Monday, December 3, 2007

Terceira - Island of Contrasts - History, Attractions and Festivals

Terceira Island ( Portuguese: Ilha Terceira) is an island in the Azores, in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, with an area of 396.75 km². The island's length is 29 km and the width is 18km; the perimeter is 90 km. Population is 54,996, down from a peak of 59,000. Population density is 140.73/km², its second most populated after São Miguel.


It is part of the central group of islands in the Azores archipelago. Terceira has a rich landscape characterized by green pastures, forests with luxuriant vegetation, scenic lakes, panoramic ridges, coastal cliffs, volcanic craters, and grottoes and caverns stocked with stalactites and stalagmites. Today, Terceira Island is the second most visited island of the Azores and a must-visit for vacationers of this Atlantic archipelago.

The history of Terceira dates back to 1450 when the island was first settled in the areas of Praia da Vitoria and Porto Judeu. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Terceira was an important port island for the ships sailing to the New World or India and back. During those periods, Terceira became a commercial center for the gold, silver, diamonds, furs, spices, and other various goods brought back to Europe. This led to several corsair attacks on Terceira by the English, French, and Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries.


Between 1580 and 1640, the Spanish controlled Terceira and used it as a port of call for the Spanish ships bringing back loot from Peru and Mexico. But they were expelled when Portugal regained its independence in 1640. In the early 19th century, the island became a focal point for the political conflicts between the liberals and the absolutists of Portugal after the liberals established a base and regency on Terceira. The liberals were soon forced to defend an absolutist attempt to land on the island in 1829. Since the political conflict subsided in 1832, Terceira’s role in the Azores as an economic, strategic, and political center has declined steadily with São Miguel taking a more front-and-center stage.

Today, Terceira is a major destination of the Azores with a multitude of attractions. Its beaches, of course, are superb. The island is full of long stretched-out beaches like the Praia da Vitoria as well as smaller and cozier beaches with inlets and natural pools that are sheltered by volcanic rocks. Many of the smaller beaches like Porto Martins and Contendas are ideal if you are interested in just swimming while the larger ones like Praia da Vitoria are better suited for sailing, surfing, and yachting.


Terceira is also full of natural sites, especially volcanic craters. The Caldeira de Guilherm Moniz is the largest in the archipelago. Other sites include caves and caverns of stalactites and stalagmites like Agua and Cabrito as well as sulphuric fumaroles like Furnas do Enxofre. There are also vista peaks like at Mata da Serreta and the Serra da Santa Barbara as well as natural lakes like Lagoa do Negro and Lagoa do Ginjal.


Not to be forgotten, festivals also play an important role in Terceira's social culture; most of them take place between May and November. Ever popular are the music festivals like the “Angrajazz” in October and the “Ramo Grande Festival” in early November; both demonstrate the island’s love for music, especially Jazz. The “Festas of Praia da Vitoria” is another favorite, a gastronomical fair of cuisines concocted by the island’s many restaurants. This event takes place in the second week of August. The food at this festival are mostly traditional cuisine, featuring meat specialties like the Holy Ghost, alcatra, morcela (sausage), sarapatel (haggis), cozido, and caldeirada (fish stew). The cuisine in Terceira is known for its signature sweetness, whether with its meats, bread and biscuits, or potatoes.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think your pictures are very beautiful... I am portuguese. My dad is from Sao Jorge and my mom from Texeria. I love the portuguese people and have visited the islands... Your photos are making me home sick! Thank You for all the hard work you put into this. Valeria Gabriel

Anonymous said...

I, too, think the picture are beautiful. I spent two years on the island back in the mid-70's and loved every minute of it. Wish I was there, now! It's a beautiful island with very, warm and friendly people. I would absolutely love to return one day. Thanks for sharing.