Ilha da Terceira, Azores Tourist Guide
This small island may only have a 90 km coastline, but the amount of events, festivities, celebrations and sporting activities makes it seem like Terceira is much greater than its actual size. Angra do Heroísmo’s historical centre is a living legacy from our past, having such relevance to the history of the world that it has been classified as a World Heritage by UNESCO. Together with many other legendary buildings, Angra has the São Sebastião and São João Baptista forts that are over 400 years old and are unique examples of specific military architecture, making Angra do Heroísmo earn this heritage classification.
As its name indicates, it was the third (Terceira) island of the Archipelago to be discovered. It began to be populated in the 15th Century, having been consistently developed since. What is so special about Terceira is the magnificent contrast between the natural beauty of this volcanic island and the wonderful work of man in the historical centre of Angra do Heroísmo, its capital. It is a testimony of the Kings and noblemen who have passed by, leaving behind beautiful architecture with the main characteristics being carved stone and artistic wood and iron balconies.
Visit the Sé Cathedral from the 16th Century; its architecture was inspired in the gothic movement of the 15th Century. The Palace for the General Captains is a former Jesuits school. It has an impressive courtyard with palm trees and numerous buildings and a majestic interior. The São João Baptista and the São Sebastião Fort are also an unforgettable visit.
The best time to visit the island is during its religious or traditional celebrations. From May through to September, the whole archipelago has the Holy Spirit Festivity. This commemorates the miracle of Saint Isabel and bread and meat are distributed during this time. These are considered the most characteristic celebrations of all the islands. What makes Terceira stand out from the rest, however, is the rope bullfighting. Two groups of four men hold onto a bull tied to a rope, controlling its way around without letting it leave a certain boundary. The bustle and excitement created around this traditional act is a unique experience.
The Saint John festivities are celebrated from the 21st to the 30th June, filling the streets of the capital with the high spirits typical of the parades that celebrate their patron saint. The sound of the “marchas”, the colours and artistic forms of the decorated cars, together with the music and folkloric parades represent the people of this island. The islands gastronomy is also celebrated with every festival, filling the streets, bars and restaurants with the most delicious local delicacies.
Leave Angra and explore the rest of the island’s coast. The drive to Praia da Vitória will take you through the Baía da Salga, the dark sanded beaches surrounded by cliffs, such as Porto Novo, until you reach the picturesque city of Praia da Vitória. Visit the tea plantations of the region between Maia and Ribeira Grande. The green leaves and the setting of the landscape are truly stunning. The excursions inland are also memorable, as they provide breathtaking views over the island's coast and the infinite ocean, as well as an ever changing landscape and the caverns at Algar do Carvão with magnificent stalagmites, stalactites and a lake.
Don’t visit the Terceira Island the third time around in the Azores. It is worth a visit every time!