Our second stop in the Azores Islands, Portugal, was to Terceira via plane from Faial. Terceira has a total population of approximately 56,000 people and encompasses 153 square miles. Terceira is also said to have more than 2 times as many cows as people which, after our visit, we believe!
Not wanting to waste a minute, we rented our car and headed directly to Miradouro da Serra do Cume when we got off our flight. (Driving on the three islands we visited is very easy.) At this overlook, serendipity gave us a beautiful present—a view of the brightest and longest rainbow I have ever seen. It was so long that we could actually see its colorful ends in front of the distant mountains. The rainbow was so radiant that the legendary leprechaun’s pot of gold was surely there waiting for us to find it. Unfortunately, we didn’t find the pot of gold and pictures don’t do the rainbow justice, but its resplendent colors continued to follow us around the island.
Our next stop was unplanned as a cow jam halted our driving progress for about 10 minutes. Did I mention that more cattle live on Terceira than people? The dairy farmer had opened the gates for the cows and they headed eagerly—but not quickly--for the milking barn.
Continuing our drive around the island, we came to the town of Vila de São Sebastião where the Igreja (Church) of São Sebastião, with its 16th century murals, awaited us. The church is the oldest in Terceira, having been built around 1455 (It was renovated in 1568 and 1795.) The murals are undergoing restoration.
We made a quick stop to see the outside of the Farol (lighthouse) das Contendas before heading to Angra do Heroísmo, the largest city on the island and the location of our hotel.
The hotel, the Terceira Mar Hotel, was stunning. The resort overlooked a beautiful swimming pool and stunning beach. The staff, like in every place we stayed in the Azores, were extremely helpful. They made recommendations and reservations. They helped the “winging it” go smoothly. We spent the remainder of our day wandering along the ocean and through the town, having dinner, and just enjoying the atmosphere.
The next day we headed up Mount Brazil, a short walk from our hotel that includes ruins of a fort, many hiking trails, and a cat sanctuary.
The views of both the sea and the city were outstanding. After lunch back in town at a café with in-street seating, we explored the old town area with stops at the Igreja da Misercordia, the docks, the old gates, and photo opportunities of the colorful homes. We took time to wander through the Jardim (Garden) Duque da Terceira. Even though we could tell that the flowers had been in full bloom several months previously, we still enjoyed hints of color and floral abundance. (Note: October-November isn’t as busy as the spring and summer, but the hydrangeas and other blooming plants show their beauty better in earlier months.)
We had a fabulous dinner at O Cachalote by Frank and Peter. Frank, one of the owners, greeted us personally and regaled us with stories after the meal. The special was beef tenderloin for two with huge portions. The meat arrived partially cooked with instructions for us to finish its cooking on the hot stone we were given. Every bite of our dinner, including the cooked banana, was fabulous and the meal was great fun.
The next day started with the Furnas do Enxofre hike which is located next to the Algar do Carvão. Furnas do Enxofre are thermal sulfur vents that exist in many places on the island. The underground volcanic activity keeps these vents spewing steam at all times. The hike was marked moderate by AllTrails.com and is a loop trail through multiple terrains. At 4 miles it was a good hike and even gave us views of thermal vents in the distance. (We could have opted for another mile to hike to the thermal vents, but we decided to drive to the vents later due to time constraints.)
After the three-hour hike, we drove to Biscoitis to experience the Museum of Wine. The people were very friendly and helpful as we examined multiple types of machinery used over the years by the family—all five generations—to make wine. We were disappointed that we couldn’t purchase a wine tasting but settled for a bottle of Donatario white wine before walking to a bakery down the street for wonderful quiche. (An interesting tidbit we learned: Many indigenous people in the lands explored by Portuguese believed that the Portugues were either gods or strange since they ate rocks (biscotti) and drank blood (red wine).
After our break, we made the short drive back to the Algar de Carvão, an ancient lava tube. The eruption, which occurred about 2,000 years ago, left this empty canvas for nature to fill in with a new ecosystem featuring water and lots of plants. When we first entered the cave, I was disappointed because it seemed so small, but, on further investigation, the cave opened into a wonderland of plants, water, and spectacularly colored rocks. It was worth every one of the stairs to see such an amazing natural phenomenon. (Pictures simply don't do it justice.)
The actual Furnas do Enxofres were easily visited--just a quick drive from the cave. The majority of the short walk—not the same hike as the official Furnas do Enxofres hike--was on boardwalks that take visitors around the multiple steam vents. (You quickly get used to the sulfur smell.)
Back to Angra, short for Angra do Heroísmo for obvious reasons, and to a fabulous seafood pasta dinner at Birou. (Terceira is famous for its steaks--all the cows come in handy—and seafood. We were grateful that we were able to try both during our stay.) We wandered the city streets to work off dinner before returning to our hotel to get ready for the next day and the next island’s adventures.
For our visit to Faial, another island in the Azores, click here.
For information about our visit to Sao Miguel, yet another island in the Azores, click here.
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Some of the thousands of beautiful flowers in the Azores.