Last Updated on July 7, 2024

Far west of Portugal, in a group of islands in the sea, is the bright green Terceira Island. This volcanic island in the Azores Archipelago has some of the most fertile land in the Atlantic. It is known for its amazing caves, large green fields, and sparkling waters. My trip there last April was unforgettable, and I was amazed by how many places there are to explore on such a small island. So today, we’ll be talking about just 5 spectacular things to do in Terceira Island!

The island’s most famous views come from its lush natural surroundings and underground caverns. If you’re fond of Switzerland’s alpine vistas or Tulum’s cenotes, you’ll adore the views in Terceira. However, there are many other things to do in Terceira besides sightseeing, like visiting the historical towns (we’ll get to it in a bit). 

Thanks to TAP Air Portugal for sponsoring this trip!

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Depending on how far your exploration goes, you’ll want to plan a 3 to 7-day trip to fully enjoy what the island has to offer. I’ll release a 3-day itinerary later in the week to show how easy it is to explore for its size. A huge thank you to our guide Ivo from Terceira Tours for showing us all these gems!

Things to do in Terceira Island

1. Explore the Algar do Carvão Cave

Have you ever wondered what the world looks like from inside a volcano? Algar do Carvão offers a rare view looking up the chimney of this once-dangerous geological structure. Here, you’ll be able to climb up smooth, mossy steps up to the shining sun through the chute above.

Algar do Carvão is absolutely one of the first things to do in Terceira Island, and no trip is complete without a visit there. While the heart-shaped volcanic chute is its main highlight, there’s a complex cave system below with a lot of fascinating sights.

The inside of the Algar do Carvao cave, looking up at the chute with sunlight streaming down.
Algar do Carvão

Inside the volcanic vents are rare silica stalactites formed through a century of basaltic and volcanic interactions. The eruption that tore through the volcano left fascinating tunnel structures behind, and even a secret underground lake. 

As a whole, it’s a uniquely colorful geological wonder that you’ll hardly see anywhere else in the world. The thriving ecosystem down below also gives a lived-in sense of history, as if you’re entering a completely different world outside of humankind.

There are a number of guides you can find to lead you into the cave systems. I’d recommend requesting the locals or booking a tour yourself since having someone explain the cave’s origins is a big part of the novelty. 

2. Walk around in Angra do Heroísmo

Streets of Angra do Heroísmo

While there’s plenty of nature to explore, hiking and boating aren’t the only things to do in Terceira Island. Angra do Heroísmo is the main city south of Terceira, and it’s been a witness to Portugal’s lively seafaring history for centuries. 

Angra do Heroísmo has been considered a UNESCO-protected town since a massive earthquake nearly destroyed it in 1980. The town’s role in Portugal’s long history of exploration and conquest has made it eternally significant to the culture.  

Once home to the country’s most lively commercial and religious communities, the city has undergone massive changes over the centuries. Despite those changes, much of the old-world charm still shines through the colorful architecture and towering cathedrals.

The Palace of the Captain General

If you’re especially interested in the town’s history, I’d absolutely recommend booking a tour through the Palace of the Captain General. It’s downtown and near the Angra Cathedral, and it hides a fantastic number of art pieces and architectural wonders inside.

Palace of the Captain General

Once a college for an order of learned religious scholars, the building was repurposed into a palace for the Azores’ government, centered on a Captain General. The Palace housed numerous Captain Generals and was even the Royal Palace of Portugal for two kings’ reigns.

As such, it has collected a lot of fascinating artwork from different periods in time. You can even find realistic life-sized paintings of various kings in the Room of Kings! These halls definitely feel like they belong to a different time full of chivalrous knights and noble kings.

Since most of the written guides you’ll find are in Portuguese, booking a guided tour greatly enhances your experience. It’s only a few Euros, and not only can the guide speak multiple languages, but they’re quite courteous in answering questions about the palace’s history. 

Monte Brasil
The view of Angra do Heroismo from Miradouro do Pico das Cruzinhas at Monte Brasil.
Angra do Heroísmo from the Monte Brasil Natural Reserve

On the coastal cliffs of Angra do Heroísmo is the Monte Brasil Natural Reserve, a peculiar bowl-like volcanic mountain that looms over the city. It’s a spectacular space to hike around and enjoy views of the city as well as the vast oceans, and there are more than a few viewpoints to accommodate. 

A popular tourist spot here is Miradouro do Pico das Cruzinhas, or the peak of the Cruzinhas. This is a tall peak with crosses and monuments built all over it, and it has a gorgeous view of the city from far below. 

The view of the city from Miradouro do Pico das Cruzinhas in Monte Brasil.
Angra do Heroísmo from the Cruzinhas Peak lookout

The mountains of Monte Brasil dip down at the center towards a vast green field. The Alto da Caldeira lookout gives a great view of this field from above, making for quite a scenic picture. 

The field in Monte Brasil surrounded by mountains around Miradouro do Alto da Caldeira in Terceira Island.
The fields below Miradouro do Alto da Caldeira

3. Swim in the Piscinas Naturais dos Biscoitos

Woman standing over the waters of Piscinas Naturais Biscoitos in Praia dos Biscoitos.
Praia dos Biscoitos

Formed over decades of volcanic lava rising and falling against seawater, the natural pools on the north shores of Terceira are now fantastic swimming holes open for tourists. Piscinas Naturais dos Biscoitos (or the Biscoitos Natural Pools) are collected around piles of jagged black rocks. There’s a dramatic contrast between the hard volcanic textures and the smooth, soft waters below.

There are bridges and kiosks installed to facilitate visitors and some railings and white steps that lead down safely into the pools. Many people, both from the island and out, come here to dip their toes or bathe in the warm waters. You can expect a crowd when visiting, so have as much fun in the sun as you can!

The town near the pools, Biscoitos, is also well-known for its wine and views. If you have the chance after dipping your toes, it’s worthwhile looking around and savoring some of the local cuisine.

4. Gaze out at the infinite green fields

This activity is especially fun for photographers and hikers. Terceira’s unique landscape shows off vast, flat green plains climbing up to steep and rocky cliffsides. From various viewpoints, you can see the whole island for miles and miles. The fields split by dark lines of rocks turn into patchwork quilts on the earth. 

These make for serene, idyllic photos on a romantic getaway or a sabbatical. My tour group, Terceira Tours, helped me find some of the best locations to take pictures of the fields. However, if you’re going alone, you can also consider some of these popular viewpoints:

Miradouro do Raminho
Miradouro do Raminho

A fantastical viewpoint just on the cliffsides of Terceira. This viewpoint offers a split between Terceira’s dizzying cliffs, green fields and stark waters below.

Miradouro do Pico Matias Simão

Needing a hike up a cliff, you can find this viewpoint northwest of the island, just left of Biscoitos. This place is absolutely gorgeous and has fantastic views of the fields below, along with dramatic shots of the open sea. 

Miradouro da Serra do Cume
The green fields over the Miradouro da Serra do Cume viewpoint in Terceira Island.
Miradouro da Serra do Cume

Towering over the scenery, this inland platform can be found on the east side of Terceira. It’s one of the most breathtaking panoramic vistas you can find on the island, giving a full view of the landscape on all sides. You can even see the port towns in the distance along the shores.

5. Admire the Cabras Islets from Porto Judeu

In the far southeast of Terceira, you’ll see two small peaks jutting out in the distance. These are the Cabras Islets, or more famously the Island of the Goats. Shepherds once brought their sheep out to sea to graze–now, people rent boat rides to admire the islands up close.

Their unique cliffside silhouettes and daunting size make them quite majestic both up close and from afar. You can visit the little harbor town of Porto Judeu to see them from a safe distance, and visit some of the quaint chapels they have inland.

Woman looking out towards Ilheus das Cabras or the Cabras Islets from the beaches of Porto Judeu.
The Cabras Islets

Another great way to admire them is by booking a small boat to explore the little caves on the island. Both islets have formed small gaps in between the dense stone that create some surreal boat trips, so long as your vessel is small enough to fit. 

Many boat rentals, such as the one on Pelago, also offer snorkeling options by the islets. I didn’t get the chance to explore the islands on a boat during my time there, but I definitely look forward to it in the future!

Bonus: Watch a traditional Street Bull Run

If you’re lucky enough to visit Terceira between May and October, you might come across the island’s famous Street Bull Runs. The island has a long and storied heritage of caring for its bulls and bringing them together to compete in the summer seasons.

The schedules and locations for these events vary from year to year, and you can find a more detailed schedule online. They usually happen almost every day from May to October. Fun fact: only some of the bull runs are called tournaments – when there are 4 different bulls from 4 different ranchers.

While I didn’t get the chance to catch one of these street bull runs, it’s hard to miss the bulls in Terceira. They’re gathered all over Terceira, so you can easily find some just wandering around in the green fields from before. 

Bulls in Terceira

I still find myself dreaming about Terceira Island from time to time. The unique volcanic caves and flourishing flat planes make the island a special travel destination, even compared to my other trips in Europe. Which sight captivated you the most? Check out my full 3-day Terceira Island itinerary if you want to know what else you can do on this island!

Interested in my other trips to Europe? Check out my travel guide to Switzerland!

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