WATCH: Why you should visit this Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

2019-08-27 12:00 - Gabi Zietsman
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You have probably never heard of the island of Terceira.

Neither had I, until I was invited to review a documentary screening about African royals imprisoned there during the height of colonialism. 

WATCH: Walking in the footsteps of African Royals on an island in Portugal

The Azores archipelago is an isolated part of the world, almost right in the middle between Portugal and the Americas. For South Africans, it's not exactly the first place that springs to mind when they think of an island holiday.

After a day layover in Lisbon, I arrived on one of its bigger islands Terceira around midnight - there's always something magical about landing at a strange place in the dark. When you wake up in the morning, you feel like you've just teleported yourself to your destination, and the capital of Angra do Heroísmo will make you feel like you teleported back in time.

Classic Portuguese architecture is prevalent throughout the city, which you can pretty much walk flat in just over an hour. Churches, houses, shops, pavement restaurants - all are painted in a flurry of colours as cars drive past on cobbled streets.

ALSO WATCH: Diving a shipwreck in the Azores archipelago 

fort in angra do heroismo

(Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

Outside of the capital, farmlands are filled with the island's pride - their bulls - but you are sternly warned never to walk into their grazing fields. They are used in bull runs and don't take kindly to strangers.

Despite tourism being a big part of their economy, it's one of the last vestiges of European destinations not battling overtourism, although cruise ships do dock at Praia da Vitoria - but you can just drive half an hour to the other side of the island to escape the crowds. 

Terceira feels like the lovechild of Portugal and South Africa's West Coast - great seafood and the brisk Atlantic sea air that's good for the spirit - yet it remains one of the most unique places I have ever visited. The trip might be far to get there, but after wandering through its historic streets and even inside a volcano, the journey is worth the destination times a million. 

SEE: I walked inside this ancient, extinct volcano

purple portuguese architecture

(Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

How to get there

From South Africa, you'll have to fly to Lisbon (the cheapest airfare would be flying through Angola with TAAG Airlines). From Lisbon, the only airline flying to Terceira is with TAP Air Portugal, which would either be very early in the morning or late at night. Summer is the best time to visit, as winter is just one long stormy season filled with rain.

READ: The chaos of a layover in Luanda's airport and how to survive it 

lava rock pools with boardwalk

(Photo: Gabi Zietsman)

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