Dan & I visited Furnas as part of our “mini-moon” in August. After watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations: Azores, we almost didn’t make it to Furnas, but I was so happy that we did, and it ended up being one of my favorite spots on São Miguel Island!
Furnas is a small town in the middle of São Miguel Island (slightly to the West, not too far from Lagoa do Fogo and Vila Franca do Campo). The main draw to Furnas is its thermal springs, which are absolutely everywhere. Seriously, you cannot miss them; there is a lake, a number of hot springs, and the luxurious Terra Nostra Gardens. But the town is more than just hot springs, Furnas is its beautiful, quaint, and tourist friendly. Not at all what I was expecting!
We drove to Furnas from Ponta Delgada (about an hour drive) early one morning, stopping en route at Lagoa do Fogo (Fire Lake) and drove back to Ponta Delgada the next afternoon, stopping at Vila Franca do Campo. While we only stayed one night, I would recommend two nights to take full advantage of the town and its lovely hot springs!
As may have gathered from my obsession with Bourdain, I did not have the highest of hope for Furnas, but that started to change the closer we got to Furnas. Furnas is in a valley and driving up, the grass became greener and the hydrangeas became brighter. When we finally arrived in town (a proper town!), I was excited to explore! We first checked into our room at the swanky Terra Nostra Hotel, where, since it was our honeymoon, had given us their best room – Magnolia suite (it is even in a magazine – see our future post)!
The Caldeiras das Furnas.
As mentioned, the caldeiras are definitely the main “site” in Furnas, and they are everywhere. For background purposes, caldeiras are basically holes with boiling water coming from the Earth as a result of volcanic activity – kind of like a geyser or a boiling thermal spring. You can see them, you can smell them, and you can really feel their heat! While they are all over town, there is a main concentration just past town. We walked around and took some pictures. Pro tip – be careful, some of the waters are scalding – you can see them bubbling!
While I do not think you need more than a couple of hours to see the “town,” the town of Furnas is cute, cute, cute! Its kind of artsy, kind of old fashioned, and definitely European. There is a tiny bit of shopping, lots of gardens, and several cafes to grab a coffee or a bite to eat. Furnas also has a very pretty church that you can visit!
Oh, and there is also the famous upside down house! You cannot go inside (because its a real house!) but you can walk by and take pictures! The upside-down house is located to the right of the church when facing the church.
Lagoas das Furnas and Cozido
And while in town, you absolutely must try the famous cozido – or meat and vegetables cooked in the thermal waters of Furnas! Yes, this is a famous dish here, which may surprise you even more after you smell some of the caldeiras… Like Lagoa do Fogo and the Green and Blue lakes of Sete Cidades, Lagoa das Furnas is a crater lake (a lake formed in a volcanic crater). While not as pretty as Lagoa do Fogo or Sete Cidades, Lagoa das Furnas is home to the cozido cooking! Especially early in the morning, you can see chefs (its almost all restaurants now) cooking their cozido in and around Lagoa das Furnas. We tried the cozido at one of Furnas’ more famous (and touristy) restaurants, Tony’s. While super touristy, Tony’s was clean, reasonably priced, and the cozido was quite tasty! It did not taste at all like the caldeiras smell…
The Terre Nostra Gardens
By far the swankiest of activities in Furnas is the Terre Nostra Gardens, which just happened to be attached to our hotel (the subject of another post)! However, the Terre Nostra Gardens are open to the public from 10:00 – 18:00 for €8.00/person, and I would definitely recommend a visit!
The centerpiece of Terre Nostra Gardens is its huge thermal pool. I mean huge. As you ca see, the water is brown and smells a tiny bit like eggs, the temperature makes it SO relaxing and that water definitely has healing properties! My skin was so, so soft after spending a few hours in that pool!
In addition to the main pool, there are two hot pools (kind of like a hot tub) behind the main pool and lots and lots of well manicured gardens to explore. We even saw a black swan! If you are visiting for the day, be sure to bring a bathing suit, a towel, a change of clothes, and water shoes if you are weird about dark water!
At the end of our trip to Furnas, we had a great time and would love to come back! Until next time Furnas!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Restaurante Tony’s: 2, Dr. Frederico Moniz Pereira Street, 9675-036 Furnas (Portugal). T:296 584 632. E: firstname.lastname@example.org. Open Open daily 12 – 16:00 and 18:00 – 21:30. I recommend emailing or calling in advance to make a reservation in the main restaurants, as this is one of the more popular cozido restaurants and its normally full. There are also a couple locations in town, including a snack bar and a restaurant for big tour groups.
Hotel Terra Nostra: Rua Padre José Jacinto Botelho, 5, 9675-061 Furnas, S. Miguel – Açores, Portugal. Excellent hotel adjacent to the Terra Nostra Gardens. Visitors to the hotel receive complimentary access to the Terra Nostra Gardens 24 hours a day.
Terra Nostra Garden: Rua Padre José Jacinto Botelho, 5, 9675-061 Furnas, S. Miguel – Açores, Portugal. Open daily 10:00 – 18:00. Admission €8,00/person, €4,00 for children under 10 and under. Reservations not required. Bring a bathing suit, towel, and water shoes if you have them.
Terra Nostra Garden Restaurant: Located inside the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel, next to the Terra Nostra Garden. Open daily for breakfast 7:45 – 10:15; lunch 12:00 – 14h30 (2:30 p.m.); dinner 19h (7:00 p.m.) – 21h30 (9:30 p.m.). Reservations usually not required but can be made here.
3 Bicas Pub: R. Pᵃ José Jacinto Botelho 44-64, Furnas, Portugal (next door to the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel). Open daily 10 – 0h (12:00 a.m.). Small snack bar with very reasonably priced food and alcohol – a good alternative to eating at the Terra Nostra Hotel.
Micauto: Avenida Infante Dom Henrique 109, 9500-150 Ponta Delgada, Portugal. We rented our car from here. Open daily 9:00 – 18:00, but you can drop off at all hours. Reservations must be made in advance for car rentals, and far in advance for automatics!
ON A BUDGET
The Azores, generally, are a budget destination; things are definitely cheaper than on mainland Portugal. However, Furnas has a few upscale hotels and definitely caters to the luxurious. That being said, budget options still abound in Furnas. For example, there are plenty of rooms for rent on a budget and a few budget hotels. We loved 3 Bics pub – right next door to the Hotel Terre Nostre, which had food and drinks on a budget!