Terceira island is probably the most advanced of all the islands in terms of
modern comforts and communications due to the American Lajes Airfield, an active
military base on the north-east coast. The island is 29 kilometres long and 17.5
kilometres wide and has a population of 56.000. In 1983 the capital Angra do
Heroísmo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Historically, this port town has been important for boats trading between the
Americas, Europe and Africa. It was here that Vasco da Gama in 1499 laid his
brother to rest after his pioneer voyage to India. In 1534 the Pope Paul III
established the first diocese in the Azores at Angra do Heroísmo thus making it
the oldest town in the islands. There is a local fable that during the late 15th
Century the rebellious Dom António, Prior of Crato who had taken up residence on
this island after fleeing from mainland Portugal and the Spanish King of
Portugal, he managed to defeat the Spanish army when in desperation he crowded
some 1.000 cattle onto the beaches and thus stopped the soldiers from
successfully landing. Another more likely version is that an enterprising
farmer's wife drove a herd of bulls onto the beach as the Spanish were in the
process of debarking from their ships. Later, during the War of the "Miguelistas"
the Duque de Terceira was instrumental in securing the throne for the Duque de
Bragança when he sailed to the Algarve and supported by an English army advanced
north to relieve the besieged Duque in the north of Portugal. In 1589 Francis
Drake sacked the town of Angra do Heroísmo followed in 1597 by a battle between
the Earl of Essex and Spanish ships in the Bay. In 1642 the occupying Spanish
surrendered and left the Island. In 1832 Dom Miguel raised an army of 7.500 from
the island to accompany him back to Portugal to claim the throne.
The homes and the numerous churches reflect the past wealth acquired during the
17th Century when the Spanish loaded with gold and treasures chose this port as
a stopover between the Americas and Spain. During the last century the town's
architectural structures have badly suffered, firstly from earthquake in 1980
and three years later from a devastating fire.
Overlooking the harbour is the Forte de São João Baptista (also known as Forte
de São Filipe), built in the early 17th Century under the direction of the
Spanish. Within its grounds it now houses a comfortable Pousada. The 15th
Century Convento de São Francisco acts as the home for the local museum. The
island consists of pleasant forested farmland with some reminders that its
origin is purely volcanic. At the Algar do Carvão is the impressive sight of a
dramatic blast-hole covered in moss and a large subterranean cave that can be
visited. To the west is another attraction named the Furnas do Enxofre which is
hot steaming geysers providing colourful formations in the air. This island also
is famous for it special form of bull-running that takes place through the
summer. A bull is let loose in the streets but kept tethered by one rope held by
teams of men whose main hope is to keep hold whilst the bull goes in its own
way! The north coast at Biscoitos there is a Museu do Vinho that explains the
making of the special local wine "verdelho". Another product for which this
island relies for an income is its quality cheese which finds its way to
mainland Portugal and the United States.
For the culinary inclined we suggest Sopas de Espírito Santo which often varies
according to the chef but the one based on pineapple is recommended. Another
dish of interest in the local Caldeirada, a fish stew with an apple base.
The international airport provides regular flights to Lisbon and some northern
America cities. A boat service also connects the island with Ilha Graciosa, Ilha
de São Jorge, Ilha do Faial and Ilha do Pico several times a week.
Azores Map - Central Group (Faial, Graciosa, Pico, São
800 296 296 - Support to Tourists
295 204 110 - Fire Brigade
295 212 022 - Police
295 212 121 - Hospital
295 540 030 - Airport
296 214 015 - Taxis
295 217 215 - Tourist Office
112 - SOS
Festa Sanjoaninas - 24th June to 4th July
Festas do Espírito Santo - Pentecost Sunday to 15th Sept.