A UNESCO World Heritage City on the Island of Terceira

Terceira Nature Island AngraThe stunning views and unique ecosystems that exist here on Terceira’s wildly unique island are something quite special. Here on the island, there is a delicate balance between the unique ecosystems existing here since its formation millions of years ago and the local population. The island has been populated for just over 500 years, and since that time, it has seen many changes ecologically, politically, and socially. It was here in the seaside city of Angra do Heroismo, which became the capital of Portugal twice, replacing Lisbon, that many of Portugal’s vast ships would use as a stopover point between their transatlantic journeys. This beautiful city has a rich history that dates back to the new world’s first explorations by European discoverers in the 15th century. If visiting a UNESCO World Heritage site is something that you are interested in, then here in the city of Angra do Heroismo, you’re in luck; as the central part of the town was recognized in 1983 as a UNESCO site of special interest. Angra was officially elevated to the status of a city on August 21st, 1534; during the same year, it became the office of the Archbishop of the Azores as well. This religious leadership and concentration of power contributed to developing the city’s central zone’s unparalleled charm and characteristics. Here, the cathedral of Santíssimo Salvador da Sé, the churches of the Misericórdia and Espírito Santo, and the convents of the Franciscans and the Jesuits were all constructed in Baroque style centuries ago. From the 15th to the 18th century, this peaceful maritime city was used as an international trading post where ships from all over Europe would stop off to get supplies, repair their boats, or rest before or after their long Atlantic crossing. During the 19th century, the island lost its status as a maritime stopover location with Faial’s island to the north and Madeira and the Canary Islands to the south, replacing this as a former strategic city.

church in the azores islands terceira island design constructionDue to this lack of global expansion and its relative isolation from the rest of Europe’s continent, it allowed many old-fashioned buildings and culturally significant sites to be preserved, instead of possibly being demolished due to urbanization. In 1980 the island was hit by a devastating earthquake that had caused tables to shake all the way to Ireland. It is here in the Mid-Atlantic where an underwater ridge exists, where 3 of the World’s tectonic plates meet, often referred to as the Terceira-rift. The deadly earthquake devastated the region. Many of the historic buildings were destroyed, and the city had to rebuild with UNESCO’s assistance. During this time of mourning, it also helped initiate subsequent laws to preserve and limit the damage of the cities’ culturally and historically meaningful sites and fortifications.
The restaurants in the city are known for their outstanding farm-fresh food with everything from the bread, dairy, grains, vegetables, and meat all produced locally on the island, without any GMOs in the agricultural sector allowed. This allows a unique, healthy diet mixed with influences of local and various distinct regions of Portugal to intertwine and bring a delicious variety of flavors and tastes. The island of Terceira has always been an island based on agriculture and although in recent years, with the downsizing of the U.S. Air Force base at Lajes, the Government both in the Azores and in Portugal; with influence from the E.U., have pushed to make this island a technology base, similar to that of Ireland.Terceira Island Azores The island’s population is more interested in farming, fishing and although the services and technology sector plays a role in the economy, the interest or desire to erase 500 years of culture and tradition is not something that has been embraced fully by the local residents. The actions by the Government and various agencies to push the island to be marketed as “Terceira Tech Island” in recent years, to encourage young startups to come to the region has had mixed effects on both sides. The Government was even offering hundreds of free housing, minimum salaried jobs amongst other benefits just to encourage tech gurus to move to the region. The desire to turn a region which has always been known and recognized for its agricultural and fishing sectors, and to transform it into a technology hub, has seen mixed results.

Marina in the Azores for boats Terceira Island Ferry The realization of many who moved to the island full-time to live, that the erratic weather, relative isolation, and social and cultural factors that exist here in the Azores, although beautiful are often very difficult to adapt to for a long period of time. This has caused many to return back home where they came from while the government still hopes to fill the gap in the disappearing, middle-income working-class; with the loss of so many American personnel at the downsized military base. The opportunity for the city of Angra to move forward in the 21st century as a dynamic, vibrant, and peaceful city is well underway with many in the government and in the younger generations continuing to embrace the island’s reputation as a farming island. Terceira is a unique island that is filled with both natural and manmade wonders and it is no wonder why UNESCO recognized this special city over 3 decades ago. A city filled with a rich culture, a deep history, and of course great food. If stepping through history is something you are interested in while admiring the amazing flora and fauna of the region then the city of Angra is the city for you to come and explore here on Terceira.