Terceira lives and breathes history in Angra de Heroísmo, the first European city built on the Atlantic to be classified as a World Heritage Site. The port at which galleons laden with spices from the Orient or gold and silver from the Americas would find safe anchorage. The straight lines of the streets in a city that effortlessly takes us back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The churches, palaces and museums. The redoubtable walls of the fortress that defended the city and the port from attack by corsairs.
The patchwork of flat green fields dotted with the white outlines of the dairy cows. Here and there amongst the clusters of white houses, dabs of bright colour hark back to the times of empire, masterpieces of popular architecture associated with the cult of the Holy Spirit. The grins, the leaps and high jinks of the boys showing off as they engage in the bloodless bullfights. The tranquil hours spent playing a round of golf amongst the copses of criptomeria conifers from Japan.
After taking in all the many sights that Angra do Heroísmo has to offer, it is time to move on to the historic centre of Praia da Vitória. The gothic church of São Sebastião, raised by the very first settlers.
The manor houses, churches and chapels of São Carlos, Fontinha, São Brás and Lajes.
Terceira is not just history and monuments. It also has beautiful green countryside to walk through. Mountain tops that reveal horizons lined with colourful flowers, the sea and the sky. The fascinating Guilherme Moniz Caldera, volcanic crater with a 15 km perimeter. The caves at Algar do Carvão with the fairylike spectacle of the stalactites and stalagmites formed from lava deposits.
Flowers frame a course that provides a challenge to even the most proficient of golfers. Two marinas serve as magnets for the cosmopolitan world of yachters who have crossed the Atlantic. The sea, rich in fish, is a fisherman’s paradise. The sports of diving, surfing, windsurfing and sailing are all on offer on the island. And for those who like a swim, Terceira has its extraordinary swimming-pools formed where the lava meets the sea.
An island that is always partying.
Between the months of May and October, Terceira is host to one long festival of colour and age-old traditions. There are the Feasts of the Holy Spirit, which take place in all the island’s settlements, with their ceremonies of crowning the ‘emperor’ which are followed by gargantuan banquets of eating and drinking to one’s heart’s content. There are the Sanjoanina feasts, with their charming ethnographic pageant. And, everywhere, enthusiastic crowds that avidly follow the often comic bouts of bloodless bullfighting.
Feasts mean good food. And the traditional Island cooking has plenty to offer, with the exotic aromas of roasting beef steaks, richly anointed with spices, the blood sausage and the dishes of octopus. And the many excellent desserts. And no meal here would be complete without the Biscoitos wine, whose long history of pleasing the palate is recorded in a picturesque museum.
The Impérios, also known as “theatres” of the Holy Spirit, are like colourful guiding beacons in this landscape of whitewashed houses. Most of the 68 Impérios found on Terceira Island are from the late 19th century.