Terceira (Azores)

Terceira / Azores


The Azores island of Terceira occupies the most easterly position of the five central islands of the archipelago. The volcanic island stands for green, undulating landscapes, wonderful viewpoints and the diverse island capital Angra do Heroísmo.

Terceira - a green island

Terceira - a green island


Terceira from a geological point of view

Like all Azores islands, Terceira is of volcanic origin. Basalt formations and steaming fumaroles are evidence of such geological activities. Witnesses of volcanic eruptions are the centrally located Caldeira de Guilherme Moniz with its crater lake or the 100 meter deep volcanic vent Algar do Carvao with its large stalagmites and stalactites.

DATA & FACTS

In Portuguese, Terceira stands for “third”. Terceira was discovered as the third of the Azores islands, believed to be in 1437. At least that's what an official board at the Pico das Cruzinhas viewpoint on Monte Brasil says. The island was first given the name Ilha de Jesus Cristo; and the name Brazil was also in use. The name Terceira prevailed in the period that followed. In 1449, Portugal's Prince Henry the Navigator gave the order to colonize the island. The order went to the Flemish Jácome Bruges. The first settlements were established in Angra in the south and Praia in the east of Terceira.

Angra do Heroísmo - Marina


Angra do Heroísmo - Marina


Terceira - Praia


Terceira - Praia 


With an area of ​​402 square kilometers, Terceira is the third largest of the nine inhabited Azores islands. According to current estimates, around 55.000 people live on the island (as of 2020). The capital Angra do Heroísmo had about 13.000 inhabitants at the same time. There are 1.570 kilometers as the crow flies between Portugal's capital Lisbon and Terceira.

Angra do Heroísmo from a bird's eye view

Angra do Heroísmo from a bird's eye view


The Azores and especially Terceira served as a stopover on the sea route between Europe, America and India for several hundred years. Preferably in Angra merchant ships made a stopover to take supplies and water. With the advent of transatlantic flights in the 20th century, planes had to stop for refueling on long-haul routes. For this purpose the first airport in the Azores was established at Praia on Terceira with the Lajes airfield.

Angra - for a time the capital of Portugal

Angra, the name addition "do Heroísmo" was added later, received city rights in 1534. Due to its location, the city was originally the economic, political and religious center as well as the capital of the Azores. The capital city function was later transferred to Ponta Delgada on São Miguel.

In the first half of the 19th century, Angra was Portugal's capital for some time during political unrest on the mainland. Because of its steadfastness in politically unstable times, the city was given the name “do Heroísmo”. Heroísmo stands for heroism in Portuguese.

In the background Lajes Airport

In the background Lajes Airport


Administration, Church and Science

The Autonomous Region of the Azores maintains its seat of government in Ponta Delgada on São Miguel. The Azores parliament is located in Horta on Faial and the representatives of the Portuguese central government reside in Angra do Heroísmo.
Angra do Heroísmo - Palácio dos Capitães GeneraisAngra do Heroísmo - Palácio dos Capitães Generais


Angra has been the seat of the Diocese de Angra since 1534. The diocese includes all the Azores islands. The State University of the Azores, founded in 1976, maintains a location with the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences in Angra do Heroísmo.

Economy and tourism

As already stated: Terceira is a green island. Many islanders make a living from agriculture. The focus is on cattle farming and dairy farming. In addition, there is the cultivation of agricultural products. Fishing also plays an important role.

Terceira - bulls in the pasture


Terceira - bulls in the pasture


Terceira - cattle in species-appropriate husbandry


Terceira - cattle in species-appropriate husbandry 


And then there is soft tourism. Like the rest of the Azores Islands, Terceira is a destination for nature lovers and hikers. Angra do Heroísmo alone offers urban flair. While sperm whales were hunted and slaughtered in the Azores until the 1980s, whale watching is now a bloodless encounter with whales.
Whale watching boat in Angras MarinaWhale watching boat in Angras Marina


With the permission of the Portuguese government, the British government expanded the airport on Terceira during the Second World War in order to establish a military base there. The USA later took over the base. The airport is still used for civil and military purposes today.

Our short visit to Terceira

We visit the port of Praia da Vitória with the expedition ship WORLD VOYAGER. During the pandemic, the excursion program includes a panoramic trip by omnibus to the island's capital Angra do Heroísmo. There are three great viewpoints along the way.

Miradouro das Veredas

Behind Praia da Vitória the road climbs rapidly. The bus drives through hilly landscapes with small forests, farmsteads and lush, green pastures, which are separated from each other by walls made of basalt stones. In between we pass a stately house and a round square where bulls are displayed in front of the Touradas à Corda, the bloodless amusements. Then we reach the Miradouro das Veredas.

Terceira's varied landscape


Terceira's varied landscape


Terceira - Bullring


Terceira - Bullring 


From the vantage point we can see Monte Brasil in the south, which shields Angra do Heroísmo from the Atlantic, and we see Ilhéus das Cabras, the goat islands, in the southeast. To the right below is the town of Terra Chã and in between we look at steeply sloping cattle pastures on which countless cattle graze.

Miradouro das Veredas with the Ilhéus das Cabras


Miradouro das Veredas with the Ilhéus das Cabras


Miradouro das Veredas - Terra Chã


Miradouro das Veredas - Terra Chã 


Miradouros da Serra do Cume

The Serra do Cume, like the Serra da Ribeirinha further south, is the point of infiltration of a seven kilometer wide caldera. In the valley there are pastures and fields. The green of the willows, traversed by basalt walls, is often referred to as the “patchwork quilt”. The elevated location explains why this is so.

Miradouros da Serra do Cume - to the west
Miradouros da Serra do Cume - to the west
Miradouros da Serra do Cume
Miradouros da Serra do Cume - to the southwest

From a vantage point we look west over the caldera. In the south, the Ilhéus das Cabras, the goat islands, protrude from the Atlantic. The other opens the view to the east to Lajes airport and to the southeast down to Praia da Vitória and the harbor.
Miradouros da Serra do Cume with PraiaMiradouros da Serra do Cume with Praia


Monte Brasil with the Miradouro Pico das Cruzinhas

The Miradouro Pico das Cruzinhas also offers good views. It is located high above Angra do Heroísmo on the peninsula of the former Monte Brasil volcano.

Miradouro Pico das Cruzinhas


Miradouro Pico das Cruzinhas


Angra - Monte Brasil


Angra - Monte Brasil 


Below the view is the Fortaleza São João Baptista. Because of the strategic advantages and to protect against pirate attacks, a citadel was built on the hill from 1594. The construction work lasted several decades. After the completion, it was considered not ingestible.
Angra do Heroísmo - Fortaleza São João Baptista
Angra do Heroísmo - Fortaleza São João Baptista


More recently, it served as a prison for political prisoners. Together with the old town of Angra do Heroísmo, the fort is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 

The lookout point not only offers panoramic views of the fortress with its gun emplacements and the fortress church, but also of both bays, the city and its marina.

 

 

Attractions in Angra do Heroísmo

We discover Angra's old town on an individual tour. The historical part of the city was laid out like a chessboard in accordance with the time it was founded. There are plenty of buildings worth seeing. It would take a long time to get an in-depth look at Angra. However, we do not have the time.

Angra do Heroísmo

Angra do Heroísmo


We make the most of the lack and concentrate on the essentials. These include the Sé Cathedral, the town hall, the Vasco da Gama sculpture on the Pátio da Alfândega, the Igreja da Misericórdia or the old customs office. The many colorful historical buildings on individual streets are a feast for the senses. Rua da Rocha, which runs next to the cathedral, is a good example of old palaces.

Sé Cathedral

After Angra became the bishopric of the Azores in the first half of the 16th century, an episcopal church had to be built. From 1570 onwards, the Sé Cathedral was built in 48 years. The church dedicated to Christ the Savior (São Salvador) is the largest church in the Azores archipelago.

Angra do Heroísmo - Sé Cathedral
Rear of the Sé Cathedral
Rear of the Sé Cathedral
Sé cathedral - statue of Pope John Paul II

The serious earthquake in 1980 caused significant damage to the Sé. Two years later, the two towers collapsed as a result of the incident. Comprehensive renovations brought the three-aisled cathedral to its current gleaming condition.

Sé Cathedral - central nave
Sé Cathedral - pillar of the nave
Sé Cathedral - Nuestra Senhora de Lourdes Chapel
Sé Cathedral - central nave

At first glance, we are impressed by the main facade with the high gable, the two towers, the clock and a bell above it. Inside the church, the altar with the silver cladding, the nave supported by square pillars, the side chapels and the organ are worth seeing. The cathedral lacks the splendor of many Catholic episcopal churches. Perhaps that is precisely why the church is so attractive.

Palácio Bettencourt

The mansion at the rear of the cathedral was originally built for a captain general of the Azores. The aristocratic Bettencourt family then used the building as a residence, and later it was the seat of the bishops for a time. The building, adorned with the Bettencourts family coat of arms, currently serves as the city's public library and regional archive. The azulejos in the foyer and the reading room of the library are well worth seeing.

Angra - Palácio Bettencourt

Angra - Palácio Bettencourt


Paço Episcopal

Diagonally across from the cathedral is the Paço Episcopal, another former bishop's palace. The palace is currently used by the Autonomous District Administration. A plaque on the outside wall shows that US President Nixon and French President Pompidou met there in December 1971.

Paço Episcopal

Paço Episcopal


Igreja da Misericórdia & the Portas da Cidade

We follow the Rua da Rocha to the Pátio da Alfândega, an elaborately paved square. There is the Igreja da Misericórdia. With its light blue and white facade painting, the Church of Mercy stands out between the surrounding buildings. The church has two opposite altars: the Holy Spirit Altar and the Altar of the Merciful. There are also wood carvings and azulejos inside the church.

Rua da Rocha - Museu Vulcanoespeleológico


Rua da Rocha - Museu Vulcanoespeleológico


Church of the Misericordia


Church of the Misericordia 


Opposite the main portal of the church are the two stone arches of the old city gate. Between the church and the city gate we see the bronze sculpture of Vasco da Gama. It appears that da Gama is advancing energetically in a northerly direction. We suspect that the explorer is depicted in life size. In 1499 he made a three month stop on Terceira.

Portas da Cidade with the statue of Vasco da Gama


Portas da Cidade with the statue of Vasco da Gama


Patio da Alfândega


Patio da Alfândega 


Another building worth seeing on the Pátio da Alfândega is the Alfândega, the main customs office. Below the city gate are Angras city beach and the marina.

Pátio da Alfândega with the main customs office

Pátio da Alfândega with the main customs office


Angra do Heroísmos City Hall

From the Pátio da Alfândega, Rua Direita leads directly to Praça Velha. Well-kept two- and three-story residential and commercial buildings are located along the way. The street lamps in front of it are decorated with baskets full of geraniums and, as in most Portuguese cities, the street is noticeably clean.

Angra do Heroísmo - Rua Direita


Angra do Heroísmo - Rua Direita


Angra do Heroísmo - Rua Direita


Angra do Heroísmo - Rua Direita 


Angra's town hall, the Paços do Concelho, is located on Praça Velha, the “old square”. Those who know the Azores speak of the most beautiful town hall in the archipelago. The magnificent building was inaugurated in the second half of the 19th century. It is one of the finest examples of the city's rich architectural heritage and the best setting for the city's regular festivals.

Angra do Heroísmo - Velha Square
Angra do Heroísmo - Velha Square
Praça Velha - Paços do Concelho
Praça Velha - city festival in front of the town hall

Jardim Duque da Terceira & Alto da Memória

The three-hectare Jardim Duque da Terceira, Angras city park, follows the town hall. The park features dozens of tree and plant species from all over the world. The Convento de São Francisco and the MAH, the Museu de Angra do Heroísmo, adjoin the garden. The pyramid-shaped obelisk of the Alto da Memória rises above the park. It honors King Pedro IV of Portugal and commemorates Terceira's freedom movement from 1828 to 1832.

Jardim Duque da Terceira
Jardim Duque da Terceira
Jardim Duque da Terceira
Obelisk Alto da Memória

Largo Prior do Crato

Opposite the park is the Prior do Crato square. The Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo towers above the square. In 1572 the Jesuit order was allowed to establish a college in Angra. The monumental building of the Jesuits was based on the aims of the order: literacy, education in the faith and teaching of the catechism. Next to the college, the church was built without a bell tower. The associated intention: the church should act like a house and not like a church. 

Largo Prior do Crato - Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo


Largo Prior do Crato - Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo


Largo Prior do Crato - Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo


Largo Prior do Crato - Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo 


Almost 200 years later (in 1760) the Jesuits fell out of favor in the Azores and were banished from the islands. Since the institution of the general captain was created on Terceira to administer the islands, the administration found its proper seat in the rooms of the college. It was renamed the Palácio dos Capitães Generais. In the present, the president and the vice-president of the regional administration use the building. Part of the palace is available for museum purposes.

A day on Terceira - what's left?

There would be a lot more for us to see in Angra do Heroísmo. The time alone is not enough for a day stay. In Angra we would have liked to see the Forte de São Sebastião. Not to mention the western part of Terceira with the centrally located Caldeira de Guilherme Moniz, the associated crater lake, the 100 meter deep lava cave of Algar do Carvao with stalagmites and stalactites or the 700 meter long Gruta do Natal. 

Angra do Heroísmo - Forte de São Sebastião


Angra do Heroísmo - Forte de São Sebastião


Terceira - entrance to the Gruta do Natal


Terceira - entrance to the Gruta do Natal 


At the Caldeira de Guilherme Moniz, the largest forest area in the Azores is ideal for walks. We don't see any of this due to lack of time. One of the many reasons to return to the island again.
July 2021

 

 

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