Terra Nostra Garden is one of the most beautiful garden parks in Portugal and, in my opinion, in the world. This 18th century park was created by American consul who brought different plants from all over the world into the island. Today, Terra Nostra has small lakes with large carps, hot water streams, colorful and exotic flowers, vegetation and trees, as well as century old trees of great botanical value. Located in the volcanically active town of Furnas, the park also features a natural thermal water pool where you can relax in hot water.
The Azores are becoming increasingly recognized as one of the world’s best-kept secrets and Terra Nostra Garden is a true jewel in these islands. In this garden, there are not only magnificent trees and beautiful flower gardens, but also architectonically and aesthetically designed paths and water canals wherein swims the golden Koi carps.
In the garden, you can find flora typical of the Azores, as well as numerous plants native to countries with climates that are completely different to that of the Furnas town. The shared experience of Terra Nostra’s gardeners is the reason for the successful adaptation of various plants, species and varieties to the existing conditions of the garden. The number of species has been increasing ever since the garden was founded. Today, there are over two hundred year old trees, huge number of different flowers and plants, like hydrangeas, lilies, azaleas, ferns, rhododendrons, magnolias and camellia – you name it. It is a heaven on earth – and if you are gardener – a floral wonderland.
Terra Nostra was founded by Thomas Hickling, a wealthy merchant from Boston, who became an American Consul in São Miguel around 1775. Originally he designed the place to be his summer cottage – which still stands today next to the thermal pool and is known as the Yankee Hall. An English oak planted by Hickling himself can be seen today next to his ‘summer cottage’. Since Hickling’s times, many great gardeners and garden architects from different parts of the world have been part of creating this enormous garden during the last two centuries. Plants and trees from all around the world were planted and water gardens were built – including the serpentine canal and grottoes – producing this heaven on Earth.
The peerless beauty of this garden is the result of the current owners – the Bensaude family’s taste and the expertise of the current head gardener. Over the past two decades, the owners continued to enrich Terra Nostra’s botanical value by acquiring new plant species. This constant concern to diversify and enrich the existing flora ensures that the garden has – now and in the future- large collections and beds with plants of major historical and cultural value.
Although there are no endemic birds or beasts in the Azores, some fauna can still be found in Terra Nostra. Beautiful black swans can be seen nesting in the garden’s small ponds. The giant koi carps are easy to spot swimming in the serpentine canal winding beneath the palm trees and big ferns. The collection of different topiary animals puts smile to the face of the visitor.
The area of Furnas has its own microclimate which can be associated with the volcanic soil and the existence of innumerable hydric resources. This enables and encourages the vegetable adaptation and great floral diversity. Volcanism is present in all the smallest details of the life of this small settlement. The great number of volcanic springs and waterways makes Furnas one of the most active thermal locations on Earth.
The garden has a number of different possible pathways that lead you to the next enchanting spot. The passion of the gardeners can be seen and felt in the atmosphere of this two hundred years old garden. The countless plant species and the gentle Atlantic climate make the garden of Terra Nostra wonderful to visit any time of the year.
The Thermal Water Pools are always one of those special experiences in the Azores. The thermal spring supplying the pool in Terra Nostra, at a temperature of 35-40 degrees Celsius, provides of the best ways to restore one’s energy and relax in this mystical natural surroundings. The unique sensation of soaking in thermal waters charged with minerals at Terra Nostra is a sensation available at very few locations in the world.
3 Tips for Terra Nostra
- Be sure to take the garden map at the entry – you will need it when being lost
- Reserve enough time to explore the garden – you can spend the whole day here
- If you are exhausted after visiting the huge garden, spend the night in the four star Terra Nostra Garden Hotel