Home EuropeAzores Visit Furnas Hot Springs and Furnas Lake

Visit Furnas Hot Springs and Furnas Lake

by Valerie Vanr

Relax in the therapeutic thermal baths of the Furnas Hot Springs. Enjoy beautiful botanical gardens and nature parks. Furnas and Furnas Lake are best known for their mineral-rich geothermal waters and steaming calderas, making it one of Sao Miguel’s most visited tourist destinations.

We showcase all Furnas and the Furnas Lake area has to offer.

Terra Nostra Thermal Pool background white Casa do Parque

What to see in Furnas

Enjoy these amazing places over a day or two in the Furnas and Furnas Lake area.

Furnas Map

These are our recommended things to do when visiting Furnas and Furnas Lake. Furnas is 43 kilometres east of Ponta Delgada on the main highway, EN1-1A.

Map Furnas Sao Miguel Azores
Click on the map for an interactive version.

Furnas Hot Springs and Thermal Baths

Most visitors come to Furnas to relax in the Furnas thermal baths.  The parish has two commercial hot springs facilities:

Person in Terra Nostra Thermal Pool Furnas
Andy enjoyed a relaxing soak in the orangey-brown waters of Terra Nostra Thermal Pool. The water is very rich in iron.

Poca da Dona Beija Thermal Pools

The Poça da Dona Beija hot springs features 5 thermal pools, each a different temperature. The mineral-rich water from the local hot springs is collected and distributed to the pools in this outdoor spa.  The pools are very popular.  It can get crowded, so arrive early.

The pools are open daily year-round from 8:30 am to 11:00 pm. The last entrance is at 10:00 pm and all bathers must be out of the thermal pools by 10:30 pm. Tickets for a 1.5 hour stay are available on the Poça da Dona Beija website or at the entrance. NOTE: There are no exchanges, cancellations or refunds of tickets purchase online. If you are unsure of when you will arrive, wait and purchase on-site or when online you have confirmed your travel details.

Baskets are provided for belongings free of charge. Locker and towel rentals are available. Changing rooms, showers and toilets are on site. Souvenirs, water and soft drinks are sold on-site. Food is prohibited.

Terra Nostra Park

Enjoy the therapeutic waters of Parque Terra Nostra’s thermal pool and wander the 12.5 hectare botanical garden. Both are open to the public, subject to an admission fee, from 10:30 pm to 4:30 pm daily.

It all began over two hundred ago as the summer residence of Thomas Hickling, US Consul in Sao Miguel. At the front of his home was a small thermal pool. The whole property was planted with trees, many native to North America. The pool and woods are the core of the park.

Person foreground Terra Nostra Thermal Pool background
On our morning visit there weren’t many people in the pool.
Val's hand in water Terra Nostra Thermal Pool
Yes! I confirmed the water is hot!

Terra Nostra Thermal Pool

The large thermal swimming pool sits near the entrance to Terra Nostra Park. The local hot springs supply the pool’s orangey-brown waters. The water temperature ranges from 35C to 40C degrees. While the colour may be unappealing, the iron-rich waters are very therapeutic.

The Terra Nostra hot springs are one of a number of springs in the area. While hot springs can be found on most of the Azores islands, these Azores hot springs have attracted international visitors since the late 18th century.  The thermal pool at Terra Nostra Park was built in 1780 and expanded in 1935. 

Paths line fish-filled pond trees surround
Paths line this fish-filled pond.
Brown water trickles around trees flowering plants
Mineral rich waters flow through parts of the garden

Terra Nostra Garden

Parque Terra Nostra includes one of the largest and oldest botanical gardens in Europe. The map, provided with admission, highlights a 3-kilometre walking path through the various themed gardens, with many other intertwining paths throughout. It is an incredible place to spend an hour or two.

Railings path down to water rich green surroundings
A network of paths winds through the garden
2 large plants shaped like birds in topiary garden
The topiary garden has a number of different animal shapes.

The beautiful garden includes collections of endemic plants and many other species native to countries with climates vastly different than Furnas. Find ferns, cycadales, camellias, rhododendrons and many flower species along with hundreds of trees and shrubs.

Garden pond with stones leading to island Terra Nostra Garden
A beautiful garden pond complete with stepping stones.
Person walking stepping stones in pond
The stepping stones were quite widely spaced for me, a height-challenged person.

Water features, benches and memorials to people important in the history of the garden are tucked into nooks planned among the flowers, shrubs and trees.

For more details about the Terra Nostra Park entrance fee and hours, see the Terra Nostra website.

Terra Nostra Garden Hotel

One of the perks of staying at Terra Nostra Garden Hotel is access to the Terra Nostra Park’s Thermal Pools at any time. The hotel also has spa facilities which take advantage of the therapeutic waters of the hot springs.

The original hotel opened in 1935 when Furnas became famous for its thermal waters. The hotel has 2 wings of rooms: the original Art Deco Wing, and the Jardim Wing that was added in the 1990’s.

Furnas Lake

Beautiful Lagoa das Furnas is to the southwest of the village.  It’s a lovely spot, enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Recent projects have reintroduced many endemic and native plants to the area which was heavily deforested in the past.

The main road EN1-1A hugs the eastern shore of Furnas Lake. Parking is available on the southeastern and the north sides.

Val and Andy foreground Furnas Lake caldera background
Fumeroles, geysers and mud pots gurgle and steam behind us at Furnas Lake.

Starting on the north side of the lake, travelling counter-clockwise around the lake, there are several things to do.

Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas

The caldera, on the bank of Lake Furnas, has bubbling mud pots, small geysers and fumaroles venting hot steam and volcanic gas. The temperature underground reaches almost 100C degrees. The caldera has become famous for its use as an oven to cook traditional Portuguese Stew.

Large heavy pots, filled with bite-sized pieces of meat and vegetables, are lowered into holes dug in the hot ground. Over the next six hours, the stew cooks, taking advantage of the natural heat. Arrive around the noon hour to watch the local restaurants arrive to pick up their pots of finished stew ready to be served in their restaurants.

2 men carry covered pot from hole Furnas Lake Caldera
A large pot of Furnas Stew is carried away after being lifted from the hole.
People beside geothermal ovens Furnas Lake
Visitors wait for the next pot of Furnas Stew to be lifted from its natural ovens.

What is Furnas Stew?

Cozidos das Furnas is the local version of Cozido à Portuguesa, a traditional Portuguese boiled meal. Considered a national dish of Portugal, variations exist throughout the country. It is prepared with a multitude of different meats and vegetables depending on local availability. Traditional seasonings are red pepper paste, white pepper and cinnamon.

The Furnas version typically includes beef, pork, chicken, chorizo sausage, streaky bacon and belly pork. Vegetables such as cabbage, potatoes, carrots and collard greens are usually used. What makes Furnas Stew unique among Portuguese stews is that it is cooked in a hole dug in the ground of the caldera.

You can try furnas stew at a local restaurant in town or better yet, experience it right here. The Railway Bar, located onsite, serves Cozido das Furnas for you to sample for yourself. This outdoor patio overlooking the steaming fumaroles serves this traditional meat and vegetables in a ceramic dish.

After lunch, head to Grena Park is to the south of the beside the caldera.

Parque Grena

This nature park has five kilometres of paths through an 18-hectare wooded area. Follow the stream to the beautiful Salto da Inglensa waterfall at the top of the slope. Climb up 633 steps to a viewpoint of the waterfall and the whole valley.

Parque Grena entrance building shell background
Parque Grena is a nature park with forested paths to explore.

There are spots to sit and enjoy a picnic or to just relax in nature. Paths lead to the ruins of a manor house called Grena, built in the mid-1800’s. Over the years, the property fell into disrepair. It was sold in 2018. After a year of extensive work, this beautiful nature park opened to the public in 2019.

The park has kayaks and bicycles for rent. Open year-round from 9:30 to 17:30, summer hours are extended to 18:00. There is an entrance fee.

Continue to the modern building tucked into the edge of the lake.

Furnas Monitoring and Research Centre

Centro de Monitorização e Investigação das Furnas is both a visitor centre and a research centre. It provides information about the volcanic history of the Furnas area. Learn about the area’s designation as an Azores Geosite and the efforts underway to protect and restore the ecosystems in this Sao Miguel protected landscape area.

3D view of Furnas Volcano caldera village lake
A sign displays a map of the whole Furnas Volcano Azores geosite. The geosite is the caldera of the collapsed volcano which erupted sporadically over the last 800,000 years. It contains Furnas Lake, the village of Furnas, several small volcanic cones, fumerole fields and a variety of mineral and thermal springs.

The centre has won a number of awards for its presentation of scientific information in ways that everyone can understand. This is a great place to learn about geodiversity, biodiversity, sustainability and local culture. For opening hours and ticket prices, see the Furnas Environmental Interpretation Centre website.

There are picnic facilities nearby with a beautiful view over the lake and of the colourful buildings along the lakeshore. These buildings and the surrounding gardens are what remains of a large 19th century country estate owned by wealthy landowner Jose do Canto and his wife. The land is still controlled by the family.

Aeria view background chapel foreground house Furnas Lake
Mata Jardim Jose do Canto includes the chapel, two lakefront houses and the beautiful garden.

Mata Jardim Jose do Canto

The Jose do Canto Woods Garden, on the south bank of Furnas Lake, has a number of walking paths and a quiet stream. Places to sit and enjoy the ten-hectare garden are scattered throughout.

Most visitors come to see the Salto do Rosal waterfall. A trail in the south part of the garden takes you to the waterfall. It takes 30 minutes each way to visit the falls.

The garden itself follows a plan created by a well-known Parisian landscape architect in the mid-19th century.  The design includes landscapes of diverse plant species imported from nurseries around the world and bordered by walking paths. Centuries-old Camellia trees line the Alameda das Camelias path and bloom vividly from January to March.

The garden is open everyday. For opening hours and information, visit the Mata Jardim Jose do Canto website. There is a nominal entrance fee. The estate includes the garden, 2 houses on the edge of the lagoon, and the Chapel of Our Lady of Victories.

Capela Nossa Senhora das Vitorias Furnas Lake
The chapel was built by Jose do Canto as the mausoleum for him and his wife.

The Capela Nossa Senhora das Vitorias, a funerary chapel, was commissioned by José do Canto in the 1860s. It is his final resting place and that of his wife, Maria Guilhermina do Canto, also. It is one of very few neo-gothic buildings in Portugal and Famous for its thirteen, three-metre-high, stained-glass windows. It makes a stunning site on the south shore of Furnas Lake.

The two pretty houses, Casa dos Barcos and Casa da Lagoa, built in the 1860’s, are available for short-term rental. Both were used by the family. The boathouse is considered Anglo-Flemish in style whereas the fishing lodge is a French-Swiss chalet.

Aerial view 2 houses Furnas Lake
The 1860s Casa dos Barcos and Casa da Lagoa on the shore of Furnas Lake

Caldeiras das Furnas

Visit Furnas Caldera, in the central part of the village, and see hot springs, mudpots and geysers of different temperatures and chemistries. Known as one of Europe’s richest hydrothermal areas, it is famous for both warm and cold therapeutic, mineral-rich waters.  In several spots taps make sampling possible.

Aerial view geysers and fumeroles Furnas Caldeiras
The caldera’s geysers and fumeroles send steam into the air in the center of the village.
Circular pits of geysers and fumeroles Furnas
Get a close-up look at a number of geysers and fumeroles.

Paths winding among flowering shrubs lead to views over the valley and a small building beside the warm stream.  

This former bath house now houses the Azores Microbial Observatory. Through permanent and temporary exhibitions discover what type of life exists in the extreme environments of the nearby hot springs. The observatory’s mission is to educate the public about the importance of microbes to the earth’s ecosystems. It explores their biodiversity in the thermal springs and volcanic areas of the Azores.

Lower white building amid rising steam Furnas Caldeira
Learn about the importance of microbes to world ecosystems in the Microbial Observatory.

For more information including opening hours and ticket prices, visit the Azores Microbial Observatory website.

Village of Furnas

In addition to visiting the Caldeiras das Furnas in the village, enjoy a walk to further explore the area and see several interesting buildings.

Igreja de Santa Ana, built in 1760, is one of the oldest churches on Sao Miguel island.  The first temple in the Furnas Valley, supposedly part of a convent founded by hermit priests, was on the site.  The chapel and convent were destroyed in the last volcanic eruption in the area in 1630.

Stream water wheel surrounded by grass trees Furnas
The Myrtle Stream flows through the quiet park. This is taken from the main street.

The paths of Parque Dona Beatriz do Canto, in the centre of the village, follow the Myrtle Stream as it crosses Furnas. The 3.7-hectare garden dates back to the mid-1800’s.  The wide paths lead to both grassy areas and dense woods, surrounding a lake fed by water from the stream. It is privately owned and only open to the public in August. The area by the road is pretty when it is not August.

Igreja De Nossa Senhora da Alegria (Church of our Lady of Joy) is in the centre of the village. The beautiful, twin-spired church overlooks Parque Terra Nostra.

Just down the street from the church don’t miss Casa Invertida, a unique building that hides an electrical substation.

Twin spired church Furnas Azores
Pretty Church of our Lady of Joy in the centre of the village
Val in front of cars and inverted house Furnas Sao Miguel
I posed with the inverted house which looks so much nicer than an electrical substation.

Grab a picnic lunch and head to Tambores Picnic Park, a lovely park by the river.

Furnas Restaurants

Here are five of the most popular restaurants in the village.

Tony’s Restaurant is the most famous for serving Furnas Stew.  Many other restaurants also serve the local stew or some variation of it.  We enjoyed the food and casual atmosphere at Summer Breeze.

Sign noting restaurant name Furnas Lake Caldera
Local restaurants such as Tony’s use the Furnas Lake Caldera to cook their pots of Furnas Stew.

Furnas Viewpoints

Miradouro do Lombo dos Milhos Viewpoint

Enjoy a picnic high on a hilltop south of the village with a panoramic view of Furnas and the surrounding hills. To find this viewpoint, just look for the radio towers.

Miradouro das Pedras do Galego Viewpoint

From this viewpoint on the north side of Furnas, on EN2-1A, get a different perspective of the village, a corner of the lake and the crater’s north edge.

Miradouro do Salto do Cavalo Viewpoint

Northeast of the village, in beautiful thick forest terrain, this viewpoint is off the beaten path.  Visit this hard-to-reach viewpoint only when it is a clear day, for panoramic views overlooking the Furnas Valley and the island’s north and south shores.

Two viewpoints on the western edge of the caldera provide fantastic panoramic views of Furnas Lake and the parish of Furnas. Access to both is only from the regional roads leading to Furnas.

Aerial View Furnas Lake
The view of Lagoa das Furnas from Pico do Ferro viewpoint is stunning.

Miradouro do Pico do Ferro Viewpoint

Look straight down into the Furnas Lake Caldera and the gardens which stretch up the side of the caldera. See the whole parish and Furnas Valley’s volcanic crater which is about 7 kilometres wide and 250 metres deep. Pico do Ferro, at an altitude of 544 metres, is off regional road EN2-1A northwest of Furnas. Turn south at the Furnas Golf Course to access the viewpoint.

2-storey cubic building Miradouro Castelo Branco
This 2-storey building at Castelo Branco viewpoint looks like a watchtower. When it is clear, see Furnas Lake.

Miradouro Castelo Branco Viewpoint

See the southern coast of Sao Miguel and Furnas Lake on a clear day (which we did not have). A small, 2-storey, square building dominates the top of the hill. Fortified with battlements on the top, it looks like a medieval watch tower.  Castelo Branco is off regional road EN1-1A southwest of Furnas.

Furnas Hikes

There are two hikes which explore the Furnas area. The Lagoa das Furnas Hike is among the Best Sao Miguel Hikes.

Lagoa das Furnas Hike (PRC6)

The trail begins in the village of Furnas, the trail circles Furnas Lake. This is a great way to leave the car behind and walk to many of the places on our itinerary. The path follows either parish streets or the hard-packed paths at the lake.

The trailhead is at the intersection of EN1-1A and Rua dos Fundadores do Futebol Clube Vale Formoso. There is lots of parking along the short street to the west and at the football stadium at the end of the street.

Follow the signs through the village, passing Igreja de Santana and Poça da Dona Beija. The trail winds its way toward Pico do Milho and Miradouro do Lombo dos Milhos Viewpoint where you’ll enjoy the view of the Furnas valley.

Walk southwest to Lagoa das Furnas. Travelling clockwise around the lake, you’ll pass the Chapel of Nossa Senhora das Vitórias, Mata Jardim José do Canto, and the Furnas Monitoring and Research Centre. Along the way stop at one of the largest araucaria trees in Europe. 

After Parque Grena, see the geysers at the Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas. Follow the lane back to the regional road EN1-1A. Walk left along the road to the first street which leads back to the starting point. The full walk is about 9.5 kilometres. The hike just around the lake is about 6 kilometres.

Val on river stepping stones Furnas Lake trail
The trail around the lake is smooth and flat with a couple small water crossings. I was happy for the stepping-stone path.
Andy in front of huge tree trunk Furnas Lake
Andy beside this huge Araucaria heterophylla or Norfolk Pine gives you a bit of scale. The Norfolk Pine is endemic to the southern hemisphere but cultivated as an ornamental tree in the north.

Salto do Rosal Waterfall Hike

Looking for a relatively short walk through a forest to a pretty waterfall?  This is the perfect hike.

The trail is completely within Jose do Canto Garden Woods so a small admission fee applies. Fully shaded, this makes a great hike for a hot day or a hike in the heat of the day. See many non-native species of trees and explore the rest of the garden after the hike.

Furnas Hiking

This is a summary of the details of each highlighted hike.

NameType/ DifficultyLength/ Avg TimeAlt range
PRC6 Lagoa das Furnas (from village around lake)Circular/ Easy9.5 km/ 3:00150m
Lagoa das Furnace (lake only)Circular/ Easy6 km/ 1:30flat
Salto do Rosal WaterfallOut and back/Easy4 km/ 1:00150m
Val and Andy in foreground Furnas Lake in the distance
We are high above Lagoa da Furnas which measures about 6 kilometres in circumference.

On The Way to Furnas

When travelling from Ponta Delgada to Furnas via the south coast, we highly recommend these two stops.

Vila Franca do Campo Islet

This nature reserve and Azores geosite lies about half a kilometre offshore of the village of Vila Franca do Campo. It is the eroded remnant of an ancient submarine volcano, with an area of about 8 hectares. The volcano is estimated to have erupted between 4,000 and 5,000 years old.  The well-defined, circular crater, about 150 metres in diameter, is filled with ocean water. With crystal clear waters and a small beach, it is a great place for divers and bathers.

Vila Franca do Campo Islet Sao Miguel
Vila Franca do Campo Islet is the ruins of an ancient submarine volcanic cone. Several plant and animal species are protected here due to its designation as a nature reserve.

Regular boat connections, from Tagarete Pier in Vila Franca do Campo, are available during the summer bathing season. It is very popular during the summer for swimming, diving and bird watching. Only 400 people are allowed to visit per day to help protect the native vegetation and seabird habitat.

There are toilette facilities, changing rooms and guards in the swimming area. The average seawater temperature is 21C degrees.

Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz

Our Lady of Peace Chapel is a 16th-century, pilgrim chapel.  Restored numerous times, the chapel is located high on a hilltop, just above the Miradouro da Senhora da Paz Viewpoint.

Enjoy the panoramic view, 215 metres above sea level, of the village, the islet of Vila Franca do Campo and the ocean.

Not only is the surrounding landscape beautiful, the chapel’s entrance staircase, built in 1968, is unlike most other rural chapels.

Vila Franca do Campo and islet Sao Miguel
The view of Vila Franca do Campo and the islet from the top of the Mount of Our Lady of Peace is impressive.
Staircase with 10 landings and Our Lady of Peace Chapel
The stunning staircase has 10 landings and 10 steps between each landing.

The staircase has 10 landings and every landing has a typical Portuguese azulejo-tiled panel. Each panel commemorates one of the first ten Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, a set of Catholic prayers.  Ten steps lead to each landing and represent the ten “Hail Mary” prayers said during the recitation of the Holy Rosary. For the best pictures of the staircase, try to visit in the morning.

Be sure to check out our article, Things To Do in Sao Miguel Azores, for more places and great destinations to visit on the island.

Ocean shoreline green hills

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