Terceira is one of the most beautiful islands in the Azores and one of the easiest to access, alongside São Miguel. Its capital, Angra do Heroísmo, was the first official city in the Azores, and it’s now a UNESCO Heritage site surrounded by historical buildings. Noteworthy sights include the city hall, the cathedral, and the colourful chapels known as impérios.
Beyond the monuments, there’s also an impressive natural landscape. You can take in the views from the Santa Bárbara mountains or visit the volcanic caves and natural pools dotted around the island.
Our five-day itinerary will show you the best things to do in Terceira. It mentions the top sights on the island, plus restaurants and hotel recommendations.
Angra do Heroísmo is the perfect base to explore Terceira Island. The capital city has been a World Heritage site since 1983. Take your time wandering through the streets of the old town and admire the colourful façades. Don’t miss the Sé Catedral. This 16th-century cathedral stands out with its pointy bell towers covered in blue and white tiles. Inside you’ll find a vast collection of religious paintings and sculptures.
Our next stop is the Praça Velha, one of the oldest squares on the island. Around here is the city hall, also known as Paços do Concelho. Established in the 19th century, it stands out with its neoclassical style. From here, you can take a walk to the nearby gardens of Jardim Duque da Terceira.
After exploring the gardens, head over to Convento de São Francisco, a Baroque convent with a striking red and white façade. Inside is the Museum of Angra do Heroísmo. Here you can learn more about the island's history through a collection that includes carriages, paintings, ceramics, and antique furniture.
Take a small detour to see the obelisk Alto da Memória. Erected in 1856, it celebrates the visit of King D.Pedro IV to Terceira during the Portuguese Civil War. While you can capture the iconic yellow monument from a distance, it’s worth climbing to the top for the panoramic views of the city.
Follow the road down to the coast, and you will stumble upon the Forte de São Sebastião. Also known as Castelinho, this 16th-century fortress was built to protect the city’s port from pirate attacks. Many boats used to stop here as part of the commercial route to Brazil and India. The fort is now home to a four-star hotel, but you can still walk around the battlements.
End the day with a hike around Monte Brasil. This large green area is part of an extinct volcano. A trail connects the Parque Municipal de Relvão to a series of lookouts where you can enjoy the coastal views.
To get a sense of the island’s stunning landscape, you should head up to Serra do Cume. At the top of the mountain, you’ll find a lookout where you can stop and take in the views. Standing here, you can admire the lush pasture patchworks and the city of Praia da Vitória in the distance.
Our journey continues deep into the heartland of Terceira at the Caldeira Guilherme Moniz. This volcanic crater emerged over 20,000 years ago following the eruptions that created the Pico Alto. Now it's dotted with lava tubes and water springs. You can walk among the wooded paths by following the Passagem das Bestas trail.
Algar do Carvão is one of the most iconic sights on the island. This volcanic pipe is around 90 metres deep, and you can access it via a tunnel. You’ll start at the top and then climb down to the interior, where the walls are full of moss, stalactites, and stalagmites. Inside there is also a small lake that changes size according to the seasons. A combined ticket will give you access to this cave and the Gruta do Natal.
Not far from Algar do Carvão, you’ll find these sulphur fumaroles. There is still volcanic activity underneath, as you’ll notice by the little clouds of smoke that escape through the cracks and the sulphur smell. A visitation circuit takes you around the site passing through several informational panels.
This lava tube emerged after the flowing lava of surrounding volcanoes solidified. It is called the Christmas cave because locals have celebrated a Christmas mass here since 1969. It feels like a labyrinth in here, but there's a signed trail inside that you can follow to capture the stalactites and stalagmites. Make sure to stop by the reception, where they provide helmets so you can explore the cave safely.
Settle down for the day at Lagoa das Patas, a small lagoon amid a forest reserve lined with trees and flowers, like azaleas and hydrangeas. You can enjoy a picnic here or simply sit and admire the ducks paddling nearby.
Today, we are heading to the east end of Terceira. On the outskirts of Angra do Heroísmo is the Serra da Ribeirinha. A lookout up in the mountain offers fantastic views of the island's capital and the coast.
Make your way to Pico da Joana, a volcanic cone within the crater of Cinco Picos. The base has the shape of a circle almost, with 500 metres diameter. To see the bottom of the crater, you have to fly over it, but you can capture the highest point from street level.
Head south towards the coast until you reach the council of Porto Judeu. Stop by the Cruz do Canário Viewpoint to relish the sea views. From here, it is possible to capture the Ilhéus das Cabras, a group of islets where many birds migrate. You might also spot a few dolphins swimming around the lookout if you're lucky.
While in Porto Judeu, you can go for a swim at the local natural pool Piscina Natural do Refugo. Alternatively, you can head a bit further east to the Bay of Salga. Halfway between both pools is the Gruta das Agulhas, a lava tube overlooking the sea.
Continue driving until Ponta das Contendas, the southeastern edge of the island. This cape offers privileged views of the bay and the Ilhéus da Mina, three islets with high erosion levels. The area is also a favourite spot for diving and snorkelling.
Our next stop is Praia da Vitória, the second main city on the island. It may be small, but it has many attractions worth checking. Start with a tour of the historic centre and visit some of the town’s chapels and churches. Make sure to see the Império do Divino Espírito Santo da Caridade, a colourful local shrine where the annual celebrations of the Holy Spirit take place.
Other places nearby include the Igreja Matriz de Santa Cruz and Igreja do Senhor Santo Cristo. After visiting these, take a moment to relax at the Zona Balnear da Praia Grande, the only sandy stretch on the island.
Then walk up to Miradouro do Facho for the best views of the city and its harbour.
Just a few minutes from Praia da Vitória is the Lajes Airbase. It has units for the Portuguese and the US Air Force, so, occasionally, you may see American soldiers walking around in the neighbourhood. You can head up to the Miradouro Humberto Delgado to watch the planes go by with the Serra do Cume in the background.
After seeing the airport, you can drive to the Zona Balnear Escaleiras. Lined with cliffs, it offers a calm spot for an afternoon swim if you're still up for it.
You will find this large bathing complex around 1.5km from Angra do Heroísmo. What was once the docks of a former fishing port is now one of the most famous swimming spots on the island, welcoming visitors all year round. It’s also a popular site for local sports competitions like swimming or canoeing.
This lively fishing village is among the top places to visit on the west side of Terceira island. By the coast are the ruins of the town’s 16th-century church, Igreja Velha de São Mateus, nearly destroyed by a hurricane in 1893. After the tragic event, the local community erected a new parish church further inland, which is now the Igreja de São Mateus da Calheta. The town is also home to two colourful Holy Ghost chapels, the Império do Terreiro and the Império do Cantinho.
Other places worth checking in São Mateus include the Casa dos Botes Baleeiros, a small whaleboat museum, and the fortresses of Forte Grande de São Mateus da Calheta and Forte do Negrito. Near this last one are also the natural pools of the Zona Balnear do Negrito.
Continue your trip along the coast, and you’ll soon reach the town of Cinco Ribeiras. If you’re up for it, you can stop for another swim at the Zona Balnear das Cinco Ribeiras. A ramp gives you direct access to the sea. There’s also a small natural pool ideal for families.
Just a few minutes from Cinco Ribeiras is the factory of Queijo Vaquinha. Here you can sample a variety of traditional cheeses produced on the island. Order a cheese board and a glass of wine or a kima maracujá, a typical passion fruit soda.
Follow the road towards the Serra de Santa Bárbara, the highest point on the island. You can start your tour at the Interpretation Centre to learn more about the island’s volcanic background. Then continue towards the Serra de Santa Bárbara viewpoint. At 1000 metres high, it provides the best views on the island. It’s best to head here on a clear day, so make sure to check the weather before you go.
The next stop is the Miradouro da Ponta do Queimado. Located in the Serreta council, this viewpoint stands right on the edge of a cape near the lighthouse of Farol da Serreta. To reach the miradouro, you’ll need to climb down a steep trail, but it’s worth it for the unobstructed sea views.
A few miles north from Ponta do Queimado is another viewpoint worth checking, the Miradouro da Serreta. It sits on a lava flow that emerged after an eruption of the volcano of Serra de Santa Bárbara in 1761. Standing here, you can spot the islands of São Jorge and Graciosa.
Like many islands in the Azores, the Terceira island has a strong connection with the whaling industry. Throughout the island, you will find many lookouts known as vigia das baleias, like this one in Miradouro do Raminho. The days of whale hunting are long gone, but locals still come here to admire the fantastic sea views and observe the cetaceans from a distance.
We’re spending our last day exploring the north of Terceira. Our first stop is the town of Biscoitos, a region that is famous for its vineyards. At the Museu do Vinho, you can learn more about the history of the local wine and the Verdelho grape. After checking the exhibits, visitors can try a sample at the museum’s tasting room.
Make your way down to the coast to visit the Piscinas Naturais dos Biscoitos. These stunning natural pools are surrounded by black volcanic rocks that emerged from eruptions. It’s one of the most popular spots for a swim in the summer. Surrounding the pools are a series of kiosks selling small treats like pastries and jams.
Still in Biscoitos, you can explore the Trincheiras Militares. Established during the Second World War, these trenches were part of the island's defensive structure housing machine guns and mortars.
Close to the trenches, you will find the Calheta dos Lagadores. This natural pool is a favourite spot for diving, attracting beginners and professionals. It usually has fewer people than the nearby pools in Biscoitos, making it the perfect place to relax away from the crowds.
Quatro Ribeiras was one of the first populated areas on the island. These days people come here for a swim in its natural pools. The water is calm, so it is an ideal place for families with children.
Before we bid farewell to the island, we’re visiting another viewpoint. The Miradouro de Alagoa is part of the Fajãzinha Natural Reserve, famous for its biodiversity. It is home to several protected animal species and endemic plants, plus it offers incredible sea views.
If you’re planning a family trip to Terceira, you will be glad to know that there are many things you can do with kids. First, you can tour the island’s capital, Angra do Heroísmo. Here you can wander around the old town's narrow streets, visit fortresses and sample the local cuisine.
In the summer, you can spend the day relaxing in one of the island’s natural pools or on the sandy shore of Praia da Vitória. Other fun activities include snorkelling, diving, and whale and dolphin watching.
Kids will also enjoy exploring the volcanic caves like Algar do Carvão and Gruta do Natal or spot the planes at the Lajes Airbase.
One of the most typical dishes of Terceira is the alcatra, a slow-cooked beef stew using several spices. It is usually served in a clay pot and paired with a sweet bread known as massa sovada. As starters, you can often order cured meats such as linguiça and morcela. Fish and seafood are also a big part of the local cuisine. Popular choices include the boca negra (blackbelly rosefish) and the cracas (a type of barnacles). Below are some of the best places to eat in Terceira where you can sample these delicacies:
The weather in Terceira can be humid, with regular rainfall, especially in winter. With that in mind, the best time to visit Terceira is in the summer, between June and September. The temperatures are milder, and you’ll have more chances to get clear days. It is also the perfect season to catch some of the island’s traditional festivals.
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