Visit Terra Nostra Park

Parque Terra Nostra São Miguel Açores Portugal - World to Explore Blog Viagem Roteiro Itinerário

Located on the stunning São Miguel Island in the Azores, specifically in the Furnas region, Terra Nostra Park is a true oasis of natural beauty, tranquility, and serenity. This park, which sprawls across a vast area with botanical gardens and breathtaking landscapes, is a real testament to the lush flora and fauna that the Azorean islands have to offer.

The park’s history 🌳

The Terra Nostra Park dates back to 1775 when Thomas Hickling, an American merchant from Boston who later became the Honorary Consul of the United States in São Miguel, fell in love with the Furnas region and decided to create a perfect relaxation retreat that continues to charm visitors to the island even today. Thomas had a wooden house known as Yankee Hall built along with a garden featuring numerous trees and vegetation, including a large water tank with a small island in the middle.

In 1848, the park’s land was eventually purchased by the Viscount of Praia, who, in 1854, built the current park house on the exact location where Yankee Hall used to stand. The Viscountess had a passion for gardening, and the couple decided to expand the original two hectares of the park by adding a stunning garden with lakes, shady avenues, and flowerbeds. After the Viscount’s death in 1872, his son and main heir, the Marquis of Praia and Monforte, beautified the park house and presented an ambitious landscaping project that included various water channels, caves, as well as numerous avenues and pathways with plant species from different parts of the world such as North America, Australia, New Zealand, China, and South Africa. The current heir continued to expand the park’s land, but because the adjacent area was fragmented into small parcels with multiple owners, the land acquisition process became quite lengthy.

The park’s expansion was completed in 1890, marking the apex of gardening in the Azores. Renowned figures such as António Borges, José do Canto, and José Jácome Correia were competing to create the most beautiful gardens with the best collections of rare plant species during that time.

Around the twenties of the 20th century, due to the death of the Viscounts, the park began to deteriorate. In 1935, the Terra Nostra Hotel, located on adjacent land, opened its doors to the public, and a few years later, the entire park property was acquired by the Terra Nostra Society, led by Vasco Bensaude. An enthusiast of botany, he was the main figure responsible for bringing the Scottish gardener John Mclnroy, who supervised the restoration of the Terra Nostra Park. During this restoration period, more land was added to the property, giving the park its current configuration and size, covering approximately 12.5 hectares, equivalent to 130,000 square meters. In this two-year restoration phase, several attractions were renewed, including the park’s house, the thermal water tank, which was expanded and lined with stonework, many of the pathways, and new plantings were added.

In the 1930s, the park reopened its doors to the public, and the Furnas region gained great fame as a thermal center. However, at the end of the decade, World War II began, causing a sharp decline in the number of visitors. Nevertheless, both the hotel and the park remained carefully maintained, preserving their original elegance. At that time, the Azores archipelago was relatively unknown to the rest of the world. However, as the 1970s arrived, the island’s charms and lush landscapes began to be discovered. In 1989, Filipe Bensaude, the son of Vasco Bensaude, decided to renovate the garden once again and entrusted the work to horticulturist David Sayers, who collaborated with Richard Green. This duo undertook the park’s restoration and decided to add new tree species and shrubs to keep the place unique for many years to come.

Today, Terra Nostra Park is one of the main attractions on São Miguel and continues to enrich its botanical heritage by acquiring new plant species. As a result, the park boasts extensive collections and gardens with plants of significant historical and cultural value. One notable collection is its world-renowned camellia collection, which includes over 600 species.

A visit to the park

Visiting Terra Nostra Park can take approximately 2 to 4 hours, depending on the chosen route and whether you wish to take a bath in the thermal pool. At the entrance, you will receive a park map with various paths that lead to the main garden attractions, including the Park House, camellia and fern collections, Palm Avenue, and Ginkgo Avenue.
The Thermal Water Pool at Terra Nostra Park is a large “pool” located at the rear of the park’s main house, filled with volcanic water from hot springs at a constant temperature ranging from 35 to 40ºC (95 to 104ºF). The water has a peculiar dark brown color and is so rich in iron and other minerals that it’s not possible to see the bottom. This water is highly beneficial for the skin. The pool is undoubtedly a highlight for those who visit these gardens, providing a unique sensation of rest and relaxation that few places in the world can match. Despite the water’s appearance, which may seem “dirty,” I assure you that the experience is well worth it!
I visited the park two years in a row and both times, I chose to enter the pool and relax in the warm water. There are restrooms near the pool, but the control is relatively tight, as there is usually someone at the entrance who doesn’t allow backpacks with changing clothes. However, the park has a lot of vegetation around, providing opportunities for changing with some privacy.
Points to consider when visiting the park: 
  • Pay attention to the swimwear you choose because the minerals in the water can really stain the fabric, and it’s challenging to clean afterward.
  • Since there are no changing rooms or shower facilities, it’s better to visit the garden area first and then take a dip in the pool.
  • Bring a towel to dry off when you exit the pool, but keep in mind that it will get dirty and, like your swimwear, can be challenging to clean.
🏷️ Prices:
  • Adults: 10,00€
  • Children aged 3 to 10 years: 5,00€
  • Children up to 2 years old: Free
Opening hours:
  • 10:30h to 4:30h (but it varies depending on the season, with closing at 6:00h in the summer)

With thermal water springs, mineral-rich steaming pools, and natural vegetation, Terra Nostra Park is a truly enchanting retreat that provides visitors with a unique experience of immersing themselves in nature. It is the perfect place to relax, explore trails, and be amazed by some of the best landscapes the Azores have to offer. You absolutely must visit Terra Nostra Park when exploring São Miguel Island! ❤️

Furthermore, if you are nature enthusiasts, you also have the option to explore Grená Park located nearby. To check out all the blog articles about the Azores, click here. Also, be sure to follow World to Explore’s Instagram page to stay updated on new article releases.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *