Travel advice about traveling to Terceira island from a fellow traveler (guest post by Kitti)
It was on the Facebook travel page called “Utazomajom” where I first read Kitti’s experience about her visit to Terceira island. I liked her storytelling so much, I asked her to write a guest post for Eden Azores about her adventures. I am delighted to say that she accepted the challenge, and wrote the following very informational post for you.
Personal travel journey, hints & tips
I am writing this guest post with lots of joy and enthusiasm based on my memories and the best of my knowledge in the hopes that it will prove to be useful. We have been to Terceira in 2017, so some things might have changed ever since, so the information I am providing might not be 100% accurate, but please bear with us, hobby travelers.
Our first time ever in Portugal was in 2016, when we visited Lisbon and Madeira. We were taken by the beauty of the country, the kindness of its inhabitants, and its indescribable mood. You could say we are backpackers, so Portugal is a supreme choice if you are considering the price / value ratio: you get beautiful landscape and wonderful cities, in secure and comfortable conditions.
We have conteplated long about whether to go to Terceira or Sao Miguel, and I have to confess we decided on Terceira because of better flight connections, and a somewhat cheaper airfare. Of course I have looked at several photos from Sao Miguel, the main island of the Azores, and based on these photos I think there is more to see, and is probably even more beautiful, than Terceira. However, we have never regretted our decision: we had a wonderful time there, enchanted by the location and the tranquility.
How to get to Terceira?
The cheapest option to get from Budapest to Terceira is to fly to Lisbon or Porto with Wizz Air, and then catching a Ryanair flight to the island from either Lisbon or Porto. Terceira is also served by both TAP Air Portugal and by SATA Azores Airlines from Lisbon directly.
From the nearby Azores islands (for example Pico) you could take the ferry to Terceira, but the ferry is slow and the schedule is pretty bad.
Our first main source of information about the island has been good old Wikipedia. The island which is smaller than Budapest is inhabited by approximately 56 000 people. Locals say they have at least this many cows on the island – which maybe is an overstatement – but you really do see cows everywhere. Therefore, the island is full with beautiful green pastures fenced off with an incredible amount of volcanic black rock. (For those who are sensitive about flies and smells: don’t worry, we have not experienced that at all.)
The main city of the island is Angra do Heroísmo, where most of the island’s population is located. The second biggest town is Praia da Vitoria – which is closer to the airport, but you barely notice the air traffic.
In terms of the weather, the summer is pleasantly mild, and we had a great time at the beginning in July, with only one rainy morning on our last day. The temperature was between 20 – 25 degrees Celsius, but it feels of course very hot in the sun, and you can quickly get sunburnt.
The ocean temperature is relatively fresh in the summer, but since there is not that much difference between air and water temperature, it doesn’t take much time to get used to the water. In winter temperatures drop to as low as 10 degrees Celsius, and there is much more rain. Public safety is flawless, there are no bad neighborhoods, and almost no theft. You can get by with English, even the elderly understand a few words.
Once the travel arrangements have been made, comes the next question: accomodation. There aren’t too many hotels or hostels on Terceira, therefore it is recommended that you book very much in advance. We wanted to book accomodation 4 months prior to our journey, and found way less options compared to booking 6 months in advance.
Luckily, Airbnb did not let us down and we have found a great, 3 room, fully equipped apartment in the center of Praia da Vitoria for a very reasonable price.
In case you would like to discover the island without renting a car, I definitely recommend you use the two biggest cities (Angra and Praia) as a base, because they have a pretty good connection to the public transport system. But however decent the public transport system is, it doesn’t get you to every sight, especially not if you only have a few days at your disposal.
Driving a rental car doesn’t mean too much stress, the traffic is very mild, the only place you might spend a few minutes in a traffic jam is Angra, and at times you will see cows crossing the road. The roads are in excellent condition, and not busy at all. There aren’t too many car rental companies, so just like in case of accomodation it is recommended that you book early. What we have also realized when checking out car rental options, is that it can be quite expensive. However, at least the companies we check out offer airport pickup & drop off.
Another thing that makes renting a car a less desirable option is that in both Angra and Praia you need to pay for parking.
In this Eden Azores post you can find out all about how to use the meters on the Azores.
Instead of renting a car, you can take the bus – there are hourly bus rides between the two bigger cities, and the buses are clean and the fare is cheap (you can check out the bus fares here). Useful tip: wave to the driver to make sure he stops. By the way the bus drivers have been more than helpful, for example opening the doors not only in the designated bus stops, but wherever we asked them to. There are buses to most of the main sights departing from Praia in every 2 – 4 hours. You can check out the bus schedule here.
We discovered the Western half and the insides of the island with a tour company. I can highly recommend them! The company consists of a wonderfully kind and friendly married couple. It is the husband doing the tours for a small number of people (a couple or a family). They know everything about the island, and tailor all trips to the needs of their customers. They also take great photos during these trips.
Groceries cost almost the same as in Hungary, maybe just a tiny bit more expensive. Like everywhere else, also in Terceira the supermarkets are much cheaper than the little stores. The dairy products and the wine is particularly nice.
Must eats include fish and seafood, steak (from locally sourced meat), and burgers since those are also made from the locally sourced beef.
There is a recent post on the Eden Azores blog titled Gastronomical Bucket List which features the Azorean steak (Bife a Regional) and the most delicious Azorean seafood (Lapas).
What to do
Apart from hiking and walking (Angra and Praia are charming cities) there are a lot of sights, and events on the island.
There are several companies offering whale watching and / or swimming with the dolphins. We have opted for the latter, and had a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, the dolphins did not stick around for long, but it was still unforgettable. We went with a company called Ocean Emotion and were absolutely satisfied. Our group of 8 has been led by a few young marine biologists. Useful tip: for those of you with a sensitive stomach make sure to take a medication to prevent seasickness (e.g. Benadryl).
Praia has a nice, long, and sandy beach, but also Angra is ideal for a nice beach day – and of course there are several smaller coves, shorelines where you can take a dip. For us the highlights were the “lava pools” of Biscoitos.
There is only one thing that can turn a beach day from good to bad: the Portuguese man of war (Physalia Physalis) which is like a dangerous jellyfish (only that it is a colonial organism, which consists of 4 different kinds of polyps). We have seen them once during our holiday (in Angra), where they drifted near shore due to the strong winds during the night before. Locals warned us to stay away, their sting is rather dangerous!
It is a sensitive and divisive topic, and at first we felt bad to acknowledge that we found the running of the bulls – Touradas a Corda – interesting (and much less frightening and cruel than the bullfighting we know from for example Spain).
Of course there is much more to see and do, these were only our highlights. As a starting point I recommend you check out this page.
We can highly recommend Terceira to everyone who likes tranqulity, beautiful sights, and lovely locals.
Thank you so much Kitti for this exhaustive post about Terceira, just by reading it I can imagine being there in person. I will be attending the Wine in Azores in Terceira and will be doing by utmost to provide you with even more information.
You can read about the best festivals on the Azores – including Wine in Azores – in this Eden Azores post.
If you enjoyed Kitti’s post as much as I did, please write a review on Facebook or leave a comment here on the blog. We would love to hear what you think.
All photos in the post were taken by Kitti. Thank you.