Ostatnia aktualizacja: 2021-08-08. Autor: Milena
10 places worth visiting in Terceira
When I decided to describe 10 places worth visiting in Terceira, I thought: but there are many more places worth visiting here! Terceira is a small island (around 400 sq. m) but full of beauty. But I realize that not everybody has a privilege to spend here as much time as I do. That’s why I chose “must see” places. And made sure that you won’t spend half a day looking for them. So, shall we start?
As it is my favourite place on the whole Island, of course it has to be on the first place. There are plenty of volcanoes on the Azores, but this one is unique. Why? Because you can see it from the inside! From the inside of the volcanic cone!
What is it about? In most of the volcanoes, after the eruption the cone collapses and creates a caldera. Here it was different. Here during the second eruption which created the volcano, lava was flowing under such small pressure that as some point it started getting back. When it was getting back, it was strengthening the cone. That’s why the volcano, apart from undergoing natural changes, survived in the condition that we can admire until today.
In Europe there are only two known empty volcanoes (in the whole world – three), which you can visit from the inside. This is Algar do Carvão in Terceira and Thrihnukagigur in Iceland. As you can see, the Atlantic Ocean favours untypical geological events.
In Algar do Carvão you can see such unique work of nature as stalactites and stalagmites from amorphous silica. They are milk-white, beautiful and they may reach up to around 1 m of length and 40-50 cm in diameter.
Visiting Algar do Carvão is now possible for the whole year. During winter – in chosen week days, since spring until autumn – every day. It’s worth getting dressed warmly because it’s cold inside and there is dropping water there (which creates a lagoon at the bottom of the cave). A standard visit takes around half an hour, although in my opinion it’s worth planning at least an hour for this experience. There’s a guide inside the cave who will explain you everything and answer your questions. There also leaflets in different languages, including Polish.
If you want to get to know more about the volcano, check the website of the Association Os Montanheiros, which takes care of the volcano.
2. Lava tube Gruta do Natal
As we’re already under ground, let’s visit also a lava tube Gruta do Natal. Some guides, wanting to help tourists, use the English name Christmas Cave. Where is this name coming from? Well, it started with a mess, which was organized by the Association Os Montaheiros (it also take care of this cave) during Christmas time in 1969. Since then, every now and again important historical and social events take place in this cave.
Gruta do Natal is a cave shaped by flowing lava. Inside of it, you will see such lava curiosities as stafilites (“stalagmites” made of dropping lava), lava flows and lateral “counters”. There are also different kinds of lava there, including lava aa. Once I heard a story that it’s called like that because when you walk on it, you say: “Aa!” Its rough surface indeed provokes such sounds, I wouldn’t like to stand on it barefoot.
Important logistic and payment information: you can buy one ticket to both the volcano Algar do Carvão and to Gruta do Natal, this way you will pay less. You don’t have to use the ticket on the same day, but before planning a visit it’s worth checking opening days and hours, to not go away empty-handed.
3. Furnas do Enxofre
Between the empty volcano and the lava tube there’s a place called Furnas do Enxofre. When you will be going from Algar do Carvão to Gruta do Natal, turn right, the road sign will lead you. “Furna” means a grot or a cave, “enxofre” – Sulphur, so theoretically Furnas do Enxofre are a grot of Sulphur, but in reality it’s an area of secondary volcanic activity in Terceira. You can see there and smell gas sulphur compounds plumming from the ground. Who remembers from chemistry classes what’s the smell of hydrogen sulphide?
As befits a volcanic area, Furnas do Enxofre is a beautiful site with juicy greenery. (Volcanic soils are very fertile, and the Azorean climate is favourable for all kinds of vegetation). Apart from the fumaroles – places where gas is pluming from the Earth. There, because of huge concentration of iron and Sulphur, the soil is bare and has white-yellow-brownish colour. It can arouse small anxiety, but only small. Because if the gas can plume, it’s a bit calmer underground. The water in a pod is boiling, but a bit leaky lid let the steam “escape”, so the content of the pod shouldn’t suddenly boil over.
4. Santa Bárbara – the highest point in Terceira
Let’s move up from the lowlands and undergrounds – maybe to the clouds? To the peak Serra de Santa Bárbara – the highest point of Terciera. It has 1021 m above sea level and you can see from there a big part of Terceira, the omnipresent ocean and incredible sunset. Of course if you get lucky and if St. Barbara is not hidden in clouds. The truth is that’s it’s the middle of the Atlantic ocean and the clouds, which flow fast, are being stopped by hills. So I suggest observing the weather and going to Serra de Santa Bárbara (it’s a very characteristic peak, with lots of antennas and transmitters) the moment you see its peak. It’s worth it!
I have almost forgotten to say – yes, of course it’s also a volcano. Well, we’re on volcanic islands. This is a dormant volcano, not active. The last eruption was in 1761. It has been the first and the last land eruption in Terceira since the island was settled.
On this mountain there are no entrance tickets, but there are warmer clothes “required”. During winter time it sometimes snows there (maybe 1 millimeter of snow, but it’s always a curiosity here), so no wonder that even in the summer it’s cold and windy on such height.
5. Serra do Cume
Another place that you have to visit, if it’s not covered with clouds, is Serra do Cume. It’s very often in clouds, but whenever you can see something besides them, it’s a memorable view. It will stay in your memory for very long time, if not forever. From Serra do Cume there’s a view for Caldeira dos Cinco Picos – Caldera of Five Peaks. What is a caldera? As I mentioned, it’s an area created after the volcanic cone has collapsed. This caldera has a diameter of around 7 km and is limited by Serra do Cume on the East and Serra da Ribeirinha on the West. There’s the Terceira Rift running through it. It separates Eurasian tectonic plate (North) from the African one (South).
On the horizon you can also see the Atlantic Ocean and Ilheus das Cabras – the Goats’ Islets. Two islets which used to be one. Today you can admire them from Terceira or go closer during a boat trip. You can also go for a snorkeling and scuba-diving trips and visit one of the underwater caves.
But it’s a topic for another article. No I will just add that there are no entrance tickets to Serra do Cume – neither on the side where you can see the caldera, nor on the other, with a view to Praia da Vitória (more information about Praia – below). To get there, you need to take the expressway (Via Rápida). At some point it will lead you to a roundabout, and you will see a road made of paving stone. Follow it as long as you see the next road sign informing about Serra do Cume. It’s worth getting there!
6. Monte Brasil
If we’re already „up”, feel invited to Monte Brasil, a hill “sticking” to Angra do Heroísmo, the biggest city (or, if you prefer, town) on the island. Monte Brasil is a volcanic hill and it has 4 peaks. There’s a different view from each of them. You can see a beautiful panorama of Angra and of the southern part of the island, you can also go to the other side and observe whales from a special booth. On Monte Brasil there’s also one of the official walking trails in Terceira.
Going to Monte Brasil (either by car or on foot, it’s not difficult to go on foot), it’s worth stopping at the castle São João Baptista. It’s a fortress from the 16th century, today knows as Castelinho (“little castle”). Currently it’s owned by the Portuguese army, so you may mainly admire it from the outside. And there’s a chance to get delighted by a remarkable sunset from that area – with a view for the neighbouring islands – São Jorge and Pico.
7. Angra do Heroísmo
If we already wandered to Angra, let’s stay here. Angra do Heroísmo is the capital of Terceira and the biggest city (or town) on the island. One of two cities (towns). Until the 19th century, Angra was the main transhipment port for all the ships sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. Thanks to that the nationalities mixed here (genes!), the cuisine was more diversified and people’s minds – open.
Currently big ferries don’t really visit Angra. You can see here rather small pleasure boats. You can go with them for example for whale and dolphins watching or to the neighbouring islands.
In 1980, Angra was hit by an earthquake. Its effects can be still seen in some parts of the city. In the same year the city was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
What can you see in Angra?
Many places! For sure it’s worth visiting the municipal garden Jardim Duque da Terceira, in which there are located plants from the Azores and from the whole world, and from the view point with a characteristic obelisk there’s a beautiful view for Angra and Monte Brasil.
The Angra Museum (Museu de Angra do Heroísmo) is also worth visiting. You will find there information about the history and geography not only of Angra, but also of the whole Azores.
By the street called Rua da Sé there’s also a cathedral Sé. You will recognize it by… a statue of the Pope John Paul II, who visited the Azores. In São Miguel (the biggest island in the Azores Archipelago) there’s even an airport called with his name. in Terceira there’s his statue and a stadium named after him. Our pope is popular. But coming back to the cathedral – it’s worth visiting both the cathedral and the treasury.
In Angra there’s always a little sand beach (rare view in the Azores) known as Prainha (“little beach”), where you can rest after the whole day of walking. But just a reminder – use sunscreens! Here the sun is much stronger than in Poland. I’ve written about my unfortunate experience with it in the text Terceira – Mój rok na środku Atlantyku. (Sorry, still only in Polish, I’m translating articles on this website in phases).
If you want to eat something good, I recommend (from my own experience):
- restaurant Canadinha, where you will find delicious local dishes (e.g. bitoque, fish, sea food, including lapas, local wine and aguardente – local moonshine) in reasonable prices,
- bar Pastelaria Santa Barbara, where you can eat the best Donas Amelias on the whole island. Donas Amelias are local cupcakes. Each island has its own cupcakes, Terceira has these ones – based on molasses. Meat lovers will be delighted by francesinha – a huge sandwich containing many layers of bread and even more layers of meat, “drowning” in a special kind of sauce.
Angra requires another article, Azorean cuisine as well, soi t will be it for now. More – later.
8. Praia da Vitória
After visiting one city it’s time for going to the other one – Praia da Vitória. You can get to Praia by the mentioned expressway (Via Rápida). when you get to that outskirt of the island, you will see a beach. Well, “praia” means beach. That’s the biggest sand beach on the island – of course the biggest in the place where you have almost no sand beaches.
Praia da Vitória, due to the beach and local bars, looks more as a coastal resort than Angra. It’s a small city (or in fact town), but charming. It’s worth walking through the small streets, rest on the beach or go to Miradouro do Facho – a view point overlooking Praia, with a statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. From that point, you can admire Praia and windmills in Serra do Cuma. After filling your eyes with this view, I recommend filling also your stomach with delicious fish in the restaurant Pescador (“Fisherman”) or sushi in the Ginsu bar.
There’s one more place that I can’t imagine the island without. I left it for you for a dessert. It’s a place in the north of the island called Biscoitos, which means biscuits. In Biscoitos you will find natural swimming pools in the rocks. Black volcanic rocks, and water in the basins between them. You can swim there or even dive. It makes a huge impression. Even bigger when you put on the mask from snorkeling and start observing the underwater world. The Azores are one of the best diving places in the world, so if you’re a fan of the oceanic depths, make sure to take your wetsuit, fins and so on. There’s so much to see!
Apart from the natural swimming pools, there are also vineyards in Biscoitos. Delicious local wine is made of them. You can also visit the Wine Museum, which is located around 50 meters from the bus stop of the bus line no. 1, shuttling between Angra and Biscoitos. Tell the driver “Museu do Vinho” and he will put you down in the correct place.
After visiting the museum and sampling wine, go for a trail among local vineyards. A tour in warmed up volcanic stones surrounding the vineyards, among green flexible sprigs, is a perfect relax for the body and soul.
10. Walking trails
And as we’re already talking about the trails – go for a trail! First visit the one in Biscoitos, then – go further, to the nature. There are eight official walking trails in Terceira (more – in the works), each of them is different. You will find descriptions of them HERE.
My favourite walking trail is Mistérios Negros – “black mysteries”. Why? Because it seems the wildest. It goes through low, typical Azorean vegetation. You have to climb rocks, hold on to branches and walk above or under bent limbs. It’s a lot to talk about, just check it!
Other walking trails are also beautiful. Some are located in the center of the island (as Mistérios Negros – the beginning of the trail is right next to the entrance to Gruta do Natal), so you can expect fog, rain and mud there. Others are located on the coast and have breathtaking views to the ocean. There are easier and more difficult trails, shorter and longer, less and more wild. Take one’s pick. One thing is for sure – trekking shoes will be of service. Maybe it will be the first time that you dirty them!
I could talk about Terceira for much more time.
I could go on naming places that are worth visiting, I could continue recommending activities, food and places to eat, talk about local festivities and customs. I could… And I’m planning to do that. I want to tell you about many aspects of this beautiful corner of the world.
And how are you? Have you already been to the Azores? What did you like, what did you not like, what attracted your attention? I am curious to get to know your opinions and experiences! You can write in the comments under this article or directly to me by the e-mail. Let me also know what other topics regarding Terceira are interesting for you, what you would like to read about. All the questions and suggestions are welcome!
Take care and see you in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!