A geological paradise

By: Francisco Cota Rodrigues, 57 anos, Doutorado em Ciências do Ambiente

Terceira Island has natural landscapes characterized by volcanoes, lava flows, endemic plants and a wealth of caves. Whether you explore the island by car, by boat or on foot, there is unforgettable, idyllic scenery to be discovered.

The island’s coastline offers scenes of rare beauty, formed by lava flowing into the ocean and by volcanic cones. Monte Brasil is the most imposing coastal volcano in the Azores and was formed by underwater eruptions which occurred less than 22,000 years ago off the island’s coast. The remains of those volcanoes formed islets, where endemic plants and authentic sanctuaries for seabirds can be observed.

Inland, one can walk across lava fields, in one of the most active volcanic zones on Terceira Island, the Mistérios Negros and the Pico Gaspar peak. The climb to the top of the Pico Gaspar takes you through stunning landscapes, surrounded by the lush green tones of the endemic flora. On the way, stop to see the legendary Lagoa do Negro lake, and visit the Gruta do Natal, a volcanic cave formed around ten thousand years ago by the lava from the Pico do Gaspar volcano.

From the heights of the majestic Santa Bárbara volcano, at Pico Rachado, the views are breath-taking. One can cross an unspoilt nature reserve with diverse endemic plants and springs of crystal clear water. To the west of the volcano, in the Lagoinhas area, a lake nestles within the crater. Through the woods, you can catch glimpses of the islands of São Jorge, Pico and Graciosa.

You can have a refreshing break at Biscoitos, where you can swim in the natural pools formed by ancient volcanic eruptions, just one of many such natural pools around the island.  This is a wine-growing area, where the grapes have a distinctive taste thanks to the volcanic soil.

As you walk across fields and pathways lined with hydrangeas, you are transported to the unique atmosphere of the Furnas-do-Enxofre fumaroles, where you will find an amazing combination of geology, volcanology, botany and biodiversity. This is a protected area and is close to one of the most famous sights on the island, the Algar do Carvão. This impressive cave has numerous stalagmites and stalactites of amorphous silica, some of the rarest and most spectacular structures in the volcanic caves of the Azores. The mouth to the cave leads down a strange shaped passageway which ends in a lake of clear water. 

The Guilherme Moniz crater is a nature reserve and is the main groundwater reservoir on the island. The interior is formed by the lava flows from the Algar do Carvão.

From the top of the Serra do Cume you can see the Cinco Picos crater. The 180º view is perfect for photography. This is the end of our three day geological expedition but there is still far more to be seen and explored.

Useful Information

Recommended time: 3 or more days

Level of difficulty: Variable

Clothing: It is advisable to wear comfortable shoes and a windbreaker.

Season: Nature has the beauty of being available at any time of the year. However, you should get information about the marked trails ahead of time, because access is sometimes limited.

Booking: If you plan ahead of time by using the services of a travel agency or by booking directly with a guide, it is possible to created tailored routes and provide some additional activities, such as bike rides or even picnics in the woods or picnic grounds.

Useful links:
– Monte Brasil Trail
– Baías da Agualva Trail
– Mistérios Negros Trail

– Volcanic Caves
– Gruta do Natal