As we continue to travel towards the direction of Europe, the next beautiful island we encounter is the stunning island of Terceira. This island is located 3,642 miles from the east coast of the U.S. and 58 miles from our last stop, São Jorge.
Visitors of this beautiful island are treated to a variety that defies description. Terceira contains majestic natural beauty, breathtaking historical architecture, several quaint towns, and celebration-loving residents who welcome all to join the festa!
Terceira by Boat and by Airplane
Terceira is home to approximately 56,500 residents and is a very popular destination for people to return home to during June, July, and August. Terceira's airport is the most extensive one among those in the Açores islands as it shares a runway, control, and support structures with the military Lajes Field. It was built in 1934. Additionally, Terceira is accessible by the ferry system that connects several of the Açores islands.
360 Degrees of Indescribable Beauty
On an island with as much to do and see as Terceira, it is almost impossible to stop just mentioning one thing. Terceira is an island meant to be visited for several days. To get a real perspective of how much there is to see, you can view it all at once by visiting Serra de Santa Bárbara. Please prepare to be amazed. At 3,350 feet high, the summit of Serra de Santa in the west of Terceira is the highest point on the island. On clear days, visiting the lookout ensures stunning views in every direction, and if you're lucky, you'll even be able to spot some of the other Açorean islands. It is, without a doubt, a sight that provides an appreciation for how it feels to be on one piece of land in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and have so much variety on that in one place. I've seen the sight myself and can't begin to describe the feeling it provides.
Terceira also has the distinction of having its historical center, Angra do Herismo inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Eat, Drink and Be Happy
When visiting any of the Açores islands, a person must be prepared to eat food that can't be found in better form anywhere else. This is the truth, and it isn't an exaggeration. While there may be other places that prepare food equally as well and places where the seafood is as fresh, the variety of fresh food and the way it’s prepared is hard to match to Terceira’s offerings. Let’s face it, the people of the Açores are culinary magicians! This island has almost everything caught, grown, and raised on it that a person could ever want. So, it’s no surprise that an island that's as popular as Terceira would have an abundance of restaurants that are exceptional.
Not only are they restaurants that are exceptional, but they're family-owned. For example, in the small parish of Serreta, there's a restaurant called Tio Choa. Now if you didn't see a sign outside naming the restaurant, you'd think you were about to eat in someone's home. At Tio Choa’s, diners are greeted at the door by a family member of the restaurant owner, seated and served by the same person who might sit with you a while and get to know those in your dining party. By the time the dessert comes out, diners say they feel as if they’ve made new friends. The menu has family- favorite recipes, the atmosphere is cozy, and people even get to watch bread being baked in the restaurant's authentic open-hearth oven. This restaurant isn't just a place to savor great food, it's an experience where relaxation happens without effort.
Another fantastic place to eat is the Restaurante Caneta in Altares! While larger than the Tio Choa, it too is family-owned. Of course, delicious seafood is on the menu, but this place raises the bar on how to prepare beef and pork. Those who appreciate beef often say they’ve never tasted anything else like it. When asked what is the secret to how he prepares such delicious beef, Restaurante Caneta’s owner proudly points out a window and says, “See that land? My cows were born on my land, they're raised here in the fresh air with good food to eat that’s grown here just for them and they never leave this land. They never have stress.”
For those wanting to eat their weight in seafood, there's one place that beckons visitors to come back more than once during their visit. That place is Beira Mar in the tiny parish of São Mateus. Located overlooking a quaint marina, this restaurant is a huge favorite, and once dining there, you'll see why. Like with all other restaurants in Terceira, it seems that owners and staff will do anything to make diners feel welcomed and comfortable. Then there's the seafood! Wow, while there's no doubt it's been cooked, it's so fresh it tastes as if it was cooked on the way back from the ocean! It's that fresh. When calling to make a reservation, which is greatly recommended, you'll be warned that the items served are dictated by the day's catch, so not everything may be available. As with any restaurant on the beautiful Açores islands, bread and fresh cheese are served and no one hurries. Meals easily take two to three hours because the wait staff will spend time talking to you about your visit. People are happy to start conversations from one table to another and the ambiance always sets to tone for relaxation.
While Terceira has one winery of its own, most of the wine and other spirits are brought in from other islands and Portugal. There's never a shortage of wine, beer, and spirits to accompany the great meals prepared in Terceira's great restaurants and again, I’ve only named a few here of the many wonderful places to eat while visiting Terceira.
An Experience Not to Be Missed
For those visiting Terceira, the experience will vary greatly depending on the time of year. This is an island that has the reputation of being the “party island” because of the love for gatherings, celebrations, and parties! The experience that visitors will have during their time in Terceira may change based on the season’s celebrations. But one that never changes is at the center of the island when visiting Algar do Carvão.
Whenever the words "nowhere else in the world will you get to do this" are used, it's wise to see whatever it is those words apply to. Such is the case with Algar do Carvão. This massive volcano is one of the only two "dead" volcanoes in the world where you can walk inside. The other is in Iceland. The word "algar" means a natural cavity in the earth that is a vertical drop in orientation. Carvão is the Portuguese word for coal. So, imagine the opportunity to walk into a volcano that is 148-foot vertical entrance!
Once reaching that 148-foot mark, it's another decline of 300 feet to the interior pool of fresh, clear water that results from rainwater. What makes this experience even more incredible is that it's very well designed. Most people who can ambulate independently enjoy the experience even if they don't descend down all the steps created to make the 148 foot walk a safe one.
For those fortunate enough to be there during these events, I've been told there are concerts held in the volcano. Performers will sing and play their music above where it drops 300 feet into the waters below. I've been told that's is surreal to hear clear, vibrant music coming from deep within a volcano. I believe that's undeniable. To be in a volcano is amazing enough, but doing so while listening to beautiful music? Well, that's just nothing short of magical and just another example of what makes Terceira such a special place to visit.