The Azores is made up of nine very diverse islands. This is a guide of things to do in Terceira, one of the largest islands in the archipelago. If you’re looking for what to do in Terceira, we have sightseeing, historic, and food recommendations in this travel guide.
Things to Do in Terceira
Officially discovered on the first of January 1439, the island was originally called Ilha de Jesus Christo until being renamed Terceira as it was the third island discovered.
Terceira is believed to have been discovered prior to that, however, with the island mentioned in literature for over a hundred years prior under various names.
In recent years, hypogea, or ancient burial sites, have been discovered on the island which led historians to question if these islands were actually inhabited over 2000 years ago by ancient civilizations.
Ancient civilizations have noted mysterious islands in the middle of the Atlantic and the Azores were mentioned in the same texts that detailed the first accurate accounts of the Canary Islands.
Eleven years after being discovered, Terceira started becoming populated by people of Portuguese and Flemish descent. The island quickly grew in prominence and was home to Angra do Heroísmo, the first capital of the archipelago that was founded in 1478.
Based in a natural cove, the city grew in prominence and wealth as it became a stopping point for trading ships that were heading to and from the East Indies. Due to the importance of Angra, it became the main religious seat of the Azores along with various governmental departments.
For several years, the island’s capital also became the capital of the whole of Portugal as war broke out by differing factions on the mainland. The city has remained an important city on the island makes up one of the three capitals of the islands after much of the legislative powers were moved to Ponta Delgada.
Today the island may not be able to compete with Sao Miguel’s superior tourism infrastructure, but it sure packs a punch when it comes to things to do in Terceira. Home to some of the most beautiful nature in the whole of the Azores, along with an incredibly rich cultural history.
Terceira’s laid back vibe has also sprouted an amazing nightlife scene that cannot be missed. This guide will take you through the best things to do in Terceira, from spectacular sights to delectable places to eat.
Do You Need Travel Insurance for the Azores?
We fully recommend getting travel insurance before you embark on a trip to the Azores. Our partner for insurance and the one we always use is SafetyWing, a Norwegian company offering affordable policies, widespread policies, and stellar customer service.
Renting a Car in the Azores
If you’re looking for the best way to get around the Azores, I highly recommend renting a car there. Getting from island to island may not be feasible with a rental car (unless you’re taking the ferries), but it will allow you to see the islands super well and at your own pace, which is crucial when you’re dealing with nature THIS beautiful.
Things to Bring to the Azores
There are quite a few things I could recommend to bring to the Azores, but I have a whole Azores packing guide for that! Here are a few essentials to consider bringing for the trip:
- Sea bands: If you’re taking a boat tour at all, you will want to bring along some seasickness bands. The waters are open in the Azores and can be quite rough! Click here to shop for sea bands.
- European plug adapter: If you’re venturing to Terceira from the United States, don’t forget to bring a European plug adapter with you! I recommend this one from Amazon.
- Dry bags: The weather in the Azores is unpredictable and you definitely don’t want the rain or wind to spoil your trip. I recommend these amazing dry bags from The Friendly Swede.
- Klean Kanteen: I never travel without a water jug in my backpack. I love this one from Klean Kanteen and I have the exact same one and use it religiously!
How to Get to Terceira
Flights to Terceira
Aside from Sao Miguel, there are plenty of flights to Terceira, making it one of the easiest Azorean islands to reach. You will find connections from other islands in the Azores, Lisbon and the mainland, Canada, the United States, and the Netherlands.
Ferries to Terceira
Alternatively, if you want to visit Terceira during the warmer months, you can take a ferry there. The ferries operate from Sao Miguel (6 hours) and Graciosa (4 hours), and Sao Jorge (7 hours).
The reason ferries don’t really operate to Terceira during the winter months is that the seas can be quite rough during this time of the year. Flights continue during the off-season, however.
Click here to be taken to the official Azores ferry website.
Best Time to Visit Terceira
The best time to visit Terceira is whenever you can get there! But really, the summer and spring are likely the best months to visit but the cheapest time is late autumn.
Last year, there was a hurricane that had the Azores in its path. While this is rare, with climate change it may be a more frequent event. Autumn would be the time when this would happen if it does. But, I traveled to the Azores in autumn and I had exceptional weather and a great time.
Best Terceira Tours
There are several fantastic tour options on Terceira that visitors might be interested in. Here is a variety that would be great options for those traveling to Terceira and wanted knowledgeable guides and fun activities on the island (I did some Azores tours when I was there and it was a great choice and helped me maximize my time).
- Terceira Full-day Island tour (Bestseller!)
- Terceira Airport Pickup and Hotel drop-off
- Terceira Island: Mistérios Negros Hike
- Angra do Heroismo: UNESCO City Walking Tour
- Terceira: Algar do Carvão Lava Caves Tour
- Terceira Island whale watching and Jeep tour
What to Do in Terceira
See Terceira’s Lava Tubes at Algar do Carvao
Explore the mind-blowing lava tubes and nature reserve, Algar do Carvao. The Terceira lava tubes are 100m in length and go to depths of 90m and are over 2000 years old.
The bottom of the cave is filled with water, although this can dry up during summer when it rains less. The entrance to the cave is thick with vegetation and home to several animals and creatures.
The best way to learn about the caves is to take a tour like this one, where an expert will talk you through everything you see and the animals that call the caves home.
Check Out Contendas LightHouse
Head to Contendas Lighthouse on the southeastern tip of the island. Once there, you can enter inside the 174ft (53m) tall lighthouse and see various items used in lighthouses throughout history and learn a little about lighthouses throughout Portugal.
The best thing about the location is probably the epic scenery and views available from this part of Terceira.
Have Tuna at Restaurante Beira Mar Sao Mateus
One of the best restaurants in Angra is Restaurante Beira Mar Sao Mateus, an establishment that is known for its incredible seafood options.
Restaurante Beira Mar Sao Mateus offers renowned tuna and rockfish dishes and an insanely good view of the harbor in the town. If you’re looking for the best places to eat in Angra, this is certainly one of them.
You can find it located at Canada Porto 46 in Angra.
Experience the Nightlife in Terceira
One of the biggest draws to the island is its famous nightlife. Many of the cafes in Angra do Heroísmo are open until the early hours of the morning and you’ll find them permeating with locals and tourists socializing and having a good time until heading to one of the island’s clubbing spots, such as Twins Club (one of the oldest clubs in the Azores). Twins Club boasts two dance floors over several stories.
This laid-back, party atmosphere has created an amazing alternative culture on Terceira, which has led the island to be home to one of the island’s few craft breweries, Cerveja Brianda. Cerveja Brianda produces some outstanding beers and is commercially available throughout the islands.
Visit the Duke of Terceira Garden
Check out the large, historic gardens in the city of Angra do Heroismo. The colorful gardens cover an area of 6.8 sq miles (17.5km sq) and contain many beautiful and delicate plants.
Many of the plants were brought to the island during the Portuguese age of discovery and there is a great range of exotic plants on show. The gardens are a great place to spend a couple of hours taking a break from life and gently strolling around the winding pathways.
Admire the Igreja de Sao Sebastiao Frescos
In the small town of Vila de Sao Sebastiao, you will find the oldest church on the island. Inside of the church, you’ll find medieval frescos adorned on the walls. In a recent earthquake, the church was largely unscathed, unlike the rest of the churches on the island.
There is plenty of parking in the area, so if you are driving through, make sure you stop at this wonderful Terceira landmark.
Visit Museu do Vinho in Biscoitos
Explore the family-run winery that’s been in operation since 1900 and it’s one of the essential things to do in Terceira. The small winery has a little museum that displays various winemaking tools used throughout history.
Guided tours of the museum are available and will walk you through the history of winemaking on the islands. It is also possible to taste the various wines available from the winery and purchase any you wish to take home with you or drink that evening after a hard day exploring.
There are also amazing views available from the vineyard.
Go Whale Watching on Terceira
Take advantage of the whale sanctuary the archipelago has become since whaling was outlawed. Utilizing spotters located on the hills of the island, you will head out to sea to see some of the fantastic animals that reside or pass through the sanctuary.
From giant, deep-diving sperm whales to common dolphins, there are plenty of awesome animals to encounter, all of which will leave you in awe of how beautiful they are.
Click here for rates and availability of this Terceira whale watching tour.
Have Dinner at Casa de Pasto Bela Vista
One of the most popular restaurants in Terceira is Casa de Pasto Bela Vista, a traditional restaurant on the island that serves up some of the best alcatra, a local Azorean pot roast that is known for being slow-cooked for hours on end.
The restaurant is family-owned and they have been perfecting their dishes over the years and always have a smile on their faces when serving guests. If you’re looking for a fantastic place to eat in Terceira, definitely add Casa de Pasto Bela Vista to your Azores itinerary!
You can find Casa de Pasto Bela Vista at Vale Farto nº30 Ilha Terceira in Praia da Vitória on Terceira.
Take in the Views at Monte Brasil
For one of the best views in the Azores and on Terceira, head up to Monte Brasil, and overlook on an ancient tuff volcano that gives killer views of Angra do Heroismo.
The most exciting and interesting thing about Monte Brasil is that the area has its own micro-climate. Up there, you can find a variety of flora, including Azores laurel, heather, Faya, African boxwood, and common Azorean juniper.
The hike to Monte Brasil is one of the best things to do in Terceira.
Visit Angra do Heroismo
One of the oldest cities in the Azores is Angra do Heroismo, one of the well-known places to visit in Terceira.
Often referred to as Angra, it is one of the three main capital cities in the Azores and was historically one of the most important cities there after being founded in 1478.
In 1980, the city suffered a lot of damage from one of the biggest earthquakes ever to hit the Azores. Surprisingly, the city was able to rebuild pretty quickly after and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Some of the most popular sites in Angra are the view of it from Monte Brasil, the view of Sao Mateus da Calheta, the Fortress of Sao Joao Baptista, and Igreja da Misericordia.
Learn to Cook Azores Food on Terceira
Spend the day learning to cook traditional Azorean Alcatra and bread.
Alcatra is a traditional pot roast where beef is slow-cooked with various vegetables and bone marrow for extra flavor. The dish has its origins on Terceira and with this cooking class, you will be able to take this knowledge and cook it at home, replacing the clay pot with a slow-cooker.
During this full-day tour, you will enjoy glasses of Azorean wine and a three-course meal all while cooking outside. As the dish takes a long time to cook, there is also the opportunity to walk and enjoy the park.
Take a Full-day Terceira Tour
If you are limited for time on the island, the easiest way to see the majority of the sites is via a full-day tour of Terceira.
The Terceira tour will take you to all the main sites and all the spots of natural beauty on the island. In addition to exploring the depths of volcanos and the beautiful plants, you will be treated to a delicious traditional lunch of Alcatra de Carne.
Where to Stay in Terceira
There are many fantastic Azores hotels worthy of staying at and some of the best are on the island of Terceira. Here are our top recommendations that will fit all budgets:
We hope that this Terceira travel guide helps you find things to do in Terceira and how cool the island really is. While it might not receive the number of people that Sao Miguel does, it definitely deserves more tourism and offers a lot to do for visitors. If you have suggestions for what to do in Terceira, please leave us a comment with your tips!