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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Furnas Valley - Vila de Furnas and Terra Nostra Park - Sao Miguel, Azores

Some of the most iconic things to do on the island are located in an unexpected place. This is the hot spot on the island (literally) and it's a little town in a crater about 30 miles (50 km) outside of Ponta Delgada.

When in the Azores, you need to head to the Calderas for a slow-cooked meal, walk around the town, and then head to the garden and relax in the warm springs. Where can you do all of this and in one day? In the volcanic region of Furnas.

The Valley of Furnas is a volcanic crater that has been dormant since 1630. Since then, it has sheltered the Vila de Furnas and Terra Nostra Park. This area is known as Lagoa das Furnas and here, you have the opportunity to enjoy authentic Azorean food cooked in the "furnas" or volcanic holes with boiling mud and steam. 


Cozido das Furnas

This Portuguese stew (cozido) is cooked in large pots carefully dropped into holes known as fumaroles. These fumaroles are dug in the hot volcanic soil in Furnas. Around lunchtime, workers pull these pots from the ground that were left to cook for 5 to 7 hours. The stew is a layer of meats, potatoes, cabbage and kale. Two of the meats are chouri├žo - a Portuguese-style spicy sausage similar to chorizo, and blood sausage is... well.. you guessed it. Blood stuffed in sausage. If you are brave enough, I hear it is quite delicious but let's all agree this isn't a great place for vegetarians. 

Plan Ahead: If you want to partake in this traditional Azorean cuisine, it does require a bit of planning. Many of the restaurants in town serve up this stew but be sure to call ahead and make a reservation 24 hours in advance. Restaurante Tonys is one of the most famous places to enjoy this Azorean specialty. 


Mosaic Wall, Sao Miguel, Azores 

Upside Down House 

As you walk around the area, make sure to stay on your side of the fence as these bubbling vats of mud and steam can be quite dangerous. It's also worth noting that there will be a very pungent sulfuric (aka rotten egg) smell here. After leaving the cooking area and heading into town for lunch, you can continue your tour of the area. The mosaic tiles, street signs, rivers, greenery, and architecture are beautiful and unique. Keep your eye out for the upside-down house (which is actually an electrical substation).



Terra Nostra Garden 

The next stop is Terra Nostra Garden for a walk around the botanical gardens and a dip into the thermal bath. There is an entry fee but it is worth every penny for the views and unique bath. If you plan to soak in the mineral baths, wear an old bathing suit as the iron in the water will stain your suit (I learned the hard way). 

The park was built in 1780, by Thomas Hickling. The pool was significantly smaller at that time but already consisted of an “island” in the middle and was connected to the land by a small bridge. Towards the end of the 18th century, the Furnas Valley became a popular destination due to the growing interest in the use of mineral water to treat health problems. The area has hundreds of small springs and streams with different minerals and healing properties. The main thermal pool filled with hot spring water (between 37C and 40C) is a great place to soak.  Before you go, know that the yellow-brown color (due to the iron levels) can be a bit off-putting and it will stain your clothing. 

Terra Nostra Garden Map

Click Here for different itineraries for visiting the park in different seasons. 

A day in the Furnas looks a little like this: walk around the Calderas and watch the "cozido's" being removed from the calderas.  Slowly head on over to the restaurant to enjoy your "real slow" food of assorted meats and vegetables.  Walk around town before heading to Terra Nostra Gardens for a walk around the property and a dip into the warm thermal pool.  Slowly make your way back to Ponta Delgada. Its the perfect day trip on the island.


  1. Wow, what a fun trip! Can't wait to see more of the upcoming adventures!

    Looking forward to see more of your posts. Do you have an instagram account? Maybe we could follow each other. Let me know by leaving a comment on my blog or sending me a request. I'll follow back :) Thanks!

    IG: @shairangelique

    Have a nice day!


    1. Hi Shaira! Thanks for stopping by! I just found you on IG and sent you a request :) Just added your blog to my list!

      Katie @ Katie Wanders

  2. Replies
    1. Such a gorgeous and unique place! I am lucky! Thanks for reading!

  3. Beautiful! And I love your photos! During my visit in Sao Miguel, I felt in love with Furnas, volcanic city with thermal waters. I dedicated a small post, I hope you like it :)


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