Furnas is the most easterly volcano on Sao Miguel and the best place to really feel the volcanic origins of the Azores. There are over thirty geysers and hot springs dotted around the village. Their temperatures vary, as does their mineral content – from the cool, crystal-clear waters of the drinking fountains to iron-rich hot springs and swimming pools. From the arrival of the first settlers to the valley, residents and visitors have been enjoying the therapeutic waters of Furnas for over 500 years.
Heading into Furnas valley from the south coast, the cobbled road will bring you to Lagoa das Furnas (Furnas Lake) at the western end of the caldera. Stick to the road and you’ll eventually arrive at the main lakeshore car park (with an entry fee of 2€). As you’ll see, the lakeshore’s a mish-mash of bubbling geysers and steaming sulphurous vents, home to the famous Cozido cooking holes – Cozido is a traditional stew which is slow-cooked in the naturally hot ground. It’s served in most of the restaurants in the village – be warned: it’s a real hardcore meat-eaters dish and not for the fainthearted.
There’s a waymarked trail along the lakeshore to the Furnas Monitoring and Research Centre, where you can learn about the geological history of the area and the on-going environmental work within the valley. The entrance fee is 3€ – guided tours begin on the hour and last around thirty-minutes.
Leaving the lake behind, the road brings you down into the centre of Furnas – to the 200-year-old Parque Terra Nostra botanical gardens and the Azores’ most famous volcanic hot springs and geothermal swimming pool.
A swim at the Parque Terra Nostra has always been one of our favourite things to do in Furnas – and if your holiday with us includes a stay at the Terra Nostra Hotel, guests have exclusive access to the pool when it’s floodlit the evenings. If you’re visiting for the day, entry to the gardens is 12€ and towels are available for a returnable 10€ deposit – be sure to bring along a dark-coloured swimming costume as the high iron-oxide content of the water will discolour anything light.
The gardens themselves are a diverse collection of endemic Azorean plants and exotic species from around the world, including palms, bamboos, azaleas, camellias and cycadophytes.
At the eastern-end of the village, you’ll find the Chã das Caldeiras. These geysers are the remains of the original Furnas volcano – as magma erupted, an empty underground void was created, which eventually collapsed under the weight of the ash and pumice ejected onto the surface. This collapse formed a volcanic boiler which super-heats water from an aquifer deep underground – in-turn, the hot water draws minerals up as it rises to the surface. Each geyser is named – the Caldeira Pero Botelho is the most famous: named after Senhor Pero Botelho who was pushed into the caldeira ‘by the devil’ for his bad behaviour. A local legend suggests that if you call out ‘Pero Botelho, are you there ?’, he’ll begrudgingly reply with a loud snort of sulphurous smoke.
The nearby Chalé das Misturas houses the Observatório Microbiano dos Açores or OMIC – a laboratory to study and preserve the microorganisms which live in and around the geysers. You’ll also see several fresh-water springs around the Cha das Caldeiras – some are hot, some cold, some carbonated, and each has its own distinctive taste according to its chemical content.
The nearby Chalet da Tia Merces is a good option for lunch. This small teahouse on the banks of Ribeira Amarela was originally constructed as a bathhouse in the 19th Century. Owner Paula Aguiar now serves traditional cakes and Azorean cheeses, with local Gorreana tea and Sao Jorge coffee – brewed using the naturally-heated waters of the caldeiras. We also have a handy online guide to our favourite restaurants in Furnas.
Another excellent swimming spot is Poca Dona Beija. Whilst the pool at the Terra Nostra is large enough for swimming, Dona Beija’s geared more towards relaxation, with a series of naturally-hot infinity pools, constructed from local basalt. The pools are open from 7:00 through to 23:00 and entry is normally 3€. Once you pass through the ticket barrier, take a left into the shop – you can rent a towel and locker for 1€ per person (plus a refundable deposit of 20€), and tokens for the showers also cost 1€.
On the journey home, if you head out of Furnas along the north coast road you could end the day with a visit to the Gorreana tea plantation, Europe’s oldest producer of tea (established in 1883). The factory is a living museum with many 19th Century production methods still in use today. The plantation is spread across thirty-two acres and produces around thirty tons of tea per year – mainly destined for the local Azorean market but some tea is exported to mainland Portugal, Germany, the USA and Canada.
We specialise in tailor-made holidays to the nine islands of the Azores. Call Paul on 017687 721020 to begin planning your personalised trip.
Our island hopping holiday to the Azores was absolutely amazing,
This is a long email, so you might want to go grab yourself a cuppa before you start reading.
We just wanted to send you an email to say thank you so much for everything.
Our island hopping holiday to the Azores was absolutely amazing, it was far beyond our dreams and expectations, and that is certainly because of you and all your plans in putting this together for us. We just loved every second (apart from me and canyoning, we do not get along, but the boys absolutely loved it!) we just can’t believe all the things that we have seen, and done, and learned about! What an incredible place!
We have certainly been bitten by the Azorean bug and we can’t wait to get back there to explore the other islands. They’re very special places, each of them for their own right.
We felt as though we were treated like royalty from the minute we arrived in Sao Miguel, even the weather was kind to us (largely) we seemed to miss the adverse weather, either arriving somewhere that had had storms the day before, or leaving just before they arrived. We did have one morning of heavy rain when we went to the tropical gardens at Furnas, but we did manage to see some of the gardens before we gave up and went back to Caloura, where there was glorious sunshine, so we spent the afternoon at the pool and made the most of the Especial and fresh lemonade from the snack bar.
Every single person that we met, we were struck by how hard they work, and how happy they all are. Many of them never leaving the island they were born on, because, why would they want to?!
We love the Azorean people and their love and pride for their islands. Their sustainable way of living also struck deep with us. It’s the way we try very hard to live ourselves. Dave’s business is retrofit insulation, preparing old housing stock to a better more eco friendly way of conserving energy, so the way they live and respect their land, was of great interest to us.
For us all, Flores is a very special place. We went to the restaurant maresia while we were there and met the owner and his son. Although the restaurant itself is eclectic to say the least, after chatting to Vincent, we understood his dads way of living and the food was outstanding! We can’t wait to visit again.
All of our guides were amazing! Their knowledge and passion is admirable.
We just loved every second and can’t thank you enough for making our trip so smooth and completely stress free.
I will spend today writing reviews online for all the companies and guides that helped us on our trip.
A million thanks to you all Jake.
The Cole family
Personal service and efficient!
You really listened to what type of holiday we wanted and tailored our week accordingly. You understood what we were looking for and were so helpful and knowledgeable. Very personal service and efficient!
Linda from Norfolk
Professional and personal service!
Everything you do, you seem to do it professionally. I know I’m not your only client, but you make me feel like I am.
Bryan from Stoke
Azores Choice provided a prompt, helpful service. they found us the perfect accommodation for our needs and provided superb, expert advice on how to spend our week walking on San Miguel. I would certainly use them again.
Joan from Durham
Recommended small travel company!
Great little company with friendly staff. Organisation of flights & accommodation very efficient. When problems arise they are helpful and very reasonable in their efforts to resolve them. We would definitely use them again for a return trip.
Really great! Would use again!
Very efficient, friendly, helpful. Excellent local knowledge. Everything ran very smoothly, from supplying the tickets to airport pick ups and hotel bookings. Lovely accommodation selected. No complaints!
A wonderful break in a beautiful environment!
Everything was excellent. The information and organisation, the hotel and the island itself all exceeded our expectations. Whale watching and other trips out, fantastic. We will book again!
Great honeymoon package and experience!
They provided a great package at a good price. We found them to be helpful and a quality service was provided.
Nicola and Christopher – Winchester
Top notch service. Highly recommended!
Excellent service throughout. Very informative, with lots of literature, maps and the like. Attended their offices in Ponta Delgada – very impressed with Olivia, friendly and helpful. Paul was first class.
Lynne in Welton-by-Lincoln
Great company for first time Azores visit!
Really great company, will be recommending them. We had never visited the Azores before but this company helped us decided which islands to visit.