
- Best restaurants in Terceira
- Itineraries to visit Terceira
- Transportation: rent a car in Terceira
- How much does it cost to travel to Terceira?
- Useful Apps for traveling to Terceira
- Recommendations to enjoy Terceira
- Checklist: what to take in your backpack/suitcase to Terceira
- Liked our guide? Save money and support us!
Basic facts for traveling to Terceira
Terceira (meaning “Third” in Portuguese) is the third largest and second most populated island of the Azores archipelago (Portugal). According to what we were told, its name comes from the fact that it was the “third” Azorean island to be “discovered” by Portuguese navigators in the 15th century (although recently traces have been found that the island had actually been inhabited before, more information here – in Portuguese). It boasts of being one of the most important islands, first for its relevance in the history of Portugal as it was the political, economic and religious center of the Azores in the sixteenth century and Angra do Heroísmo became the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal in the nineteenth century. More recently, its media prominence is related to the Military Base of Lajes, an important geopolitical point where the invasion of Iraq by American troops was decided at the 2003 summit. It also boasts two of the six cities in the entire Azorean archipelago (Angra do Heroísmo and Praia da Vitória), the largest areas of primitive endemic vegetation of the nine islands (no wonder, then, that even Charles Darwin himself insisted on passing through the island on his return from the Galapagos!), of being the only one of the nine with a 23 km highway that crosses the island with viaducts for cows (the Vacaductos, designated by the local people) and, finally, of having the best (and most) festivites of the 9 islands, with some even calling the island the Azorean “amusement park”.
Population: 53,000 (in 2021)
Daily budget: From 60€/day per person (approx.) for a one week trip. More budget information here
Climate: Undoubtedly the best time to visit Terceira is in summer due to better air and water temperatures and less chance of rain, although winter is not very cold (but it tends to rain more). The best months considering climate and less tourism are June and September. Being the “island of festivities”, it is ideal that you pay attention to the calendar if you want to coincide (or avoid) any of the island’s macro-events. We tell you more here.
Accommodation: We recommend staying in the capital, Angra do Heroísmo where there is a wide variety of accommodations from cheaper options in the historic center as the My Angra Boutique Hostel, a room overlooking the sea at the Hotel do Caracol or The Shipyardor even a more luxurious night for a special occasion at the Zenite Boutique Hotel & Spa or Terceira Mar Hotel. If you are staying more than 4 days on the island, it is a good option to split your stay between the capital and a different experience more rural or near the sea. More info on where to stay here.
Duration: Minimum 3 days. Ideal 4 or 5 days (or a week to take it easy and/or enjoy some of Terceira’s festivities). More info here
How to get there: There are some international direct flights to Terceira (from Boston, Toronto, …), although the easiest/cheapest way is normally to fly from within Portugal, where you will have cheap flights from major cities. We recommend you use flight comparators such as Skyscanner and Kiwi and be flexible with dates. If you are already in the Azores or you are going to visit other islands, it is possible to reach Terceira by boat with the company AtlânticoLine, although only in summer and a couple of days per week. We tell you more here.
Time zone: UTC +0. The time in the Azores archipelago (Portugal) is one hour behind the Portuguese mainland and Canary Islands and two hours behind the Spanish mainland.
Covid-19 measures: Since the measures in the Azores are constantly changing, before traveling check here the official information of the regional government to enter the archipelago.
Best time to visit Terceira
The best months to travel to Terceira based on weather conditions are from May to October, trying to avoid July and August which are the months with more tourism. June and September tend to be the best months, with good weather, still warm waters and less overcrowded tourism.
In terms of climate, summer is undoubtedly the best time, with warmer temperatures, less chance of rain and the possibility to enjoy more of its beaches and natural pools. In any case, the weather in Terceira (and in the Azores in general) is very unstable so there are no guarantees at any time of the year (it is often said that you can have the 4 seasons in one day).
Table of weather in Terceira, with temperatures and rainy days by month:
|Month||Average temperature||Average temperature (water)||Rainy days|
|Month||Average temperature||Average temperature (water)||Rainy days|
Another point to consider when choosing dates to visit Terceira are the local festivities. If you want to coincide (or precisely avoid them because of the large influx of people and accommodation) we list the most famous ones. After Christmas and New Year‘s Eve, in February, begin the Festas de Carnaval (Entrudo) with its dances(bailinhos) and popular satirical theaters. Around Easter, the most famous festivities (and transversal to the whole archipelago) arrive, the Festas do Divino Espírito Santo which are celebrated for 8 weeks on the island, between Easter Sunday and Pentecost or Trinity Sunday. In summer, more specifically in June, are the great Festas Sanjoaninas that fill the streets of the capital with concerts, parades and something that two animal lovers like us did not like at all on the island, the touradas (bullfights; yes, Terceira has a lot of bullfighting tradition) for 10 days. In August, Festas da Praia, in Praia da Vitória and in September, Festa da Vinha e do Vinho, in Biscoitos. In addition to these local festivals there are several festivals such as Angra Jazz which is usually held in October. As you can see, in Terceira the party agenda is full all year round, so whenever you go, you will most likely be able to enjoy some local festivity.
How to get to Terceira
There are some international direct flights to Terceira (from Boston, Toronto, …), although the easiest/cheapest way is normally to fly from within Portugal, where you will have cheap flights from major cities.
The cheapest is usually to fly from Lisbon/Oporto with Ryanair although sometimes you can also find good prices with Tap (the Portuguese airline) or Sata (the Azorean airline responsible for all inter-island flights). We recommend you to be flexible with dates and use price comparison sites such as Skyscanner andKiwi.com.
If your intention is to reach Terceira from another Azorean island, there are also a couple of boat connections between Terceira, Graciosa and the islands of the Triangle (Pico, São Jorge and Faial), but they only operate in summer, a couple of days a week (you can see the schedules at https://www.atlanticoline.pt/ but only near summer, when they confirm the connections and schedules).
How many days to spend in Terceira
We recommend aminimum of 3 days, although the ideal for Terceira is between 5 days and a week (and if you miss party at one of the festivities, you can relax and enjoy the natural pools for an extra day to recover…) For this reason we propose different types of itineraries, of more or less days, which you can see here.
Things to do in Terceira
Here we leave you a summary of the places to visit in Terceira, and below you have the map and specific information of each place.
Things to see and do in Terceira
- Strolling through the colorful streets of Angra do Heroísmo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Enter the interior of a volcano, Algar do Carvão, one of the few places in the world where you can do it.
- Contemplate an authentic grass-green patchwork blanket, Serra do Cume, woven inside the largest crater in the Azores (and one of the largest in Europe).
- Swimming among lava flows in Biscoitos
- Hiking among mistérios negros (black mysteries) of recent lava eruptions, endemic vegetation and smoldering calderas
- Tasting an alcatra and partying afterwards
Map of Terceira
Here we leave you all the places of interest in Terceira that we talk about in this guide on a Google Maps map that you can carry on your smartphone to consult at any time.
Center and south of Terceira
Angra do Heroísmo
In our opinion, the capitals of the Azorean islands are not usually among the most interesting on each island but Angra do Heroísmo is an exception. Classified as a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1983, Angra (as it is called by locals) is a main point of the archipelago for its historical, political and economic importance. This Unesco classification came just 3 years after the great earthquake of January 1, 1980 (7.2 on the Richter scale) that destroyed 80% of the city’s buildings, killed 70 people and left thousands more homeless.
The recovery work was such that, today, when we walk through its streets where buildings, palaces, churches and monasteries of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries abound, it seems impossible that the great earthquake had occurred just 40 years earlier.
An essential plan in the capital of Terceira is precisely to stroll through the colorful network of cobbled streets in the center, from the statue of Vasco da Gama (famous Portuguese explorer and navigator of the fifteenth and sixteenth century), through the blue Igreja da Misericórdia to the marina, admiring the beautiful bay of Angra. Here we recommend a drink on the terrace of Quinta dos Açores, Azorean cheese boards with bolo lêvedo at a good price and delicious ice cream. If it’s hot, you can even take a dip in the small beach there called Prainha (small beach, in Portuguese).
After a drink, continue to the Cathedral of Santo Salvador (the Sé Catedral de Angra do Heroísmo, built at the end of the 16th century over an old Gothic church), contemplate the façade of the imposing building of Paços do Concelho and the Igreja Nossa Senhora da Conceição (16th century) and pass by the Palacio dos Capitães Generais , the Castelo de São Sebastião (where, in fact, you can stay overnight at the Parador inside) and the Church of São Francisco where the city museum, the MAH, is located and where the navigators João Vaz Corte-real and Paulo da Gama (brother of Vasco da Gama) are buried.
Take a rest in the beautiful Duque da Terceira garden because you will have to go upstairs to enjoy the view. This botanical garden is bounded by the Convent of São Francisco and landscaped in the Portuguese romantic style. In the garden there are a couple of tributes to Almeida Garret (the most representative author of romanticism in Portugal and author of some of the most famous works of Portuguese literature such as “Viagens na Minha Terra” and “Folhas Caídas”) as he was one of the main drafters of the project of the new Constitution, drafting the decree of January 12, 1837 with which D. Maria II has attributed to the city of “Angra” the title of “Heroísmo”.
From the garden you can go up the stairs to the Monumento da Memoria or Alto da Memoria which is an obelisk in memory of King Pedro IV. It was in Terceira that the monarch organized forces to reconquer the throne, consolidate the constitutional monarchy and make Angra the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal in the nineteenth century. As a curiosity, it was also then that the “de Heroísmo” was added to “Angra” as a tribute to the bravery of its inhabitants throughout the history of the island (whose redactor was Garret, as mentioned above).
There are many places to stay in Angra do Heroísmo such as the My Angra Boutique Hostel (beds from 19€/night to private rooms for 38€/night), Hotel do Caracol with sea views (from 55€/night) or the Zenite Boutique Hotel & Spa with indoor and outdoor pool, sauna and Turkish bath in the center of the city (from 85€/night). More options on Where to stay in Angra do Heroísmo
Mount Brazil and São João Baptista Fortress
Due to its strategic geographical location, the Azores were a target and refuge for pirates and corsairs throughout the centuries and in all the islands it is possible to find traces of this, but of the nine islands, Terceira is the island that hides the most traces of forts and fortresses. It was an obligatory point of passage between the 15th and 19th centuries for the Portuguese and Spanish fleets that transported all kinds of wealth and a strategic refuge for the ships that made the so-called “Carreira da Índia”. Consequently, the precious metals and spices that used to stop here were highly coveted by these pirates and corsairs, which explains the existence of these defense fortresses.
Monte Brasil, a dormant volcano, hides the Fortaleza de São João Baptista, one of the largest Spanish fortresses in the world (or the largest according to what we were told but could not confirm). It is the cone formed by a submarine volcanic eruption, the largest in the whole archipelago, whose volcanic tuffs provided the materials used in the construction of the fortress and its wall. The fortress, 4.1 km long, was built in the 16th century and is the visible mark of the 60-year past of the Felipes of Spain on Terceira Island (1580 – 1640).
Apart from offering breathtaking panoramic views of the city, the bay of Angra and the Ilhéus das Cabras, it has 5 bastions that were essential for its defense and you can enter the old dungeons, carved into volcanic rock. These dungeons were abandoned in the eighteenth century and recovered in the twentieth century after the coup d’état of 1926, in which the fortress was converted into a political prison by the Portuguese fascist dictatorship. This dictatorial period of fascist and authoritarian rule is also known as the “New State” (Estado Novo, in Portuguese) and lasted 48 years in Portugal until the Carnation Revolution in 1974 which put an end to it and implemented democracy.
Within the walls of the fortress there is also the homonymous church, the Church of São João Baptista. The church was ordered to be built by King João IV in 1645. With a baroque façade, a portal with colonnades and two heavy bell towers on the top, it is the first monument commemorating the Restoration of the Independence of Portugal, achieved in 1640 in the Battle of Aljubarrota.
Be careful! You can’t enter the fortress right there. To visit the Fortaleza de São João Baptista in Monte Brasil you have to go to the Núcleo de Historia Militar Manuel Coelho Baptista de Lima, where they make a previous explanation and then continue inside the fortress. More info at Museums of Angra do Heroísmo.
Beyond the fort, we loved exploring Monte Brasil, which you can get to know by walking a trail of about 7.5 km. We did it by car with our guide and friend Mario Mendes.
We climb to the Pico das Cruzinhas viewpoint to enjoy the panoramic view of the city.
From this viewpoint it is possible to see the entire bay of Angra and the main volcanoes of the island: Santa Barbara (to the west), Guilherme Moniz (in the center) and Cinco Pico (to the east):
Afterwards, we continue climbing up to the Miradouro Pico do Facho. This viewpoint is very interesting because in the telegraph (signal post or semaphore post) located there, messages were emitted according to the position and number of metal plates. It was very important for the navigation of ships, airplanes and even whale watching.
As a bonus, on our way down from Monte Brasil, we met this deer friend who, apparently, lives there with his family, so maybe you will be as lucky as we are and you will be able to say hello to him.
If you want to live more closely the adventure of pirates and corsairs of yesteryear, nothing better than sleeping inside a fortress. In Terceira this is possible at the Pousada de Angra de Heroísmo Castelo de São Sebastião (from 70€/night), a parador inside the 16th century fort with comfortable rooms, swimming pools and incredible views of the sea and Monte Brasil. Book your night here.
Museums of Angra do Heroísmo
- MAH – Museu de Angra do Heroísmo: located in the 17th century São Francisco Church, it presents a permanent exhibition (with collections of military and transport history from the 18th and 19th centuries and various equipment used in the piracy era) and several temporary exhibitions. You can see what temporary exhibitions are on display at the time of your visit by clicking here. This museum has several cores, such as the Núcleo Militar from which you can visit the Fortaleza São Baptista and the Carmina Galeria de Arte Contemporânea. Admission: 2€. Hours: Tuesday to Friday from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm; Saturdays and Sundays from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm; closed Mondays and holidays.
- Núcleo de História Militar Manuel Coelho Baptista de Lima through which you can visit the Fortaleza de São João Baptista. It is located in the old Military Hospital of Boa Nova of the 17th century, on the side of the imposing Philippine fortress, and presents an exhibition of light and heavy artillery pieces, cannons, firearms, bladed weapons, projectiles, uniforms and decorations. At the core they make a previous explanation and then continue inside the fortress. Access is free but limited to groups of maximum 15 people so dial by phone on +351 295218383 or email email@example.com. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday and holidays, from 10:00h to 12:00h and from 14:30h to 16:30h.
- Carmina Galeria de Arte Contemporânea Dimas Simas Lopes This gallery hosts various cultural events, in addition to the exhibition and sale of works of art. Free admission. Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:30 am to 12:00 noon and from 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm; Friday and Saturday from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
- Museu Vulcanoespeleológico: apart from being the headquarters of the association “Os Montanheiros” that manages, among other things, the famous “Algar do Carvão”, it is a museum of geology and speleology. On display here are materials of different structures resulting from the volcanic genesis of the Azores, 3D representation of the islands, a collection of fossils and photographs of landscapes of the islands and their protected areas. Free admission. Hours: Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon and from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm; closed on weekends.
- Angra do Heroísmo Science Center: observatory for the dissemination of science and technology with an interactive area. Free admission. Hours: Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm; closed on weekends.
Serra do Cume and Miradouro da Serra do Cume
Also known as Manta de Retalhos (patchwork blanket), the Serra do Cume viewpoint is the most beautiful of the island, one of the postcards of Terceira and one of its main attractions.
This must-see point is actually a viewpoint overlooking the largest crater in the Azores (and one of the largest in Europe) with 15 km in diameter and one of the first on the island. The eruption of the volcano formed a massif that extended the limits of the island for several kilometers and it is inside this caldera that the famous viewpoint is located.
The nickname “patchwork blanket” comes from the immensity of the green plain now occupied by large expanses of vegetation and pastures: the squares of green pasture delimited by the volcanic basalt are the patchwork.
It is also possible to observe “trachytic domes” (which we will tell you more about later in the mistérios negros trail) formed by later eruptions, which are aligned along a volcanic fault.
From the viewpoint you can see the bay and the city of Praia da Vitória on one side, together with the Lajes plain and the Lajes Air Base, and on the other side, the great plain of the interior of the island.
We recommend to visit late in the afternoon, still with light, appreciate the dance of shadows of the clouds on the green blanket contrasting with the blue of the sea as a backdrop and see how it turns orange at sunset. At Randomtrip, we take the sunset very seriously, so we even brought a Pico wine and a few glasses from home to enjoy the show (without making a mess and leaving the place as good or better than we found it, of course). We leave you with the idea…
As a curiosity, this viewpoint was a military checkpoint during World War II and that there was a subway military complex – Casamatas da Serra do Cume – abandoned today.
Algar do Carvão
The“Algar do Carvão” is nothing more and nothing less than one of the few volcanoes of its kind in the world that can be visited from the inside. Of this kind in the sense that the lava solidified on the walls preventing the volcano from collapsing and creating a caldera.
To enter the volcano you have to go down 338 stairs into the earth. It is impressive to visit this 90-meter deep monument built by nature 2000 years ago.
On the way down, you can visit two large “halls” created by the attempts of lava to go outside before forming the impressive“chimney” where it actually came out: a perfect cone, unobstructed, now covered with green moss and so impressive when descending the stairs. When visiting the Algar we will also see, going down a few more stairs, a lagoon of transparent waters that is formed below with water that falls due to the weather (varies according to the season) and imposing vaults.
Contemplating the sky from inside a volcano, watching the clouds pass very quickly from the almost perfect circle of the cone where the lava came out was undoubtedly one of the moments and places that had the greatest impact on our trip to the archipelago.
The“Algares” are deep vertical holes of volcanic origin, very common in the Azores. They can be formed by the outflow or withdrawal of magma from the interior of the earth; by the contraction of lava when it cools; by the outflow of gases (hornitas); or by the collapse of superimposed lava tubes.
In addition to the impressive chimney, one of the two halls is called the“cathedral“, which the lava gave a round shape but could not get out due to the hardness of the rock. This “cathedral” of the Algar is of different colors and is characterized by good acoustics, which allowed even small concerts to be organized here. Also in the cathedral is the ideal place to observe the stalactites and, in fact, the Algar do Carvão is where the world’s largest concentration of amorphous silica stalactites (very fragile and whitish in color, resulting from the alteration and accumulation of salts from the waters that infiltrated and precipitated from the surface), flora, beetles and spiders endemic to Terceira.
Nowadays, in order to visit such a place we only have to go down the stairs , but can you imagine what it would be like to enter here with ropes from above? Well, the first descent was by rope, in 1893, although the Algar was only opened to the public in the late 60’s, after the association Os Montanheiros that manages it opened a tunnel and built the access stairs, later expanded and improved several times. Legend has it that it was a shepherd, looking for a goat that was missing in his flock that found this impressive hole in the ground and it is thanks to him and all those adventurous, brave and mountaineering people that today we can contemplate such a natural monument.
The entrance to the Algar do Carvão costs 8€ but if you buy the joint ticket for Algar do Carvão + Gruta do Natal (which we tell you about below) as we did, it costs 12€ and you save 4€ if you go to both sites (8€ each ticket). Be careful! It only opens from 14:30h to 17:30h (the last entrance is 15 min before closing) and 4 days a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) to limit the exposure to light and improve its preservation. You can see the opening hours, closing days and prices here. We recommend you to wear closed shoes as it can get very wet and even a raincoat is also a good idea (there is a lot of humidity inside). The temperature inside the Algar is about 12º all year round. The visit lasts between 20 and 30 minutes and there is a brief explanation of what happened and what you are about to learn when you go down the stairs and pass the initial impact.
Furnas do Enxofre
Classified as a Regional Natural Monument, the Furnas do Enxofre (Furnas de Azufre) are a field of different vegetation with more than 20 fumaroles of different volcanic gases at different temperatures, visible vestiges of the Pico Alto volcano, dormant since the last eruption in the 18th century.
It is possible to walk through this curious field through a wooden circuit, pedestrian, surrounding the smoking sulfur furnas. If you want to do the whole circuit, you should know that it is circular, the distance is about 1 km, it is easy and it takes about 30-40 minutes, depending on the time you spend looking at the “fumaroles” and taking pictures. While you walk, you can get information about the natural elements present on the information panels.
It is located in the southern sector of the Pico Alto volcano, less than a kilometer from Algar do Carvão, and although it is not a visit that smells especially good (you know, sulfur has that flatulent smell) we find it very interesting and beautiful. Admission is free and you can go at any time of the day.
Gruta do Natal
The Gruta do Natal (Christmas cave) is a 697-meter lava tube that we can enter and get to know inside. Inside the cave we can observe different geological structures of different types of lava, staphylites, lateral balconies and even some moss that grows when a little light enters the dark tunnel.
The length of the cave is easy to walk through almost in its entirety, on a floor with little unevenness and high ceilings in most of the route. Even so, be careful with your head because although they give you a helmet at the entrance to protect you during the circuit, there are areas of the cave really low.
Although it has had other names in the past – Black Gallery and Horse cave – it is now called “Christmas cave” because Christmas masses were celebrated right here inside the cave until 2011. At the entrance of the cave there are some photographs on display of these Christmas masses and even of a wedding that took place here in 2003, which you can view at your leisure on the way out.
The entrance to Gruta do Natal costs 8 € but, in case you go to both geological attractions, if you buy the joint ticket Gruta do Natal + Algar do Carvão it costs 12 € and you save 4 €. Like Algar do Carvão, it is only open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from 14h30 to 17h00. You can see the opening hours, closing days and prices here. The Gruta do Natal circuit is circular so you don’t pass through the same places on the way there and back and the visit lasts between 20 and 30 minutes. We recommend you to wear closed shoes as water can fall inside, even a raincoat is a good idea.
Gruta do Natal is right in front of Lagoa do Negro where the mistérios negros trail starts, so, considering the proximity of both with Algar do Carvão and Furnas do Enxofre, it may be a good idea to make these plans on the same day.
Mistérios Negros Trail
One of the most beautiful trails you can do on the island is the Mistérios Negros trail. On this trail you can observe a great variety of endemic vegetation and beautiful and changing landscapes through authentic natural treasures such as the laurel valleys of Serra dos Altares while listening to the birds and the croaking of frogs. But the most interesting thing comes when you start to see the “black mysteries” of lava that give the trail its name and its contrast with the green of the vegetation and the blue of the sea in the background.
Randomtripper Scale of Difficulty:Medium. It is a circular trail of 4.9 km – 2h30 approximately – easy but with narrow areas with more unstable and slippery terrain. Trekking boots/sneakers are essential to do the trail.
The trail starts next to Lagoa do Negro (where Gruta do Natal is located), in the middle of the Serra de Santa Bárbara e dos Mistérios Negros Natural Reserve. The “black mysteries” are the “trachytic domes” formed by the accumulations of lava expelled by the Pico Gaspar volcano in the great eruption of 1761. “Mysteries” because the local population did not understand what they were, and they resorted to the priests and religion and as they did not know either… they identified them as mysteries of the Lord. And so these lava flows that modified the terrain and stand out from the rest as something “different” due to recent volcanic eruptions were “baptized”. We had heard about them on the island of Pico and in fact it was at the Casa dos Vulcões on that island that we learned about the “black mysteries” of Terceira.
We loved this trail and, in our opinion, if you only have time to do one trail on the island, make it this one. We loved the colorful landscapes where it is difficult to count the shades of green and orange in contrast with the black-lava and blue-sea, the famous black mysteries and, of course, the company and the laughs we had with Márcia (aka BP), the friend with whom we shared the Terceiran adventures. More info in The Best hiking trails in Terceira.
As we told you before, these four attractions – Algar do Carvão, Furnas do Enxofre, Black Mysteries Trail and Gruta do Natal – are very close so it can be a good idea to do them on the same day. Our recommendation would be to wake up early and start with the Black Mysteries Trail, follow with a visit to Gruta do Natal, then the impressive Algar do Carvão and finally a walk through Furnas do Enxofre.
Lagoa das patas
The Lagoa das Patas Recreational Forest Reserve, in the interior of the island, has a picnic area next to an artificial lagoon supplied by the Santa Barbara mountain range. In this lagoon it is possible to observe, as the name suggests, ducks. Specifically wild or mute ducks and geese.
The lagoon is surrounded by a forest with various types of trees and vegetation (some of them endemic) where it is pleasant to walk and listen to the birds that live there (or that pass by on their migratory movements) such as the sparrow, the lambandeira, the blackbird or the starling. Behind this lagoon is a large“turfeira” (peat bog) or“musgão“, as the local people call it, a very particular ecosystem because it is a real water reservoir. The peat bog acts as a sponge of mosses and vegetation that has accumulated over thousands of years without decomposing completely, in an environment saturated with water.
Being at high altitude, don’t be surprised if you find the forest and the lagoon shrouded in fog, which in our opinion gives it an extra touch of magic. We made a quick stop to see the lagoon but if you have brought snacks in the car and you are hungry, it is a good place to have a picnic.
Serra de Santa Bárbara and Miradouro da Serra de Santa Bárbara
The Serra de Santa Barbara is located in the western part of the island and hides the Serra de Santa Barbara Natural Forest Reserve, more than 1100 hectares of important species of fauna and flora. It houses an estratovolcano (high altitude volcano composed of multiple layers of lava) the largest of the island – inactive – with approximately 2 km in diameter.
The viewpoint that promises incredible views is located at 1021 meters of altitude and on clear days, gives an incredible view of the island and it is even possible to greet the neighboring islands of São Jorge and Pico.
When we went we were unlucky and experienced a real Expectation versus Reality situation. After reading about the views and even seeing some photos, when we arrived the fog was such that if we stretched out our arm we could hardly see our hand.
You can also visit the Centro de Interpretação da Serra de Santa Bárbara if you want to learn more about the process of formation and geomorphological evolution of the island.
Cinco Ribeiras natural pools
On days with good visibility, the natural pools of Cinco Ribeiras offer a unique scenery, with the islands of São Jorge and Pico right there, accompanying you in the dips. If you go, stay for the sunset as it is said to be one of the most beautiful on the island (we couldn’t check it out because it was a cloudy day) and if you feel like it, have a beer and some petiscos (raciones) at the O Pilar bar.
In this area there is a very popular cave for scuba diving: the underwater Gruta das Cinco Ribeiras. We tell you more in the section Where to Dive in Terceira.
São Mateus da Calheta, known as São Mateus, tastes like the sea. Located on the south coast of the island, it is probably its port, or rather its fish, that attracts you here. The Beira Mar restaurant, considered one of the best fish restaurants in the Azores, has a terrace where you can taste its fresh fish, some good cracas or a seafood soup inside a bread (more info on menu and prices in Where to Eat in Terceira). It is normal that in one of the main fishing areas of the island there is more than one good fish restaurant so if you have no luck in the Beira Mar, try the Baía W, more modern and newer, right in front of the bay.
It boasts of its religious heritage, where the highlights are the Parish Church of São Mateus (from 1911), the ruins of the old church destroyed by the hurricane of 1893 and the Imperios do Divino Espírito Santo and do Cantinho, from the 19th century.
In the Casa dos Botes Baleeiros museum located right there, in the port of São Mateus, you can learn more about a very important economic activity in the Azores (especially on the island of Pico but also in the others) for about 50 years: whaling and the industry of products derived from these cetaceans. The activity was banned in 1986 but the numbers are impressive: between 1896 and 1949 about 12 thousand whales were hunted… In this museum you can learn more about the baleeiro past of Terceira, more specifically of São Mateus, you can see an authentic baleeiro boat (the boats that were used for whaling) as well as an exhibition of artifacts used in the factory.
If you feel like a dip, the natural pool in the Negrito area is easily accessible and great for swimming among volcanic rocks. There is plenty of space to spread out towels and dry in the sun.
Near this natural pool there are several nice accommodations with sea views where you can stay: if you want to stay in an accommodation with jacuzzi, with views and surrounded by nature, then you want the Basalto Negro and you can book it here. If you want a window overlooking the sea, opt for the Farol Guesthouse. If you prefer something more rural, also nearby, sleeping at Quinta do Martelo is like sleeping in a museum: take a look here.
Natural swimming pools: Silveira, Poça dos Frades, Piscina dos Cães
The old fishing port of Silveira is, due to its proximity to Angra do Heroísmo, one of the most popular and crowded bathing areas on the island. And not only in summer, as the protection of the bay means that the sea is never too hostile and there are many people who enjoy it several months of the year. We didn’t find it the most attractive (a harbor type bay) but it was full of locals. In the summer it is guarded.
Nearby are two other bathing areas, Piscina dos Cães and Poça dos Frades ( about 7 min from Angra by car). Both are quite wild – wet shoes are essential to be able to walk through the volcanic nooks and crannies for a dip – and we hardly saw options where to stretch out the towel to dry in the sun.
Miradouro Cruz do Canario and the IIhéus das Cabras, Feteira
Undoubtedly, the place to get the best views of the Ilhéus das Cabras is at this viewpoint, Miradouro Cruz do Canario.
The two islets are already one of the most emblematic postcards of Terceira and are of great ecological importance (they are classified as Special Protection Zone of the Ilhéus das Cabras). They are located off the south coast, approximately 1km from Morgado Bay, Feteira.
Together, Big Islet and Small Islet have a total area of 28 hectares, the small islet being 84 meters high and the big islet 147 meters high. They are the largest islets of the archipelago resulting from volcanic remains from when the basaltic lava came into contact with the sea, forming volcanic littoral cones, nowadays already quite eroded by the sea. According to what we have read, the name Ilhéus das Cabras (Goat Islets) comes from the fact that shepherds once used these islands to feed their animals, more specifically, they used to graze goats and sheep on the islets.
If you want to wake up with views of the Cabras islets, the best accommodation options are right here, next to the viewpoint. The AlLuar Lodge (from 50€/night) has several bungalows right next to the viewpoint, with a swimming pool and views of the sea and the Cabras islets. The other option next to the viewpoint is the Canario do Mar (from 110€/night), a house with one bedroom and sofa-bed with bicycle rental service.
They are a paradise for ornithologists or birdwatching lovers, since many protected species nest here and have made this place their habitat, among them the common tern, the roseate tern, the heron, the gull and others. In addition to birds, it is also possible to observe turtles.
Since they are a Special Protection Area, the only way to visit the islets is by boat (it is not allowed to dock or walk around the islets) and always with a limited number of visitors:
- In this one and a half hour glass-bottom boat ride you will try to spot as many marine and bird species of the islets as possible, without getting wet. An ideal activity if you visit Terceira when it is cooler.
- Exploring the beauty of the underwater islets and getting up close to the various species of marine fauna that live there and receive special protection. snorkeling.
- Combining the two best activities you can do in Terceira in the same day: whale watching (whales and dolphins) and then approaching the islet of Cabras for bird and turtle watching and snorkeling in the protected waters of the islets of Cabras. Great plan? Book here.
- If you are more of a sunset person, imagine watching these two imposing volcanic rocks turn orange with the sunset from a boat at sea. It is possible with this tour of sunset boat ride
Nearby, also in Feteira, there is a small fajã, Fischer Fajã (also known as Fajã do Peixe), a small fajã of lava to which it is possible to drive down quite carefully as the access is very steep and enjoy an incredible view of the Ilhéus das Cabras.
There are more accommodation options with privileged views of the islet of Cabras, more economical than the AlLuar Lodgeand the Canario do Mar as the Casinha Muda da Feteira (a house with a bedroom and hammock facing the sea from 36€/night), the Apartamento bela Vista Terceira (also with balcony overlooking the sea and the islet, from 36€/night and up to 5 people) or the Casa Doce Mar (which accommodates up to 6 people from 50€/night). More on Where to stay in Terceira.
The Miradouro Maria Augusta de Castro, in Porto Judeu, also offers beautiful views of the ilhéus. Here you can combine the views with a dip in the sea nearby, since the Baía do Refugo natural swimming pool has direct access to the sea, a bathing area with surveillance and even a playground.
In Porto Judeu we also saw one of the more than 50 impérios on the island, the small colorful temples where to worship the Holy Spirit in Terceira, in this case we visited the Império do Divino Espírito Santo de Porto Judeu. We tell you more about these houses of worship of exuberant colors in the section of the guide: Impérios do Espirito Santo.
If you get hungry here, go to the Boca Negra restaurant where you can try both the meat or the fish alcatra accompanied by the famous sweet bread, the massa sovada (we tried the fish alcatra, 32€ for 2 people with drinks and a Dona Amélia cake for dessert).
Gruta das Agulhas (Agulhas Cave)
Nearby is the Gruta das Agulhas, a small volcanic cave right next to the sea. You can go down the stairs (exact location here) to get a good view of the Ilhéus das Cabras with the sea as a soundtrack.
Like almost all the volcanic formations found in this area, this cave was created by the eruption of the Algar do Carvão. As the lava from the volcano flowed into the sea, a whole coastal area was formed with bays and cliffs of large volcanic basalt rocks. In some places lava flow tubes were formed which, having exhausted their food source in the volcano and having reached their end, left these galleries open, some of them several kilometers long.
This cave was also discovered and explored in 1967 by the speleological association “Os Montanheiros'” (the same that manages Algar do Carvão and Gruta do Natal). Its name comes from the large amount of needle-shaped sedimentary formations that cover its walls and ceilings. The cave is currentlyclosed to the public since the improvements made by the association for its study were destroyed by the erosive action of the sea.
Natural pools of Salga and Forte das Caravelas
Known as Praia da Salga (Salga Beach), this natural pool has the protection of the bay which means that the sea is never too hostile and is very popular with families with children. It has a bar just in front, on the other side of the road, where you can have a drink on the terrace.
Right next to the natural pool are the remains of the Forte das Caravelas.
Farol das Contendas and Ponta das Contendas
For a photogenic postcard view, especially at sunset, with the beautiful silhouette of a lighthouse and the Ilhéus das Cabras in the background, visit the Ponta das Contendas where you will find the Farol das Contendas.
Apparently, the location of the lighthouse was chosen because at that time there was a lot of flow of ships sailing between Monte Brasil and Ponta da Serreta, and this part was hidden.
When we went the lighthouse was closed to the public and you couldn’t even enter the grounds (probably because of new rules in pandemic times) but apparently there is an exhibit with objects that tell the story of the lighthouse.
Fortes de São Sebastião
In this “freguesia” of Terceira there are vestiges of different sea defense fortifications, built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to defend against Castilian attacks. The best way to get to know them is to follow the PR5TER hiking route, a route through the southeast of the island.
If you are not up for the route, we also recommend you to drive along the small road along the coast and enjoy the views, where you will find the Ermida de Maria Vieira.
North, East and West of Terceira
Praia da Vitória
In Praia da Vitória, as the name itself indicates, there is a beach (praia, in Portuguese). In fact, it is here that you will find one of the largest bathing areas in the Azores. The bay of Praia da Vitória hides a beach that actually has two sandy areas: Praia Grande, which accompanies the promenade of the city and Prainha, next to the local marina. In both there is sand instead of volcanic rocks, something not very common in the Azores (except on the island of Santa Maria), and it is said that the water is warmer than in other parts of the island and, because of the port, the sea is calmer.
For this reason, and for having a reputation of a sunny microclimate, these beaches are highly sought after by the local population, although we must say that when we went there it was not particularly good and the days were rather cloudy and a bit windy. That’s the thing about the Azores, the weather is totally unpredictable.
Nearby and a little wilder, we can also find the Praia da Riviera, which besides being highly sought after by vacationers is a nesting area for quail, among other species.
But Praia da Vitória is not only known for its beach and sun, but also for its American accent. The proximity to the Military Base of Lajes, made that many American families lived in this city , especially during the more than 7 years that the war in Iraq lasted and that everything in the city was influenced by their customs, accent and traditions. Today, only about a hundred American families still live here and little remains of that accent and those stores with American products.
We tried to find signs of American life in Praia da Vitória but the most we found was a store of imported products, Liberty American Store, inside the small shopping center Forum Terceira. Here you can find candy, sauces, snacks, cereals and all kinds of mostly processed “junk” made in the USA.
Where we were left wanting to go was to the former home of Vitorino Nemésio, author of the book Corsario das Ilhas (Corsair of the Islands) and of some of the most relevant works of Portuguese literature of the 20th century (such as, for example, Mau Tempo no Canal). He was born here, in Praia da Vitória, in 1901 and his old house, located in a historic building from the 17th century, is now a small museum called Casa Vitorino Nemésio.
To contemplate Praia da Vitória, its beaches, port and surroundings from above, the best view is from the Miradouro do Facho (not to be confused with the one in Monte Brasil). Also known as Miradouro da Serra do Facho or Miradouro da Santa do Facho, next to the monument of Imaculado Coração de Maria, from here you will get a panoramic view of the Serra do Cume viewpoint itself. If you want to add an Instagram touch to the experience, enjoy the view from the swing!
The best options to stay in Praia da Vitória with sea view are a room at the Atlantida Mar Hotel (from 60€/night) or the Downtown Praia da Vitória apartment (from 45€/night). More accommodations in Praia da Vitória here.
Porto Martins and olives
It is in Porto Martins, very close to Praia da Vitória, where the only olives grown regularly in the Azores are born. They have a distinct flavor, derived from the combination of bay, garlic, oregano and lemon dressing in the brine. You can buy them in the capital, in Angra, at the century-old store Basilio Simões & Irmãos or try them at the restaurant O Pescador, in Praia da Vitoria, one of our favorites on the island.
There is something we love about the Azores (apart from how beautiful the islands are, how nice the people are and how good the food is), and that is that wherever you go you are sure to find a natural pool, i.e., stairs down to the sea with space (or not) to lay your towel. Porto Martins is no exception, so when you pass through here, if the weather is nice, take the opportunity to take a dip in Baía das Canas, in Piscinas naturais de Porto Martins or in Poça do Porto de São Fernando.
Sleep overlooking the sea at Porto Martins Bay Apartments (from 60€/night), great apartments with sea views (and parking!).
Base das Lajes
The Lajes Air Base was built for defense purposes during World War II due to the strategic location of the Azorean islands. Both the United Kingdom and the United States ended up using it from that time until today, in the case of the USA.
In fact, the Lajes Air Base has been an important geopolitical point for the United States since the Cold War until the 2003 summit that preceded the invasion of Iraq by US troops, a decision immortalized in a media (and, in our opinion, shameful) photograph of the so-called “Azores trio”: George W. Bush (USA), Tony Blair (UK) and José Maria Aznar (Spain), received by the then Prime Minister of Portugal Durão Barroso during the summit at the Base.
To see the base, the best point is to approach the Miradouro Humberto Delgado:
We wanted to find out more about the base where, according to what we were told a few years ago (during the Iraq war) there were about a thousand or so families living and today there are only about a hundred. We were told that both here at the base and in the town next to the base where many American people used to live – Praia da Vitória – the reduction of people living there has been very noticeable. And, in addition, some people from Terceira who ended up falling in love with the military and emigrated to the USA.
Following the eruption of the Capelinhos volcano on the island of Faial (which lasted 13 months between 1957 and 1958) and the need to evacuate the population, the United States approved the “Azorean Refugee Act“ in 1958, granting more than 1.5 thousand visas for the population of the islands. But there were actually more than 175 thousand Azoreans who migrated there in the following decades (more than 30% of the population). Knowing more about the geopolitical importance of the Azores, it is better understood why the US had interest in helping the Azores and in granting visas…
Between the Lajes Military Base and the number of emigrants from the Azores and 2nd and 3rd generation Portuguese descendants living in the USA – many of these people with homes and families in the Azores – the presence of American flags and symbols on the islands is understandable. Something essential to understand a little better the cultural traits of these islands in the middle of the Atlantic.
And an attraction that has nothing to do with the military and is also located in Lajes is the Carnival Museum! The Azores are culturally very lively islands and this is visible especially in the number of philharmonic (more than 100), choirs and amateur theater (about 56 groups) in the archipelago.
Terceira is home to the third largest theatrical event in the world! Several groups (more than 50 groups) perform (usually satirical comedy) on various stages scattered around the island (paying out of their own pockets). We can find out more about this Azorean and, more specifically, Terceiran theatrical culture in the Hélio Costa Carnival Museum which is located in the public garden of Lajes. It is open from 10:00h to 12:00h and from 13:00h to 17:00h every day except Mondays (closed) and Sundays when it is open only in the afternoon. The entrance fee is 1,50€. The name “Hélio Costa” is a tribute to the man who writes most of the lyrics of the Carnival dances of the island.
Escaleiras natural pool
If you feel like a dip in the sea and it’s a nice day, head to Zona Balnear Escaleiras. Here you will find a nice natural pool with plenty of space (on a concrete floor) where you can stretch out your towel and dry off in the sun. In fact, if the sea is calm, don’t forget your snorkel kit so you can see some little fish. The views from the top are incredible.
It has metal stairs to enter the water and several points where you can swim. The pool has an accessible entrance for wheelchairs and strollers. It has security and in the parking area there is a bar-restaurant and in fact near the parking there is an old whale lookout made of wood.
Unfortunately, we tried to go twice but the sea was very rough and the red flag was very high so we could not test its waters….
Miradouro de Alagoa
The Miradouro da Alagoa or Miradouro da Alagoa da Fajãzinha is located in the Reserva Natural da Alagoa da Fajãzinha, classified as a natural reserve due to its biodiversity. This area, apart from the breathtaking scenery with the mountainous green on one side and the basaltic black entering the sea on the other, is ideal for the observation of native and other migratory species.
Terceira has the largest areas of endemic vegetation of the entire archipelago, some of these areas completely virgin, untouched. Most of them are located in this area of the island, in the region known as Terra Brava (Brave Land), in the parish of Agualva and extends from the Pico Alto volcano almost to the sea, along a lava flow, with about 6 km2. In addition to passing through this viewpoint, it is possible to know part of the dense primitive flora of endemic vegetation through the Baías de Agualva trail (PR02TER) of almost 4 km. More info in Best hiking trails in Terceira.
Quatro Ribeiras Beach
If you do the Baías de Agualva trail (and you’ve earned it) or if you don’t do it but it’s hot and you feel like going to the sea, Praia das Quatro Ribeiras guarantees calm waters almost all year round, as well as bathrooms, showers, security and a bar (that’s why it’s so popular with families with children in summer).
If you are several people traveling to Terceira, consider staying overnight at Quinta do Rico and walk to the natural pools of Quatro Ribeiras. It accommodates up to 10 people, has 5 bedrooms, a swimming pool and incredible views.
Calheta dos Lagadores and World War II Trenches
Also here there is a beautiful natural pool – Calheta dos Lagadores – where you can cool off but more interesting than this is that you can do it next to some World War II trenches! Yes, trenches made of volcanic rock (basalt) built and used during the war to defend the island that are integrated into the defensive system of Terceira.
Don’t forget your swimsuit, goggles and snorkel and get in the water! There are several areas of the natural pool that are protected from the waves, with metal stairs to enter the sea and a place to put your towel.
Biscoitos: natural lava pool and wine museum
In our opinion (and seeing the amount of people on weekends, in the opinion of many local people), Biscoitos are the most beautiful natural pools of Terceira or, at least, of those we met. Sculpted between lava flows, they have several nooks and crannies where you can stretch your towel and even more where you can stretch your arms and legs in the sea between calm, transparent and full of life waters (do not forget the snorkel kit and do not miss the number of colorful little fish that inhabit the waters of Biscoitos). Of course, check the tides because the ideal time to enjoy Biscoitos is at low tide.
By the way, Biscoito (meaning cookie in Portuguese) is the name given to recent volcanic breccia terrain and lava fields throughout the Azorean archipelago.
While you are swimming among volcanic rocks, you will see that there is a rock where some people jump from, known as the “Belo Abismo” rock (it is written in yellow ink, like some other phrases…). We were told that this rock represents something like a rite of passage of modern times in Terceira: you can only jump from the rock if you are old enough, entrance forbidden to young kids.
The natural pools have parking, security, toilets and freshwater shower, a restaurant, a bar with snacks and daily menu with terrace and several stalls at the entrance with crafts and even some petiscos to try.
In addition, this area is also a wine-growing area that is cultivated in a similar way to what we knew on the island of Pico, small vineyards delimited with volcanic stones that protect them from the wind and the sea, known as “currais”. To learn more about the wine culture of Biscoitos, it is best to go to the Museu do Vinho, located in the Casa Agrícola Brum, where you can learn about the history of the vineyard and wine on the island. We didn’t get to go in this pandemic year but according to what we were told, the museum did not allow visits to the interior during the pandemic so you better call before you go to check if they already do visits (Museum phone: +351965667324).
If you want to try Biscoitos wine, look for Magma and Muros de Magma, verdejos released in 2019.
If you want to stay overnight near the best natural pools of the island, you have several options. For the experience of sleeping in a cabin in the middle of the forest overlooking the sea and disconnect from everything, what you are looking for is the Caparica Azores Eco-Lodge (from 130€/night), one of the most special accommodations on the island. If you are more than two people, Casa da Salga (from 63€/night) is an amazing house with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, barbecue and the best: sea views. More options in Where to sleep in Terceira.
Miradouro de Altares (Matias Simão Peak)
From the Matias Simão Peak, if the weather is good, you can have a nice view of another “green patchwork” (grazing areas delimited by small volcanic rock walls) right next to the sea. If you are lucky, you will also be able to see Graciosa Island. To get there you will have to park the car and go up a little hill.
Nearby, in the village of Altares, you can find the Caneta restaurant, famous for its alcatra de carne, a typical terceirense dish, but with several dishes on the menu. It has a very nice terrace with several stone tables and several tables inside (it is a two-storey house) so if you get hungry in that area don’t miss it. Of course, as always in the Azores, better to book in advance to avoid disappointment (it has a small parking a few minutes away).
Serreta and its viewpoints
Fajã da Serreta, a former area of vineyards and wineries, is one of the areas of the island with the most impressive viewpoints to enjoy the sunset in Terceira. There is little left of the wine culture but the views along this coast are incredible and, in fact, we were surprised that there was not some place with a terrace to enjoy the views with the sea as a backdrop. At least in Randomtrip we did not find it, if you know of any, do not hesitate to tell us in comments!
When we went we were not very lucky with the weather and we were caught too cloudy to see the sunset but we recommend the Miradouro do Raminho where in addition to watching the sunset, if you are lucky and go on a clear day, you can even see the island Graciosa.
Another day we went to the Miradouro da Mata da Serreta since in this viewpoint it is possible to greet São Jorge and Pico as well as Graciosa.
Around here, we also recommend you to go to the Miradouro da Ponta do Queimado, where you can go down some stairs to the sea and walk among giant volcanic cliffs. From this viewpoint you will catch a glimpse of the Farol da Serreta, where you can also go at the end of the day and say goodbye to the sun in the sea.
If you get hungry, nearby is the restaurant Ti Choa, ideal to get an idea of the terceirense gastronomy in a single lunch or dinner: they have a tasting menu (10,50€/person) with the most typical dishes of the island. Of course, all meat. If you are more of a fish lover, the filetes de abrotea were exquisite. Below we give you more info about where to eat in Terceira.
Not far from Serreta and its viewpoints you will find Lagoinha, a treasure that still goes unnoticed by most tourists. The beautiful lagoon of the Serra de Santa Barbara volcano is nothing more and nothing less than the only lagoon in the Azores surrounded solely and exclusively by endemic vegetation (or so we have been told).
Impérios do Espírito Santo: the colorful temples of Terceira
They are found all over the island and all in different colors. What are the impérios? They are small buildings (very colorful) of unique typology in the national architectural panorama that are used as temples or houses of worship where to venerate the Holy Spirit.
It is said that its unique and colorful typology is born from the strategic position of the island and its confluence of different peoples and cultures (even some oriental influences are denoted). Its structure is only 30 m2 with a facade decorated with bright colors and a single space inside with an altar and, in some cases, an annex used to store utensils necessary for the festivities of the Divino Espirito Santo.
There are more than 50 impérios scattered around the island (it is not known 100% how many there are because apparently 71 impérios have been identified but there are only 53 officially registered), most of them in the municipality of Angra do Heroísmo and the others in the municipality of Praia da Vitória. Most of the empires are from the 19th and 20th century although the two oldest (Império de São Pedro and Império da Rua Nova) are from the 18th century (from 1795 and 1799 respectively).
They are mainly used in the most famous festivities of the Azores (festivities transversal to all the islands), the Festas do Divino Espírito Santo, which occur during 8 weeks between Easter Sunday and Pentecost or Trinity Sunday. In fact, when they began to be built (in the 18th and 19th century), the impérios were ephemeral and were dismantled after the festivities. We were told that initially, in addition to dismantling the empires, a cow was sacrificed during the festivities and the so-called “sopas do espírito” were made, also with a charitable purpose, since they were distributed among people with fewer resources.
To understand the existence of these impérios, created by the Azorean people in organizations independent of the church (apparently they are still independent although today they collaborate closely) one must understand one of the traits associated with the Azorean people which is their unwavering faith in the Divinity. This faith is visible in the number of shrines, churches, temples (such as these Terceiran impérios ) and nomenclatures on the nine islands (in some cases even the name of the island itself!). This faith is associated with another trait of the people of this archipelago: resilience. In the end, remember that they are nine islands in the middle of the Atlantic, far from the continent, forced to subsist for several months in the face of the Atlantic solitude and the danger of winds, storms, earthquakes and volcanoes. Especially before, on these islands, the choice was between emigration or survival.
Vitorino Nemésio, Portuguese writer born in Terceira (1901-1978) and author of some of the most important works of Portuguese literature of the 20th century, coined a term to express this Azorean “being and feeling”, this historical, social and geographical condition:“Açorianidade” (azorianity). You can find out more in his work “Corsário das Ilhas“.
The best hiking trails in Terceira
In this two-month trip through the nine islands of the Azores we have set the goal to do at least one trail per island and in Terceira there are many trails to choose from, although we finally did the first one (and we loved it!).
- Mistérios Negros – PRC01TER: Circular trail of 4.9 km – 2h30 approximately – simple but with some narrow areas of unstable and slippery terrain. It starts next to Lagoa do Negro (where Gruta do Natal is located), in the middle of the Natural Reserve of Serra de Santa Bárbara e dos Mistérios Negros. The “black mysteries” are the “trachytic domes” formed by the accumulations of lava that arose with the volcanic eruption of 1761 and its contrast with the green of the endemic vegetation and the blue of the sea as a backdrop is impressive. It is considered one of the most beautiful trails on the island for the great variety of endemic vegetation, beautiful and changing landscapes. We loved it. More info of the route on Wikiloc here. More info / Official brochure
- Baías da Agualva – PR02TER. Linear trail of 3.8 km -2h approximately- with the possibility of making it circular in almost 6 km. We did not do it but we read that it is of medium difficulty for some parts with rough terrain and steeper slopes. The trail goes along the north coast of the island, passing through incredible landscapes and sites such as Grota da Lagoa, Alagoa da Fajãzinha and several breathtaking viewpoints. Considering that Terceira hides the largest areas of endemic primitive vegetation of the whole archipelago (some completely virgin, untouched) and that most of them are in this area of the island (in the region known as Terra Brava – Brave Land), it will be a truly amazing trail. The trail connects Agualva and Cuatro Ribeiras. More info about the trail on Wikiloc here. More info / Official brochure
- Fortes de São Sebastião – PR05TER: roundtrip route (6km, 2h30 approx) to see the remains of different maritime defense fortifications, built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to defend against Castilian attacks… More info / Official brochure
- Grande Rota da Terceira – GR01TER: We do not know if it is ready yet, it wasn’t when we went there. It will have 31 km and the starting point will be in Fajã da Serreta. More info / Official brochure
If in addition to hiking, you like bike rides, you can do the same route that Charles Darwin did in Terceira, back in 1836, on his return from the Galapagos Islands aboard the HMS Beagle. The company Comunicair offers this tour: a very adventurous day of 47 km cycling through Terceira. More info here.
Where to dive in Terceira
Terceira surprises not only above but also below the sea. In this case I went diving with the diving center Octopus (in Praia da Vitória), with whom my friend Márcia and I did a dive and we liked them very much. Equipment in perfect conditions, good briefing before leaving, professionalism and very good vibes.
There are several dive sites on the island, ideally you should talk to the center for advice, depending on your level and availability. Here we highlight the main ones:
- The Underwater Archaeological Park, in the bay of Angra do Heroísmo, is an authentic underwater museum that reflects the strategic importance of the city of Angra do Heroísmo throughout the centuries. The main attractions of this park are the Anchor Cemetery (more than 40 anchors from the 16th to 20th centuries), and the famous Lidador steamship, 78 meters long, which sank here in 1878.
- Fradinhos: group of small islets off the south coast of Terceira with a good chance of seeing huge groupers, dogfish and schools of pelagic fish.
- Gruta das Cinco Ribeiras: one of the most interesting cave dives in the archipelago, where it is possible to explore a long cave formed by several interconnected chambers.
- Monte Submarino Banco D. João de Castro: one of the best tourist diving spots in the whole Azores archipelago is the top of a volcanic cone where volcanic activity can still be observed and where large schools of pelagics are found.
- Gruta do Ilhéu das Cabras: a large cave that can be accessed by boat and is one of the easiest dive sites, making it an excellent place for snorkeling. Book your snorkeling tour (equipment included) in Ilhéu das Cabras here.
If your thing is not diving but you want to know the Underwater Archaeological Park of the bay of Angra do Heroísmo from the boat, it is possible to do it with a glass bottom boat ride. You will be able to see a cemetery of anchors and reach the area where more than 80 ships were wrecked, such as the famous Lidador. Book your one-hour glass-bottom boat tour of Terceira’s shipwrecks here.
Where to stay in Terceira: best areas
Angra is our area of choice and where we would recommend you to stay. There are plenty of options for all tastes and budgets and it is also where most of the dining options are concentrated. Although it is true that, as we did, if your stay is more than 5 nights, it is a good idea to divide it between Angra and a more rural experience or near the sea. Here are recommendations for both options.
Where to stay in Angra do Heroísmo
- My Angra Boutique Hostel (from 19€ to 45€/night): one of the cheapest options in downtown Angra, this hostel offers rooms with private or shared bathroom and dorm beds. Don’t be fooled by the name, it doesn’t really look like a hostel because of how nice it is.
- Casa Flor de Sal (from 35€/night): an apartment with a double bed (and a sofa bed) for up to three people, with terrace, in the center of Angra.
- Hotel do Caracol (from 55€/night): comfortable double rooms with private bathroom in a hotel with swimming pool and views of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a 15-minute walk from the historic center of Angra, includes breakfast and has indoor parking included.
- Lost in Terceira (from 58€/night): Although it is not in the center of Angra (it is a 5 min drive), it is ideal if you are looking for a two-bedroom house, comfortable, well equipped, with a small garden and attention of 10 (everyone appreciates the attention of Adília and João).
- The Shipyard (from 78€/night): studios and apartments with sea views in a brand new aparthotel. Prices will probably go up after this first year because it is really amazing.
- Zenite Boutique Hotel & Spa (from 85€/night): if you want something more luxurious, you have this new hotel with indoor and outdoor swimming pool, sauna, Turkish bath and 46 beautiful and comfortable rooms in the historic center of the capital.
- Terceira Mar Hotel (from 93€/night): 4-star hotel with saltwater infinity pool, indoor pool, Turkish bath and massage service. Ideal to wake up not only with a sea view but also with a delicious breakfast buffet with regional products.
Where to stay in Terceira: rural tourism and different experiences
- Quinta do Martelo (from 85€/night), São Mateus: Those who stay at Quinta do Martelo say that it is much more than a lodging, it is like sleeping in a museum. The hosts, in addition to preparing the rooms with care and attention and delicious breakfasts with local products, have taken care to keep the farm as faithful to the old days as possible. In addition, if you want a day in the countryside without going out, the farm’s restaurant – Venda do Ti Manel – also has the same concern, serving traditional recipes.
- Farol Guest House (from €42/night), São Mateus: Very close to the Negrito natural pool (and the Beira Mar restaurant), this accommodation with a view offers modern double rooms, some with balcony and sea views.
- Caparica Azores Ecolodge (from 130€/night), Biscoitos: Six cabins in the middle of nature where you can disconnect from everything. From some of them we can contemplate the sky and from others even the sea. If there are several of you, there is a house with a garden and two bedrooms. One of the most special accommodations on the island.
- Casa da Salga (from 63€/night), Biscoitos: an amazing house with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, barbecue and the best: sea views.
- Quinta do Rico (from 80€/night), Quatro Ribeiras: house with 5 bedrooms, swimming pool and sea view, accommodates up to 10 people.
- Casas do Morgadio (from 120€/night), Biscoitos: one-bedroom villa among vineyards with swimming pool
- Casa das Cales (from 90€/night), Altares: one bedroom house with sea view in the quiet area of Altares, very close to the natural pools of Biscoitos. The house is fully renovated, has a terrace and a wonderful breakfast every morning.
We split our stay between Angra do Heroísmo and Porto Judeu, the latter in a very special accommodation: Casa da Serretinha. Filomena rents 3 rooms of the house where she currently lives and although you are not renting an entire accommodation, all the rooms have sea views and private bathroom and you can share and enjoy the rest of the house with Filomena and the other guests: the kitchen, the living room and best of all, the pool overlooking the Cabras islets. The house was for sale and this possibility of renting the rooms we don’t know how long it will last but here is the link in case you are still lucky.
If you want to wake up with this view of the Islotes das Cabras, here we recommend more places to stay in Porto Judeu:
- AlLuar Lodge (from 50€/night), Porto Judeu: Bungalows with pool right next to the Miradouro da Cruz do Canário, facing the sea with the islet of Cabras in front. The accommodation where we were initially going to stay for my birthday (but finally we stayed on the island of Pico).
- Canario do Mar (from 110€/night), Porto Judeu: The other option next to the Miradouro da Cruz do Canário, this house with one bedroom and sofa bed faces the sea. Bicycle rental service is available.
- Casinha Muda da Feteira (from 36€/night), Feteira: house with one bedroom and hammock in front of the sea, also with privileged views to the islet.
- Casa Doce Mar (from 50€/night), Feteira: a house that accommodates up to 6 people. It has 2 bedrooms, each room with a double bed and a single bed.
- Apartment bela Vista Terceira (from 36€/night), Feteira: an apartment with balcony overlooking the sea and the islet that accommodates up to 5 people.
Best restaurants in Terceira
In addition to nature and heritage, if Terceira is characterized by anything, it is the hospitable atmosphere and the “bem receber” (“good reception”) to the people who visit it. This translates into joy, friendliness, good parties and, of course, good food. There is everything and for all tastes (well, almost all, because as in the other Azorean islands, vegetarian and/or vegan tastes are the most forgotten…). If you are looking for the most typical dish, you will undoubtedly want to try one of these dishes: Alcatra. Although the name coincides with a cut of veal it is not the same; in fact there are meat and fish alcatras. The Alcatra is a dish cooked for 12 hours in a clay pot and usually accompanied by sweet bread or, rather, massa sovada. On the other hand, as for sweets, don’t miss the most traditional of the island: the Dona Amélia’s queijadas. Despite the name, there is no cheese in them: they are a small “bomb” made of eggs, sugar and honey, named in honor of the visit of Queen Dona Amélia (and King Carlos) to the island in 1901.
Where to eat in Terceira: Angra do Heroísmo
- Tasca das Tias: One of the places we liked the most for dinner in Angra. Tasty portions in a modern and relaxed atmosphere. We tried the grilled tuna, shrimp,“alheira” balls and fish soup, with a bottle of wine. All incredible, we were 3 people and we paid 20 € / person.
- Taberna do Teatro: One of our favorites in the capital, it is a place with a terrace where you can taste original and fusion tapas based on the regional gastronomy of Terceira. For three people we ordered the arroz de fumeiro (a rice with sausages) with a grandmother’s pot flavor, fish tartar, croquettes of alcatra (typical dish from Terceira), limpets, mushrooms à bulhão pato, secretos with pickles and it was hard to decide which one we liked the most. All this washed down with a good white wine from the island of Pico “Frei Gigante”, we paid 20€/person.
- Garoupinha Wine Bar (Angra): We ordered 3 petiscos (portions): grilled cheese, alheira à bras and ameijoas à bulhão pato and a bife á casa to share. With two glasses of wine and sparkling water we paid a total of 36€ for two.
- A Barrica: Right in the center, on Rua de São João, a varied menu from hamburgers (6€) to steaks in different sauces (mustard, pepper) at 10€ and even Francesinha in bolo lêvedo (9€). It has a terrace with 4 tables.
- O Forno: The pastry shop where you can taste (and, after tasting, surely buy to take away) the famous Dona Amélia’s queijadas, the typical sweet of Terceira. It has been open for 30 years and has all kinds of traditional sweets such as rebuçados de ovo, morcela doce, doce de vinagre, pudim do conde da Praia, …
- Athanasio: The other pastry shop that was recommended to us where we could taste the famous queijadas Dona Amélia or as they are known, the“Amélias“.
- Café Aliança: a very good pastry shop with a wide variety of sweet and savory treats where we snacked a couple of times. It has a terrace inside (in a courtyard) and outside, in the middle of Praça Velha, since it is located in the heart of the network of colorful alleys in the center of Angra.
Where to eat in Terceira: center and south of the island beyond Angra
- Beira Mar: One of our favorite restaurants in Terceira, the Beira Mar is a local restaurant, with terrace, with fresh fish bought every morning in the port next door. You must try the seafood soup that comes inside a bread. We also tried the limpets, Afonsinho (grilled fish) and an espetada de cherne, lulas e camarão (skewered fish and prawns), with two bottles of Frei Gigante (white wine from Pico), dessert, coffees and nêvedas (typical of the Azores). It was a special dinner with our friend Mario from Terceira, for three people we paid 110€. The food is very good and the dishes cost about 10-15€ each.
- Baía W: More modern and more recent than the Beira Mar, another excellent option for tasting fish and seafood from Terceira in São Mateus if the former is very full and hunger is pressing.
- Ti Choa: Ideal to try the famous meat alcatra, the typical terceirense dish cooked in a clay pot. Its tasting menu of typical dishes of the island (all meat) costs 10,50€ per person and gives you a general idea of the most typical of Terceira’s gastronomy. Although it is mainly a meat restaurant, we had grilled emperor and battered abrotea (both fish) and everything was delicious (the batter was dry and crunchy). The dessert “doce de vinagre” (vinegar sweet) must not be missed, it is not at all vinegary, spectacular. We paid 15€/person with wine, dessert and coffee. The only thing we did not like is that we wanted to sit on the terrace and they did not let us, not even for coffee, and we did not understand why.
- Boca Negra: We recommend both the meat and fish alcatra. In this case, we tried the fish (32€ for 2 people), accompanied by the famous sweet bread, the massa sovada (when we arrived at the table we were given a brief tutorial on how to mix the bread in the pan to absorb the sauce). This restaurant is also known for the octopus with the same bread as a garnish. For dessert they have a Dona Amélia cake, based on queijadas (the typical sweets), an explosion of sweetness.
- Queijaria Vaquinha: A local cheese factory where you can taste the cheese with bolo lêvedo (sweet bread from the Azores) on the terrace or inside. It is the oldest cheese factory in Terceira where 200 kg of cheese are made , manually and artisanally, daily. Apart from tasting you can also buy cheese in their store, of course. There are four types of cheese: Barrinha, Ilha Terceira, Picante and Queso Fresco. It also has a space for events. It is very close to the Cinco Ribeiras seaside resort.
- O Pilar – Bar Do Porto Das Cinco Ribeiras: Also very close and known as one of the best places on the island to enjoy the sunset is the bar located next to the bathing area of the Cinco Ribeiras. It has a terrace and on clear days you can greet Pico and São Jorge with a beer and good petiscos.
Where to Eat in Terceira: Praia da Vitória
- O Pescador: One of the best restaurants on the island and one of the few places to try the famous olives of Terceira. We were four people and tried the atum steak, the seafood açorda (crumbs Portuguese style, not fried) and a grilled black mouth fish. All this with wine, dessert and coffee, 28€/person.
Where to eat in Terceira: north, east and west of the island beyond Praia da Vitória
- Caneta: Recommended to eat the meat alcatra. It is essential to book in summer and especially if you go on weekends. It is always full even if you have many tables both upstairs and downstairs. In addition to two floors (it is like a huge rural house), it has a lovely garden with stone tables. We stayed there and loved it. If you want to go and it’s nice, make a reservation and ask for a table outside. They have individual meat alcatra, although Chris did not manage to finish it, so if you go more than one and eat meat, it is ideal to order a starter + an alcatra for one (11.50€) and share.
- Fonte das Sete Bicas: Another good option that we were also told about to taste the meat alcatra, in case the Caneta is full and you are in this area of the island.
- Sabores do Atlántico: We didn’t get to try it but we were told very well about this restaurant, ideal for tasting fresh fish at a good price.
- Búzius: We didn’t manage to try it either but we were told very well about this restaurant with terrace and sea views. On the menu there is meat, fish and pasta.
In Terceira, as in the Azores in general, it is ideal that you call to book restaurants if you want to ensure a place, especially if you go in summer or on weekends. Also keep in mind that lunch and dinner hours on the islands are even stricter than in mainland Portugal, especially for someone used to Spanish schedules. Lunch is usually between 12:00h and 14:00h and dinner between 20:00h and 22:00h, so outside this time slot it is possible that many of the kitchens are already closed.
Itineraries to visit Terceira
As you will have seen if you have read our whole guide, Terceira has many incredible places to visit, so to be able to see everything you need about a week.
As we do not always have so much time to enjoy the island, we leave you several suggestions of itineraries for 3, 5 and 7 days.
Things to do in Terceira in 2-3 days (a weekend)
A weekend is very little time for Terceira, so if this is your case we recommend that you choose: either stay in only one area or assume that you are going to spend some time on the road and visit several in a lighter way (in which case, we recommend getting up early!).
3-day itinerary (a weekend) in Terceira
- Day 1: Arrival and check-in at Angra do Heroísmo. Visit to the points of interest of Angra, Monte Brasil and end of the afternoon/dinner in São Mateus.
- Day 2: In the morning, we visit Práia da Vitória, Miradouro da Serra do Cume and Porto Martins (where we can take a swim). In the afternoon, Algar do Carvão, Gruta do Natal and Furnas do Enxofre. We end the day with a swim and sunset in Biscoitos.
- Day 3: We visit the Miradouro da Serra de Santa Barbara, and the west coast (Mata da Serreta). If there is time, we pass by Queijaria Vaquinha and in the afternoon we visit Porto Judeu (overlooking Ilhéus das Cabras).
Things to do in Terceira in 4-5 days
4 or 5 days seems to us the ideal amount of days to visit Terceira and get a good idea of the island. Here is our suggested itinerary
4 or 5 day itinerary in Terceira
- Day 1: Arrival and check-in at Angra do Heroísmo. Visit to the points of interest of Angra, Monte Brasil and end of the afternoon/dinner in São Mateus.
- Day 2: In the morning, we visit Práia da Vitória, Miradouro da Serra do Cume and Porto Martins (where we can take a swim). In the afternoon, Algar do Carvão, Gruta do Natal and Furnas do Enxofre. From Gruta do Natal we do the hiking route PRC01TER (Mistérios Negros). Dinner in Angra do Heroísmo.
- Day 3: We visit the Miradouro da Serra de Santa Barbara, and the west coast (Mata da Serreta). Lunch at Caneta restaurant, and visit the Miradouro de Altares, bathing in Biscoitos, Calheta dos Lagadores (with its World War II trenches) and the Miradouro de Alagoa. Dinner at O Pescador (Práia da Vitória).
- Day 4: We visit Feteira and Porto Judeu (overlooking Ilhéus das Cabras), where we can take a swim. We do the PR05TER trail (Fortes de São Sebastião), the area of Contendas, Salga and the Gruta das Agulhas. Dinner in Angra
- Day 5: We can choose between relaxing in one of the natural pools (Biscoitos or any other we want to visit from the list) or try to do some of the missing plans included in this guide.
Things to do in Terceira in one week (7 days)
Although with 4-5 days you can see most of Terceira, with a week you can do it more calmly, leaving time for more swimming in natural pools if the weather is good and/or more hiking trails.
One-week itinerary in Terceira
- Day 1: Arrival and check-in at Angra do Heroísmo. Visit to the points of interest of Angra, Monte Brasil and end of the afternoon/dinner in São Mateus.
- Day 2: In the morning, we visit Práia da Vitória, Miradouro da Serra do Cume and Porto Martins (where we can take a swim). In the afternoon, Algar do Carvão, Gruta do Natal and Furnas do Enxofre. From Gruta do Natal we do the hiking route PRC01TER (Mistérios Negros). Dinner in Angra do Heroísmo.
- Day 3: We visit the Miradouro da Serra de Santa Barbara, Lagoa das Patas and the west coast (Mata da Serreta). In the afternoon we relax in the seaside resort of Cinco Ribeiras.
- Day 4: We visit Feteira and Porto Judeu (overlooking Ilhéus das Cabras), where we can take a swim. We do the PR05TER trail (Fortes de São Sebastião), the area of Contendas, Salga and the Gruta das Agulhas. Dinner in Angra
- Day 5: In the morning we do the hiking route PR02TER (Baías da Agualva) We have lunch at Caneta restaurant, and visit the Miradouro de Altares, bath in Biscoitos, visit the Wine Museum, and Calheta dos Lagadores (with its trenches of the Second World War). Dinner at O Pescador (Práia da Vitória).
- Day 6: Choose to combine between party (if it coincides with our visit), snorkeling / whale watching tour or just relax in one of the natural pools.
- Day 7: We can choose between relaxing in one of the natural pools (Biscoitos or any other we want to visit from the list) or try to do some of the missing plans included in this guide.
Transportation: rent a car in Terceira
As in all the islands of the Azores, in our opinion it is essential to rent a car to enjoy Terceira to the fullest, to take advantage of the time, and to be able to visit all the places recommended in this guide at your own pace and which, many of them, cannot be reached by public transport.
We rented the car with Autatlantis and everything was perfect: the attention on arrival was fast and effective, the car (an Opel Corsa) was as good as new and we had no problems at all. Practically all the companies include an excess in the insurance, and Autatlantis is one of the ones with the lowest excess (700€, compared to 1300-1500€ of other companies).
Car rental prices in Terceira rarely go below 25€ per day and, especially in summer, we recommend booking well in advance to avoid running out of vehicles or that the few that are available have prohibitive prices (in the summer of 2021 they reached 100€ per day and we know several people who failed to rent a car because they left it to the last minute).
There is also the option to move around by public transport: there is only one bus company (EVT) that connects some of the points of the island, you can see the schedules here. Connections and frequencies are quite limited, but if you are traveling on a low budget it can be a valid option to visit some of the main points of the island.
If you don’t have a driving license, can’t rent a car or do not feel like driving, you also have the option of hiring tours to get to know the island better:
- Tour of Terceira, around the island: a tour that goes around the island stopping at some of the most iconic places of Terceira (Serra do Cume, Práia da Vitória, Biscoitos…).
- Jeep excursion to the volcanic caves (Algar do Carvão and Gruta do Natal): the Algar do Carvão is a must.
- Tour of Terceira’s viewpoints: a one-day tour that will take you to several viewpoints on the island.
This option is especially suitable for those who do not have much experience. Be careful, although driving in Terceira is quite easy and quiet, in some of the roads we have had some scares. Don’t be surprised if you find a car stopped in the middle of the road after a curve with no visibility because that man met his neighbor in the car in the opposite direction and decided to stop to chat for a while. So cars parked anywhere, unexpected turns or cow traffic are common. So the essentials to enjoy the road trip: prevention, experience and go slowly to enjoy the views and avoid scares.
How much does it cost to travel to Terceira?
As always, giving a generic budget is very difficult as it depends greatly on your style of travel. What we can do is to give you an orientation of prices and that you calculate your budget with them:
- Flights: You can find flights for 30€ (round trip) to Terceira from mainland Portugal but it depends on how far in advance you book.
- Car rental: from 25€/30€ per day the cheapest car (depending on the company and the number of days). In summer prices go up and it can be difficult to find a car at short notice.
- Accommodation: from 45€/night for a room with private bathroom or apartment with kitchen.
- Restaurant meals: between €10 and €25 per person per lunch/dinner in a restaurant.
In total, as a guideline, a one-week trip to Terceira with a rented car can cost between 450 and 750€ per person (with the cheapest options of car, accommodation and restaurants).
Useful Apps for traveling to Terceira
We recommend some applications to install on your cell phone that will be useful on your trip to Terceira:
- SpotAzores (Android/iOS/Web): here you can see all the existing webcams in different points of the islands to see how the weather is. Because the weather is very changeable and it can be raining in one part of the island and sunny in another, this app is the fastest way to make sure and avoid unnecessary trips.
- Windy (Android/iOS/Web): essential app in our trips, even more so in the Azores. It allows you to see forecasts for rain, clouds, wind, etc. to help you plan your days based on the weather (as there are places that lose a lot depending on the weather). Obviously the forecasts are not 100% reliable. It also shows the available webcams
- GoogleMaps (Android/iOS): is the one we use to save / classify all the places we want to go / have gone and as GPS in rental cars. You can see other people’s opinions of the places, photos, restaurant menus, phone number of the places to contact them, etc.
- Maps.me (Android/iOS): application similar to Google Maps but that works online (although Google Maps can also work online) and in many cases has information that Google Maps does not have, especially trails. Useful whenever you are going to do a trail, to orient yourself, download the route from the official website of the Azores trails (click on Downloads->GPS), etc.
Recommendations to enjoy Terceira
- In the whalewatching activity, respect the behavior indicated by the center and be suspicious if it does not involve measures such as: prohibition of swimming with dolphins; reduced and constant speed of the boat and a minimum distance of 50 meters from the animal; avoid the presence of several boats within a radius of 150 meters around the group of cetaceans and do not stay more than 10 minutes with the same animal.
- Never try to touch or feed an animal – don’t be an accomplice to animal abuse!
- Do not buy handicrafts made from sea animals or extracted from the sea (e.g. dolphin teeth, turtle shells, shark jaws, sperm whale ivory, …). The ivory trade, currently the only valuable product of the sperm whale, is still an argument for hunters. Buy local handicrafts made from alternative materials such as wood, stone or vegetable ivory.
- If you visit the island in summer and enjoy the sea, remember that sometimes you may encounter a jellyfish (aquaviva) or a jellyfish whose sting is painful and dangerous. Portuguese Man O’war whose sting is painful and dangerous. The good thing is that these last ones float and are easily detectable, but in case you see one, get out of the water immediately and warn other people of their presence. In case you have been stung by either of them, it is very important that you follow these official recommendations: do not scratch the area of the sting (to prevent the venom from spreading); do not clean with fresh water or alcohol, clean only with sea water and very carefully; and in case the sting is a Portuguese Carabela, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Respect other people and the island: don’t play your music loudly on the beach or natural pool (if you want to listen to music, wear headphones), don’t leave trash, don’t throw cigarette butts, etc. Leave the beach better than you found it (if you find plastic, pick it up).
- In some areas bathing can be dangerous due to strong currents. Don’t be brave.
- Learn how to play Marralhinha, the typical game of Terceira and you will see how easy it is to meet people and make friends. Apparently, marralhinha is a very popular game in the USA and, taking into account the number of emigrants from the Azores and 2nd and 3rd generation Portuguese descendants living in the USA, it was introduced in the island until it is currently the most famous game on the island. If you see a wooden game with marbles on a table and you feel like playing, here are the rules of the game.
- Always travel with travel insurance: medical expenses, theft or problems with your plane on a trip can mean a lot of money, so the ideal is to take out travel insurance. We always use IATI and recommend it. It also covers you for Covid-19 expenses. If you purchase your insurance through this link you have a 5% discount.
Checklist: what to take in your backpack/suitcase to Terceira
Here is a list of must-haves that you can’t forget to take with you on your trip to Terceira:
- Reef friendly sunscreen, i.e. free of coral-damaging chemicals, oxybenzone-free, and not tested on animals, such asthis one orthis one.
- Cap, the sun is very strong
- A water bottle like one of these to carry water with you at all times. Plus, you’ll avoid using single-use plastic.
- A neck brace like one of these to protect you from wind and sand.
- Long sleeve lycra T-shirt with UV protection to protect from cold water or sun while snorkeling, such as one of these.
- Snorkel kit/glasses. Here is akit for less than 20€.
- Wet shoes like these ones from Cressi (transparent, comfortable and dry quickly) or these, if you prefer another material that fits better. Keep in mind that in the Azores (with the exception of the island of Santa Maria) you will not find sandy beaches but natural volcanic rock pools or pebble beaches mostly so you will want to carry your booties always in your backpack.
- Watertight bag, to keep your electronic devices safe, especially when traveling by boat,this one for example costs 12€.
- Microfiber towel, which occupies little and you will use for the beach. If you don’t have one, you can buy the typical ones from Decathlon or these ones on Amazon
- Trekking shoes because the best way to get to know the Azores is by hiking trails. We havethese from Columbia.
- Camera to record the majoreras adventures. We carry a Sony A5100 and a GoPro for underwater images.
- Power bank: with so many photos you will spend a lot of battery, so it always comes in handy to carry a good power bank. We travel with these 2 (Xiaomi andAnker), which allow us to charge our smartphones, camera and GoPro.
- First-aid kit: our first-aid kit includes a medicine against seasickness (such as biodramine for sea sickness on boats), antibiotics, antidiarrheals (and some probiotics to recover more quickly), antihistamines, analgesics and antipyretics.
A special thanks to our BP Márcia Galrão, the third randomtripper in Terceira, since we enjoyed together most of the places that appear in this guide. For the laughs, the adventures (above and below the sea), the long breakfasts, the complicity of a friendship that has been woven for many years, like a patchwork blanket.
And to Mário Mendes, a Terceirense in love with his island who entered our lives as a guide and became a friend. Obrigada Mário.
“Sou ilhéu; e, tanto ou mais do que a ilha, o ilhéu define-se por um rodeio de mar por todos os lados. Vivemos de peixe, da hora da maré e a ver navios…“
“I am an islander, and, as much or more than the island, the islander is defined by a sea that surrounds him on all sides. We live by fish, by the time of the tide and by watching boats…”
Excerpt from the book Corsário das Ilhas by Vitorino Nemésio, Portuguese writer born in Terceira (1901-1978), author of some of the most remarkable books of Portuguese literature of the 20th century.
Disclaimer: Autatlantis helped us explore Terceira with one of their vehicles but all opinions and information expressed in this post are our own.
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