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Why the Impérios of Terceira Are the Perfect Excuse to See the Island

Discover the Imperios of Terceira with their rich religious history and unique architecture. Go Imperio hunting and find fun things to do on Terceira.
Terceira Island in the Azores of Portugal is famous for its Impérios, small churches dedicated to the Holy Spirit. I picked up a coffee table book in Lisbon all about Terceira's Impérios and it simply captured my imagination. 

I'll admit, the Impérios were a key reason that we chose to add Terceira to our Azores itinerary.  I'm not a religious person, but Terceira's Impérios are worth checking out for their colorful architecture and aesthetic value alone. The Impérios of Terceira are definitely Instagram-worthy!

Come join me on a tour of Terceira's Impérios and the other places to visit that we saw as a side effect of our "Império hunting" tour of the island by car!

Império in Praia na Vitoria on Terceira Island in the Azores

Getting to Terceira

One of the things that makes Terceira a unique destination is its location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Here are some of the ways to get to Terceira based on your starting point:

from Europe: If you're traveling from Europe, there are a few options for getting to Terceira. One of the easiest ways is to take a direct flight from Lisbon to Terceira, which takes around two hours. 

from the U.S.: If you're traveling from the United States, you can take a direct flight from Boston to Terceira on Azores Airlines. The flight takes around four hours, and it's a great option for those who want to experience the Azores without a long layover.

Terceira Airport in the Azores

from other Azores islands: If you're already in the Azores, you can take a direct flight from any of the other islands to Terceira. The flight times are short, ranging from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on which island you're departing from.

We chose to fly from São Miguel to Terceira and were pleasantly surprised by the quick and convenient flight. The flight was on time, and we arrived in Terceira in just 30 minutes. Thanks to Azores Airlines for a great experience!

What are Impérios?

The tradition of building Impérios on Terceira dates back to the 16th century, when the island was an important stopover for ships traveling between Europe and the Americas. 

The Impérios were originally built as a way for sailors to express their gratitude for safe passage and seek protection for future journeys. The Impérios are associated with the Cult of the Holy Spirit, a Catholic sub-culture in the Azores. 

Shrine to the Holy Spirit inside an Império on Terceira Island

Today, the Impérios of Terceira are not only a testament to the island's history and culture but also an integral part of its modern-day celebrations and festivals.

We saw a video at the Museu de Angra do Heroismo that showcased some of this rich history. We saw a running of the bulls starting at one of the Impérios with people from the village taunting the animals. I couldn't believe it when the video showed one of the men being mauled by the bull! Safety first, people!

Setting out to explore Angra do Heroísmo, we were excited to spot two Impérios within walking distance of our hotel. The trip was off to a great start!

How to Find the Impérios of Terceira?

With around 70 Impérios spread across the island, finding them can seem like a daunting task. However, with a quick Google Maps search, you can easily locate the Impérios on Terceira and plan a route to explore them.

I recommend seeking out Ilha Terceira's Impérios by car. Not only is this a great way to see the smaller, out-of-the-way places on the island, but it also allows you to fully appreciate the natural beauty of Terceira.

Close up of a colorful facade of an Império on Terceira Island in the Azores

During our own Império hunting adventure, we drove from Angra do Heroísmo to Praia da Vitória and Biscoitos, discovering many Impérios along the way. 

There are more Impérios on the south and east of the island than on the north and west. Most of these structures date back to the mid-19th to mid-20th century.

Things to do in Terceira by Car for a Day As You Seek Out Impérios

If you're exploring Terceira by car, there are plenty of hidden gems to discover as you search for Impérios. 

Downhill view of a street in Ribeirinha on Terceira in the Azores

Ribeirinha

We stumbled upon Ribeirinha, a charming village with a yellow church and a view of the sea. 

As we wandered around, an older woman struck up a conversation with us outside an impressive peach mansion, sharing juicy gossip about her neighbors that we couldn't quite grasp. Despite our limited Portuguese, we managed to get our general meaning across.

Mansion in Ribeirinha on Terceira Island in the Azores

Port Judeu

We also made a stop in Porto Judeu for a coffee and were amazed by the brightly colored gazebo and breathtaking ocean views from the local miradouro. It was a moment of peace and tranquility that we won't soon forget.

Colorful gazebo in Port Judeu on Terceira Island in the AzoresMiradouro overlooking the ocean in Port Judeu on Terceira Island in the Azores

On the Road

Driving around Terceira, we noticed so many things that reminded us of Ireland: the ever-changing weather, green fields separated by rock walls, and cows crossing the road. We even got to witness a group of cows on their way to be milked, their udders full to bursting (just like we did on a trip to West Cork).

Herd of cows on the road on Terceira Island in the Azores

Praia da Vitória

When it came time for lunch, we headed to Pizza Place in Praia da Vitória. Their Azorean pizza with local cheese, peppers, and pineapple was a delicious surprise. 

And the Portuguese quotes on the wall were a fun touch. I was delighted that I was able to translate them. The quotes read: "Love without kisses is like pizza without cheese" and "Money doesn't buy happiness, but it buys pizza, which is the same thing."

Collage of pizza and Portuguese quotes at Pizza Place in Praia da Vitoria on Terceira Island in the Azores

We visited Igreja Matriz de Santa Cruz, a church founded in 1456. Igreja Matriz de Santa Cruz didn't appear to be open so I stood back to take a picture. A gentleman popped out and invited us in. We learned that the church is usually closed, but was open that day because of a visiting cruise ship.

Igreja Matriz de Santa Cruz in Praia da Vitoria on Terceira Island in the Azores

Though much of the interior was destroyed in an earthquake in 1980, the gilded altar and ornate chandelier remain intact. 

São Sebastião

As we continued our search for Impérios, we stumbled upon São Sebastião, another charming village anchored by an old church. We could smell chicken cooking on the grill in the small square, and it seemed like a popular spot with the locals.

White-washed church in Sao Sebastiao on Terceira Island in the Azores

Biscoitos

Our last stop of the day was Piscinas Naturais Biscoitos, a stunning collection of natural pools protected from the ocean waves by craggy lava rocks. We even found a colorful snack stall selling glazed donuts, which hit the spot until dinner.

Waves crashing at Piscinas Naturais Biscoitos on Terceira Island in the Azores

Pictures of Impérios That Will Make You Want to Visit Terceira

Below you'll find some pictures of the collection of Terceira's Impérios that we discovered by car and on foot. I hope that these pictures inspire you to take a trip to the Azores and to Ilha Terceira in particular.





1.  Império Dos Remedios

Império Dos Remedios on Terceira Island in the Azores





2.  Império Do Divino Espirito Santo da Caridade

Império Do Divino Espirito Santo da Caridade in Angra do Heroismo on Terceira Island in the Azores





3.  Império do Divino Espirito Santo de Santo Amaro

Império do Divino Espirito Santo de Santo Amaro on Terceira Island in the Azores





4.  Império do Divino Espirito Santo da Rua da Igreja

Império do Divino Espirito Santo da Rua da Igreja on Terceira Island in the Azores





5.  Império do Espírito Santo

Império do Espírito Santo on Terceira in the Azores





6.  Império do Divino Espírito Santo das Mercês da Feteira

Império do Divino Espírito Santo das Mercês da Feteira on Terceira Island in the Azores





7.  Império do Divino Espírito Santo da Ponta Nova

Império do Divino Espírito Santo da Ponta Nova on Terceira Island in the Azores





8.  Império do Espírito Santo de Porto Judeu de Cima / Império do Caminho da Cidade

Império do Espírito Santo de Porto Judeu de Cima / Império do Caminho da Cidade on Terceira Island in the Azores





9.  Império da Ribeira do Testo

Império da Ribeira do Testo on Terceira Island in the Azores





10.  Império do Divino Espírito Santo do Porto Judeu

Império do Divino Espírito Santo do Porto Judeu on Terceira Island in the Azores





11.  Império São Sebastião

Império São Sebastião on Terceira Island in the Azores





12. Império do Divino Espírito Santo

Império do Divino Espírito Santo on Terceira Island in the Azores





13.  Império do Espírito Santo de Porto Martins e Despensa

Império do Espírito Santo de Porto Martins e Despensa on Terceira Island in the Azores





14.  Império in Praia da Vitória

Império in Praia da Vitória on Terceira Island in the Azores





15.  Império da Casa da Ribeira

Império da Casa da Ribeira on Terceira Island in the Azores





16.  Império do Espírito Santo de São Brás

Império do Espírito Santo de São Brás on Terceira Island in the Azores





17.  Império do Divino Espírito Santo Quatro Ribeiras

Império do Divino Espírito Santo Quatro Ribeiras on Terceira Island in the Azores





18.  Império do Divino Espírito Santo dos Biscoitos

Império do Divino Espírito Santo dos Biscoitos on Terceira Island in the Azores





19.  Império do Divino Espirito Santo da Grota do Medo

Império do Divino Espirito Santo da Grota do Medo on Terceira Island in the Azores





20.  Império Do Divino Espirito Santo da Rua Nova

Império Do Divino Espirito Santo da Rua Nova on Terceira Island in the Azores





21.  Império do Divino Espirito Santo dos Quatro Cantos

Império do Divino Espirito Santo dos Quatro Cantos on Terceira Island in the Azores
Where to Stay in Terceira?

Terceira has fewer hotel options than Sao Miguel. We stayed at the Shipyard Hotel. The hotel boasts a modern and stylish design, with a location that overlooks the Sao Sebastiao fort. 

Bedroom at the Shipyard Hotel on Terceira Island in the Azores

We booked in for four-nights in a one-bedroom suite. Our hotel rate included a breakfast buffet with hot items made to order. We felt the room was reasonably priced at 432 EUR total for all 4 nights. 

Breakfast buffet at the Shipyard Hotel in Angra do Heroismo on Terceira Island in the Azores

However, we did experience some issues during our stay. Despite the hotel claiming to have air-conditioning, it was centrally set to one temperature for the entire hotel (not cool enough for us). Luckily, we were able to get a fan and keep the room at a decent temperature with the help of an open patio door. 

Patios with deck chairs at the Shipyard Hotel in Angra do Heroismo on Terceira Island in the Azores

Our room on the third floor had a skylight in both the bedroom and bathroom, but unfortunately, when the skylight was open during lunch or dinner hours, the exhaust vent from the kitchen below caused a meat smell to permeate the room. 

Despite these hiccups, the staff was friendly and helpful, and the hotel was conveniently located for an easy walk into the center of Angra do Heroismo. 

I think the Shipyard Hotel is a fine place to stay in the cool months, but I would not stay here in the warmer summer months.

Is Terceira Worth Visiting?

Terceira is definitely worth visiting if you're a fan of history and beautiful landscapes. Angra do Heroismo, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a charming town with lots of historic places to visit. 

We enjoyed walking around the town, hiking, and trying some delicious Azorean food. The Impérios scattered around the island were a unique highlight for us, and we loved using the Impérios as an excuse to explore smaller villages and towns by car. 

View over Monte da Brasil in Angra do Heroismo on Terceira Island in the Azores

While Terceira may not have as many hotels or tourist infrastructure as other islands like Sao Miguel, we found it to be a hidden gem that's definitely worth adding to your Azores itinerary.

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: Why the Impérios of Terceira Are the Perfect Excuse to See the Island
Why the Impérios of Terceira Are the Perfect Excuse to See the Island
Discover the Imperios of Terceira with their rich religious history and unique architecture. Go Imperio hunting and find fun things to do on Terceira.
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