Home EuropeAzores Visit Furnas – Beautiful Hot Springs and Gardens

Visit Furnas – Beautiful Hot Springs and Gardens

by Valerie Vanr

Visit Furnas and relax in the therapeutic thermal baths surrounded by stunning scenery. Furnas is one of Sao Miguel’s most visited tourist destinations. The area is best known for mineral-rich geothermal waters and steaming calderas.

Enjoy its beautiful botanical gardens and nature parks. Be sure to try Furnas Stew, cooked underground using nature’s oven.

Here’s a guide to everything you’ll discover on your visit to Furnas, Azores.

Terra Nostra Thermal Pool background white Casa do Parque

Things To Do in Furnas

Visit these amazing places in the Furnas area. A day or two is perfect for this great itinerary.

Furnas Map  – Things to Do

These are our recommended highlights when visiting Furnas and Furnas Lake.

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

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:

  • Poca da Dona Beija
  • Terra Nostra Thermal Pool in Terra Nostra Park
Person in Terra Nostra Thermal Pool Furnas
Enjoy a relaxing soak in the Terra Nostra Thermal Pool

Poca da Dona Beija

The Poca 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 Poca da Dona is very popular.  It can get crowded, so arrive early.

Terra Nostra Park

Visitors to Parque Terra Nostra enjoy the thermal pool’s therapeutic waters and wander the 12.5 hectare botanical garden. Both are open to the public, subject to an admission fee, from 10:00 to 18:00 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 at the core of the park today.

Person foreground Terra Nostra Thermal Pool background
On our morning visit there weren’t many people in the pool.
Woman's hand in water Terra Nostra Thermal Pool
Yes 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, the Furnas Valley 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 at the entrance, 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. You’ll 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 this 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.

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

More attractions can be found to the southwest of the village around beautiful Lagoa das Furnas.  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 over the years.

The main road EN1-1A hugs the eastern shore of the Furnas Lagoon. Parking is available on the southeastern and the north sides. Here are some of the things you’ll find travelling counter-clockwise around the lake, starting in the north.

Couple foreground Furnas Lake caldera background
There are fumeroles, geysers and mudpots at Furnas Lake.

Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas

The caldera, on the bank of Lake Furnas, has bubbling mudpots, 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 local 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 natural caldera. Be sure to try it when you visit.

You’ll find the entrance to the area’s newest attraction 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 17:00, 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 Lagoa das Furnas, 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.

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 Lago de Furnas, has a number of walking paths and a quiet stream. Places to sit and enjoy the ten-hectare garden are scattered throughout. A trail leads to the Salto do Rosal waterfall in the south part of the garden.

The garden 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 in the summer from 10:00 to 18:00. Winter hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 to 17:00. There is a nominal entrance fee. The current 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.

Capela Nossa Senhora das Vitorias

This funerary chapel was commissioned by José do Canto in the 1860s and is the final resting place of him and his wife, Maria Guilhermina do Canto.

Famous for its 13, three-metre high, stained-glass windows, it is one of very few neo-gothic buildings in Portugal. It makes a stunning site on the south shore of Furnas Lake.

Casa dos Barcos and Casa da Lagoa

These two pretty houses, built in the 1860’s, are available for short-term rental. The Anglo-Flemish House of Boats was the family’s boat pavilion. The French-Swiss chalet was referred to as pavilhao da pesca or the fishing lodge.

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

Furnas Hikes

There are two hikes which explore the area around Lake Furnas.

Lagoa das Furnas Hike (PRC06)

While the trailhead is 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 Center. Along the way stop at one of the largest araucaria trees in Europe. 

Woman on river stepping stones Furnas Lake trail
The trail around the lake is smooth and flat with a couple small water crossings.
Person in front of huge tree trunk Furnas Lake
This huge Araucaria heterophylla or Norfolk Pine, is endemic to the southern hemisphere but cultivated as an ornamental tree in the north.

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.

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 your hike.

Furnas Hikes – Summary Table

This is a summary of the details of each hike noted above.

NameType/ DifficultyLength/ Avg TimeAlt range
PRC06 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

Lagoa das Furnas Viewpoints

Two viewpoints on the western edge of the caldera provide fantastic panoramic views of Furnas Lake and the parish of Furnas. Both are only accessible 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 Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas 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.

Miradouro Castelo Branco Viewpoint

On a clear day, you can see the southern coast of Sao Miguel and Furnas Lake. 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.

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

For a close-up view of Lagoa das Furnas, stop at the small viewpoint on the east shore of the lake on regional road EN1-1A where several cars can park safely off the road.

Caldeiras das Furnas

Visit Furnas Caldeiras, 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.  You can sample these waters in several places if you wish.

Aerial view geysers and fumeroles Furnas Caldeiras
The geysers and fumeroles of the caldeiras 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.  

Microbial Observatory of the Azores

Discover the type of life that exists in the extreme environments of the nearby hot springs. This former thermal bath house has rooms with permanent and temporary exhibitions. 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.

The hours are Tuesday to Friday 10:00 to 17:00 and Sunday 14:30 to 18:00. In the summer, it opens on Saturday 14:30 to 18:00. There is a nominal fee.

Explore the Town of Furnas

Walking around town, you’ll pass several noteworthy buildings.

Igreja de Santa Ana was built in 1760 and is one of the oldest churches on the island of Sao Miguel.  The site held the first temple in the Furnas Valley, said to have been part of a convent founded by hermit priests.  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 village park.

The paths of Parque Dona Beatriz do Canto, in the center 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.

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

Just down the street from the church you won’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
Person cars inverted house Furnas Sao Miguel
The inverted house looks so much nicer than an electrical substation.

Grab your 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 Furnas
  • Terra Nostra Restaurant
  • Summer Breeze
  • Caldeiras e Volcoes Restaurante
  • A Terra Fornaria

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, you’ll 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.  If you make the effort to go, be sure it is a clear day. You’ll have panoramic views overlooking the Furnas Valley and the island’s north and south shores.

Furnas Map – Attractions

Furnas Side Trips

When travelling from Ponta Delgada to Furnas, we highly recommend these two additional attractions.

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. About 8 hectares in area, it is the eroded remnant of an ancient submarine volcano estimated to have erupted about 4,000 to 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 bathing season June to October. It is very popular during the summer for swimming, diving and bird watching. Only 400 people are allowed 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.

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.

At 215 metres above sea level, you’ll enjoy the panoramic view 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.

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.

Couple foreground Furnas Lake in the distance

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