Furnas, a small volcanic town on the island of Sao Miguel is by far one of the most unusual and beautiful spots in all of the Azores. This is an ideal location to visit and indulge in the vast amount of unique flora and fauna that represent the Azorean region. The various gardens, hot springs, geysers and heavily forested valleys makes this the perfect weekend retreat location on the island of Sao Miguel.The vast amounts of flowers, trees and plants located here; both endemic and native to the Azores is truly remarkable. Here you can explore the largest Camellia collection in all of Portugal at the “Mata-Jardim Jose do Canto” and at the Terra Nostra Botanical Garden. Here over 600 varieties and colors of the beautiful Camellia flower adorn the landscape for you to admire. This is just a small portion of the flora of the island but is extremly important in terms of eco tourism for the region.Here there are hundreds of varieties of trees that adorn the walkways both paved and dirt that take you through these enchanted gardens. This location has always been a favorite with European nobles in the 18th and 19th century for its supposed health properties in the hot springs and volcanic mineral pools. It is just up the road from these gardens that the islands first golf course was built in the 1930s and still remains a popular spot for tourists to play.The Terra Nostra Garden is located in the heart of the small town of Furnas and is one of the main gardens on the island for tourists to visit. This is an enchanting 29 acre garden, filled with so many beautiful plants its hard to imagine such an elaborate landscape. Here, everything seems to grow, which is strange since it is in an active volcanic region on the island but the dozens of amazing staff that manage these grounds do an outstanding job at finding the best grow sites for plants.Here bubbling geysers are present throughout the small town and are used for thermal cooking; which is an ancient tradition here in the Azores. Here you can rent a site and arrange to have your food cooked underground; a ritual done on the island for over a century and takes about 8 hours to cook.These beautiful gardens have been extremely well maintained with endless rows of manicured bushes and flowers surrounded by majestic Japanese cedars and so much more, that it is common to start cooking first thing in the morning then going out an exploring Furnas untill your food is ready later on in the day.This beautiful 18th century garden is filled with charm and character and it is no wonder why it is constantly featured as a “must visit spot” for the country. Here, there are many beautiful old fountains and ivy covered grottos to explore while admiring the bushes manicured into various animals and shapes along your trail. The garden has a pathway that goes through the various areas of this elaborate garden; with labels on the plants and trees explaining their origin and what type of plant they are.This is perfect for a nature lover who could spend days just exploring this vast garden. There are many beautiful picnic sites throughout the garden and two unique hot springs that you can go and swim in for a minimal fee.This is a popular choice with locals and tourists, and it has been for centuries; due to its special location on the island. The volcanic mineral water is nice and hot and is perfect to swim in; with its supposed mineral rich benefits and healing properties. Many people with various ailments and pains come to this unique region from all over Europe just to bathe in its waters; hoping it will heal their sore bones etc. Many have found benefits rubbing the delicate volcanic mud on their skin as they relax in this large volcanic pool. The Volcanic thermal pool is located in the middle of the garden in front of the hotel with the same name, Terra Nostra.
Furnas also has a beautiful lake which is located in the Furnas valley. Here you can find the Mata-Jardim Jose do Canto. This was the summer retreat for the wealthy Azorean landowner and botanist that was responsible for bringing hundreds of plants and trees to the Azores in the 19th century. One of the most influential figures in Azorean history: Jose do Canto was a visionary who studied at a young age in Paris and fell in love with the many victorian style gardens he encountered throughout France. After returning to his native island of Sao Miguel he had the vision of fostering the regions unique temperature and climate by adding various commercial and ornamental plants to be disbursed throughout the region.Here in this enchanting forest and garden you can explore the wide variety of plants he managed to cultivate here in the Azores. This is a great weekend spot to come and explore the unique area and beautiful lake that exists here. There are picnic benches and many local restaurants with food to go if you want to come here for a picnic or just to relax and admire the beauty. There is kayaking available on the small lake if you like, with rentals available nearby. This is one of the most popular spots in the summertime for locals and tourists to come and relax by the lake while, basking in the Atlantic sunshine. Whether for a day, a weekend or even longer this beautiful small town will surely make your Azorean trip memorable; with the smell of the geysers always present in the air. This was the small town featured in Anthony Bourdain’s hit show “Parts Unknown” where he stayed, dined, swam and explored this beautiful part of Sao Miguel for a couple of days while filming here.