Terceira: The Lilac Island in the Azores
The island of Terceira is an important historical and commercial post for the Portuguese empire ever since it was discovered in the 15th century. A safe port for ships coming from both ends of the Atlantic. Many families from all over Portugal emigrated to Terceira in the 16th century creating the fabric of the island’s culture. The island is also filled with unique flowers that thrive here in the mild Azores climate.Terceira is known as the party island. Fun festivals throughout the year, many dating back centuries takes place here. Here the festival of ‘running with the bulls’ still exists. However, unlike many other countries that have bullfights, the bull is not harmed or killed during the run. A long tethered rope is tied to the bull with the neighborhood men pulling the rope to avoid a strike with the bull and a possible bystander in the crowd.A four-hour direct flight from Boston and 5 hours from Toronto, Terceira is accessible throughout the year. The capital of the island is Angra do Heroismo. In this beautiful city, many churches and buildings are still standing from the 15th century. The various black and white mosaic cobblestone streets emphasize the small town’s old-world European charm. Many people speak English on the island, however, it is recommended to speak Portuguese whenever possible. Many world leaders have visited Terceira throughout its remarkable existence. Due to its strategic location in the mid-Atlantic, it has played host to many international summits. The U.S has leased a military base on the island since World War 2. This has contributed to the integration of American culture with the local culture. The American’s contribution has been felt in the region’s economy for decades. Many service members often return with their families after their deployment due to their affection for the island they called home once. The island of Terceira is accessible by plane and boat. In the spring and summer months, ferry service throughout all nine islands is available. It is a quick 25-minute flight from Ponta Delgada, the capital of the island of Sao Miguel. The modern-day ferry has a lounge and restaurant where you can enjoy sweeping views and a bite to eat during your transit. The lush, fertile, green countryside is filled with local flowers such as lilacs and hydrangeas. The picturesque green patterns and marked farmlands are a nature lovers’ paradise. Like all the islands in the Azores, the island of Terceira is known to have four seasons in one day. This means that you could wake up with a hazy rain, begin to drive, and 5 minutes up the road it is sunny and blue skies. An island with a unique weather pattern, which is affected by the gulf stream winds. Some visitors to the island have included Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Tony Blair. Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W Bush, and Barack Obama. The Shah and Shabanu of Iran. H.R.H Prince Andrew, King Carlos of Spain are amongst some of the historical visitors. The naturally formed volcanic caves (Algar do Carvão and Gruta do Natal) on the island’s interior is one of the island’s most popular tourist attractions. This is an amazing ecological reserve and is a great way to explore safely the islands million-year-old caves. A visit to the city of Biscoitos is always interesting and picturesque too. Here you can indulge in nature, with amazing hiking trails, rows of hydrangeas, and of course, swim in the natural ocean pools that exist on the coastlines. Here you can spend the day swimming between the lava rocks that make up the small bays on the island. Motorsports are becoming increasingly popular on Terceira amongst both locals and tourists. 4×4 rallies and motocross events have become increasingly widespread here. In the city of Praia da Vitória, there is a dedicated facility with both temporary and permanent tracks that go through various terrains in the area and offer exceptional views while allowing you to get your adrenaline rush. Also, a notable area to visit on Terceira is in Angra do Heroísmo which was Portugal’s former capital city twice. This is a city that is filled with ancient charm, great food, and of course, centuries-old cobblestone streets. Here in this fascinating city is the location of a beautiful medieval castle (Castelo de São João Batista). In this historical castle, great battles were fought between the residents and pirates who often would prey on the Azorean waters hoping to ambush a passing cargo ship. It was here that the deadly battle between the Portuguese and the Spanish took place during the Portuguese restoration war in the 17th century. The location where the Spanish were ousted from the Azores after the Portuguese victory over Spain, ending their temporary rule over the Portuguese Empire. In 5 Ribeiras, a visit to the historical cheese factory Queijo Vaquinha is a must. It is here that some of the best cheese in the Azores is produced. The time-honored method of production makes it one of the most popular cheeses from the region. Here at the Queijo Vaquinha factory, you can taste the local cheeses and pair them with some unique Azorean breads. This is a popular place to visit and is a great illustration of a traditional Azorean company still using organic cultivation methods. This allows them to produce some of the highest quality cheeses for the European market.