Furnas Valley (São Miguel)#5 in Best Things To Do in The Azores
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- 3.0Food Scene
If you want to see the Azores' volcanic activity for yourself, there is no better place than the Furnas Valley. The area of Furnas is basically one giant dormant volcano. As such, the area is full of hot springs, fumaroles, mud springs and geysers. Locals have come to use these geological offerings in a variety of ways, from bathing to cooking. Here, you can take a bath in mineral-filled waters, eat food that has been cooked in steam vents (such as cozido das Furnas stew) and drink tea that has been steeped with water from a volcano (found at Chalet da tia Mercês).
Start your Furnas journey to Caldeiras das Furnas, the best place to see the area's volcanic activity. Here, you can walk through the fumaroles, bubbling mud springs and geysers. Plus, this is where cozido das Furnas is cooked and if you are lucky, you'll see cooks taking the food out of the vents to the nearby restaurants in Furnas. If you're up for a mineral bath, there are a couple options within Furnas. Terra Nostra Park features a large thermal swimming pool, which is always heated between 95 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. There's also Poça da Dona Beija, which features smaller pools in a more intimate setting. Both pools are rich in iron and are surrounded by striking, tropical foliage. If you choose to bathe in the former, be sure to also explore the ground's incredible gardens, which feature more than 2,000 different types of trees, including Japanese red cedars, tulip trees, palm trees and more.
After you've gotten your fill of volcanic baths, consider taking a leisurely stroll around Lagoa de Furnas. While it may hold not the same awe as Sete Cidades or Lagoa do Fogo, the hike around the lake is much shorter (6 miles) and easier to traverse thanks to its largely flat terrain.
Past travelers thoroughly enjoyed their time in Furnas. Many visitors found the town to be lovely and were impressed with how it could function in the midst of all the volcanic activity. Visitors enjoyed watching the cooking of the cozido and suggested taking in the beautiful foliage that surrounds the area. Those who visited the thermal pools found them to be incredibly relaxing, though some did warn the waters are very, very hot. Others mentioned the distinct smell of sulphur (the rotten eggs smell) and said it can get pretty pungent in certain areas. Plus, considering the town's small size, know that parking can be an issue.
Furnas Valley is located on São Miguel island, about 27 miles east of Ponta Delgada. You can reach Furnas Valley easily by car. If you're taking a taxi, know that the cost from Ponta Delgada to Furnas can be upward of 50 euros one way. Therefore, if you are without a car during your time in the Azores, consider booking an organized tour, which offers transportation and more for around the same price, or less, than a taxi ride to and from the attraction. Check out Viator or Greenzone Azores for tour options. Furnas has no admission cost or set hours, however, know that individual businesses there have their own set hours of operation and costs.
More Best Things To Do in The Azores
#1 Azores Whale Watching
The Azores is probably one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. That's because it is one of the world's largest whale sanctuaries, with more than 20 different species of cetaceans that either call the archipelago home or pass through during their yearly migrations. At any given time, you'll be able to spot common and bottlenose dolphins and sperm whales on your tour. Different seasons also bring different species through the islands. Summer is a good time to see spotted dolphins, pilot whales, striped dolphins and bearded whales while the beginning of spring is great for blue whales, sei whales and fin whales. Because so many cetaceans live and pass through these waters, the probability of venturing out on a boat and seeing nothing is extremely unlikely.
Whale and dolphin watching tours in the Azores tend to last for a few hours and can be arranged on multiple islands. Highly rated tour operators include Futurisimo, which departs from the Pico and São Miguel islands, Terra Azul, based in São Miguel and OceanEmotion, located on Terceira. Recent tourgoers agree that this is undoubtedly a can't-miss experience while in the Azores. Visitors across a number of tours were complimentary of their knowledgeable guides, some of whom are marine biologists, as well as the crew. Additionally, many were happy to report that they saw a number of dolphins and whales during their trip.
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