Relax in the therapeutic thermal baths of the Furnas Hot Springs surrounded by stunning scenery. Furnas is one of Sao Miguel’s most visited tourist destinations.
Furnas and Furnas Lake are best known for their mineral-rich geothermal waters and steaming calderas. Enjoy the hot springs, beautiful botanical gardens and nature parks. Be sure to try Furnas Stew, cooked underground using nature’s oven.
This is our guide to discovering Furnas Hot Springs and the Furnas Lake area.
Table of Contents
What to see in Furnas
Enjoy these amazing places over a day or two in the Furnas and Furnas Lake area.
- Soak in the Furnas Hot Springs.
- Visit the beautiful gardens of Terra Nostra Park.
- Discover the splendour of Furnas Lake.
- Visit the steaming geysers at Caldeiras das Furnas.
- Explore the beautiful village of Furnas.
These are our recommended things to do when visiting Furnas and Furnas Lake.
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 Thermal Pools
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.
The pools are open daily year-round from 8:30 am to 11:00 pm. The last entrance is at 10:15 pm and all bathers must be out of the thermal pools by 10:45 pm. Tickets are available only at the entrance and are for a 1.5 hour stay. Baskets are provided for belongings free of charge. Locker and towel rentals are available. Changing rooms, showers and toilets are on site.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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. Be sure to try it at a local restaurant.
Grena Park is to the south of the beside the caldera.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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. Summer hours are from 10:00 to 18:00 and winter hours 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.
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.
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.
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 Microbial Observatory of the Azores. 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.
The summer hours are Monday to Friday 10:00 to 17:00. In the winter, it is closed Monday and Friday. There is a nominal fee.
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.
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.
Grab a picnic lunch and head to Tambores Picnic Park, a lovely park by the river.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are two hikes which explore the Furnas area.
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.
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.
This is a summary of the details of each highlighted hike.
|Length/ Avg Time
|PRC6 Lagoa das Furnas (from village around lake)
|9.5 km/ 3:00
|Lagoa das Furnace (lake only)
|6 km/ 1:30
|Salto do Rosal Waterfall
|Out and back/Easy
|4 km/ 1:00
On The Way to Furnas
When travelling from Ponta Delgada to Furnas, 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.
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 to vsit 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.
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.
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