Angra Do Heroismo, Azores

Sailing vessels needed a place to re-supply and repair on voyages between Europe and ports in Africa, the West Indies and the East Indies. Angra do Heroísmo (Angra) on Terceira Island in the Azores was the ideal port of call. But only if you were the correct nationality at the time. Angra has had shaky times both politically and literally.

The Azores sit on the Azores Triple Junction, the spot where the North American, Eurasian and African tectonic plates are slowly pulling apart. This makes them vulnerable to tremors and volcanic eruptions. A severe earthquake hit the islands of Terceira and São Jorge in 1980 leaving scores dead and thousands homeless. In Angra, many historic buildings were damaged. The town was so faithfully restored that the town centre became a World Heritage Site in 1983. The town square and 400-year-old military fortifications are key historic features.

Battles have been fought on Terceira twice. In the 1580s, the islanders fought against the Spanish occupation of the Azores, before eventually losing control to Spain. The Sao Joao Baptista do Monte Brasil Fortress was built by the Spanish, who defended it until the Portugal restoration in 1642. The fortifications are now protected in Monte Brasil Natural Park. During the Liberal Wars (civil war) of the 1820s, Angra served as the capital of Portugal for a government in exile. Angra’s citizens won a battle in 1829 which lead to Angra earning the honorary title of do Heroísmo "the Heroic”. Not a bad title to brag about.

tour 1 Algar do Carvão Cave

Step into the incredible geological wonders of the island of Terceira. Visit an ancient volcanic vent located at the very heart of the island on this enlightening half-day (three-hour) adventure. Embark from the pier and board your coach for the 30-minute drive to Algar do Carvão, which means the "Cavern of Coal," so named because of the jet-black lava that formed it. Notice the rich tapestry of flora that covers the mouth of the cone structure. Be mesmerized as your guide leads your descent of the steps down into the volcanic cavern that is home to several invertebrate species. Discover the beautiful clear lake here. Climb into your glass bottom boat to explore the surrounding wondrous stalagmites and stalactites. After visiting the cave, reboard your coach for the 10-minute drive to the sulphur fumaroles of Furnas do Enxofre located almost in the geographic center of the island, 600 meters above sea level. Enjoy a gentle walk around the fumarole on a wooden trail and take in the beautiful scenery that surrounds you. Return to your coach for the 45-minute drive back to the pier

tour 2 Cruise around Cabras Islets

Enjoy a short walk to the marina of Angra and hop on board a bottom glass boat for approximately 1.5 hr cruise around the Ilheu das Cabras, (Cabras Islets). A certified nature guide will talk you through the islet's unique geological formations and the many species that live in the water of the Azores. This is an incredible natural habitat in a Special Protection Zone in Terceira's Natural Park, so keep an eye out for whales and dolphins as well as precious seabirds like Cory Shearwater and Roseate Tern. Arrive at the marina and walk back to the ship.

tour 3 Angra do Heroismo Walking Tour

Spend a morning exploring Angra do Heroismo, a charming UNESCO heritage town with the distinct Mediterranean appeal of cobblestone streets and a certain quiet charm. Embark from the pier on foot to begin the pleasant stroll through town. Angra is the Portuguese word for inlet or bay. The name "Heroismo," or the heroic, was granted by Queen Maria II when local citizens mounted a successful defense of the island against an attempted overthrow in 1829. Follow your guide as the walking tour takes you to some of the town's historical highlights. Visit Misericordia Church, built in the 18th century on the site of a 15th century church, and attached to the first hospital in the city. View the carved woodwork, statues, and canvases. Note the 18th-century azulejo-tile panels depicting historical scenes. Also see the 16th century Se Catedral, the main church of the island. Learn about the original construction and the reconstructions of the 1980s.

Then, if it is open, head to the Palácio Capitães Generais, representative of traditional buildings built for the aristocracy and ruling classes. Still used by the Azorean government, this palace at one time was home to King Pedro the 4th. See the Royal portraits and intricately hand carved furniture that are visual testaments to the history of Angra. Explore the public gardens with their gorgeous trees, some centuries old, and the extensive foliage. Next, stop by a local coffee shop and taste the traditional tea cake, "The Dona Amelia." This royal treat is named after Queen Amelia who visited Angra in 1901 when Portugal was a monarchy. Although these delectable tea cakes appear in cookbooks predating the royal visit, the name was changed in honor of the Queen. Dona Amélia was made with local ingredients: corn flower, raisins, sugar cane molasses, and cinnamon. After enjoying this delicious cake with coffee or tea, take the short walk back to the pier.

On to Madeira

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