Saturday, November 4, 2017

Terceira is a fine finish to our Azores trip

Monte Brasil can be seen across Fanal Bay on the island of Terceira.

Our recent trip to the Azores ends in Terceira, an island that may be my favorite of those we visited. Like other islands (São Miguel, Faial, Pico and São Jorge) Terceira has incredible views, blue oceans, green pastures, delicious food and friendly residents. What sets this island apart for me is its largest city Angra do Heroísmo (or Angra for short). With a population of around 35,000, Angra is an ideal size in my book. Here we find a good array of restaurants, a swim-able beach, and plenty of opportunities to explore the history, culture and natural beauty of the city.

Fortress of São João Baptista is located at the base of Monte Brasil in
Angro do Heroísmo on the island of Terceira.

On our ride from the airport, our host tells us that one thing we absolutely must do during our week here is to hike up Monte Brasil. This volcanic peninsula, flanked by the Bay of Angra and the Bay of Fanal, has a couple of peaks that can be reached by a series of trails, but we opt to mostly stick to the paved road. (Two in our party take a taxi to the top and then leisurely walk down the mountain.) We're uncertain what to expect, but it turns out to be a nice 45-minute walk. As we begin, we pass Fortress of São João Baptista, also known as the Fort of São Filipe or Fort of Monte Brasil. We veer off the main road and check out a small chapel. As we near the top of Pico das Cruzinhas, we meet our party and pause for a few minutes to watch some military target practice on the slopes below us.

Angra is seen through the flora on Monte Brasil.
The monument atop Monte Brasil's Pico das Cruzinas
honors the Age of Discoveries.

We've brought along some sandwiches and have no trouble finding picnic tables on Pico das Cruzinhas. There's also a zoo here, along with a soccer field, playground and a monument honoring Portuguese occupation of the Azores during the Age of Discoveries.

Buildings along Angra's main street are adorned with iron balconies and
borders of color.

Visitors are welcome to check out Angra's city hall (Paços do Concelho).

Jardim Duque de Terceira is located in the center of Angra.

The windows of Casa do Sal cultural center in Angra are delightful. 

I'm amused by this unusual mural in Angra.

Sé Catedral de Angra do Heroísmo was built in the 16th century.

Chapel of the Misericórdia of São Sebastião in Angra do
Heroísmo has a beautiful ocean view.

Angra is a walkable city, filled with buildings accented with ornate iron balconies and several colorful churches — a refreshing change from most other churches we have seen in the Azores. The pale yellow Cathedral and sky blue Misericordia are two standouts, but my favorite is Church of Our Lady of Guia, part of the monastery São Francisco in which the Museu de Angro do Heroísmo is located. The explorer Vasco da Gama's brother Paulo is buried here.

Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Guia is part of the Museu de Angro do Heroísmo.

We are delighted by the museum. We had expected our visit to be short, but we end up staying nearly three hours. The museum is filled with a large variety of pieces, from ancient stonework to a re-creation of a cinema. There are signs in English and several spots to sit down and watch short films.

Museu de Angro do Heroísmo is located in the monastery São Francisco.

A replica of the ship Santa Catarina do Monte Sinai can be found at Museu
de Angro do Heroísmo.

A stone warrior stands inside Museu de Angro do Heroísmo.

Old photographs are part of the ecclectic collection at
Museu de Angro do Heroísmo.

Our visit to the Algar do Carvão on Terceira provides us with the
singular chance to visit the inside of a volcano.

As our time on Terceira is nearly over, we hire a taxi to take us to the Algar do Carvão, an attraction that is on my can't-miss-on-Terceira list. Located in the center of the island, Algar do Carvão is a large volcanic cone accessible to the public. We pay a small admission and walk downstairs about 80 meters nearly to the bottom of the crater. Being inside a volcano is incredible. Milky white stalactites and stalagmites cover the walls and roof of the volcano, and lush vegetation lines the upper portions of the opening at the top. The lava tube (algar) is home to beetles, centipedes and spiders, although we don't run into any of the natives during our visit here.

The cavernous Algar do Carvão was formed around 3,200 years ago.

Flora inside Algar do Carvão includes dozens of species of
liverwort, moss and ferns.

Our last day here, we are driven to the airport by the brother of our host, who stops at a miradouro for one last group photo and one more spectacular view.

We pose for one last photo on Terceira before heading home across
the Atlantic — two head east and two head west.

Read about our earlier stops in the Azores by clicking on these links for São Miguel and the central islands.


  1. What a great winter getaway (from France) :-0

    1. I agree. From France, it's easy to get to (although we had a long layover in Lisbon on our return). As for beauty, it's on a par with Hawaii (which I've never been to), but much less expensive, less built up, friendlier, and safer.