Terceira means "the third," earning its name because it was the third discovery among the nine Azorean islands. The island has a wild and rolling interior, coastal tidal pools great for swimming, and excellent wineries. It’s also known for its beef stew, seafood and bread.
Terceira's strategic location in the Atlantic made its walled harbor extremely important. The main city, Angra do Heroísmo, once prospered with international commerce in sailing days. Today, the city recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city features a mix of the cosmopolitan and the traditional, with plenty of well-preserved streets and monuments. It is also the cultural heart of the Azores, with performing arts, museums, and a rich nightlife. Shopping here is diverse, with no shortage of bookshops, art galleries and antique shops.
Terceira’s coast is dotted with quaint fishing towns, beaches and lava rocks. To the north are both a rocky coast and a mix of forest and vineyards. To the South are cattle grazing lands and the coastal area surrounding Angra, with its parks and eateries. The wide bay and beach at the pretty town of Praia da Vitória are well worth a visit, as is the lake at Caldeira de Guilherme Moniz, which is the biggest body of water in the Azores after to the ocean.
Away from the coast, Terceira is a wild and hilly landscape perfect for walking or hiking. Much of the interior of the island is a nature reserve. From the heights of the Serra do Cume, a visitor can look down on a patchwork of small farms, stonewalls and grazing cattle as well as the Santa Barbara Mountains.
Terceira is also the site of more than 200 traditional running of the bulls throughout the summer. Every weekend from April to late fall the people of Terceira hold touradas à corda – a form of “running of the bulls.” The bull is let loose from the town’s main square with a very long rope around its neck (or along the seaside and into the water – kind of like an Angry Birds with real bulls). The idea is that courageous people will try to get as close to a bull as they dare. After the excitement, the bull is taken back to the wooden crate and an outdoor festival begins. This kind of event is found only in the Azores and has been popular here since 16th Century.
Sometimes in the larger towns, a Portuguese equestrian bullfight will take place after the touradas á corda. In a Portuguese bullfight a cavaleiro, or rider, takes to the arena atop a Lusitano breed of horse. He or she is dressed in a silk jacket embroidered with gold and lace, wearing tan riding pants and black boots. The goal of the cavaleiro and his horse is not to kill the bull (that is not allowed), but to draw the bull to a charge and then to place a single, harmless dart in the bull’s back muscle.