Signature checks in to… Furnas Lake Villas
Furnas Lake Villas is one of the only luxury properties on São Miguel, the largest island in the Azores. A two-hour flight from the mainland of Portugal, finding luxury amid the plush yet rugged landscape is a welcome surprise. Family-owned and -operated, Manuel and Helena Camera, along with their daughters and a small staff, pride themselves on welcoming guests to their beloved home as if they are long lost friends. Meals are prepared with love and the simple amenities are more than what one needs to enjoy themselves on this magical island.
Traveller: Lindsay Ridenour of Compass + Twine
Room: Japanese Cedar Villa
Address: Estrada Regional do Sul, Lagoa das Furnas, 9675-090 Furnas, Portugal
Date: October 2017
Best for: Understated, design-forward luxury that embraces the beautiful nature and sustainable spirit for which the Azores is so famous.
The Signature factor
Often times, an over-the-top amenity like a grand chandelier or multi-thousand-square-metre spa stands out at a property as the signature feature. However, at Furnas Lake Villas, that special attribute is the family. Miguel and Helena take time with their guests to make sure they’re enjoying their stay and getting the most out the beautiful, nature-driven experience. From a personal tour of the property on their old Land Rover to an incredible cozido cooking experience over the natural hot springs, the Cameras’ goal is to show you the best their beloved Azores has to offer.
Situated on 90 enchanting hectares of land across from Furnas Lake, the property comprises nine Japanese Cedar Villas and one farmhouse called the Chestnut House, which is perfect for a family or large group. The main common space includes the dining room with outdoor terrace, living room-style lounge area, and a bar space outfitted with local wines, as well honey and jams all made on property. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors bring the outside in, with views of the lush property at every turn.
A tree-lined street leads you to the entrance to Furnas Lake Villas and purple hydrangeas frame the gravel driveway. You first notice the sleek mix of Scandinavian design and Japanese cedar material used within the main building. Clean, simple lines and minimal but lovely decor are the theme throughout the main house and each of the Japanese Cedar Villas where guests stay. This type of design allows the buildings to almost blend into their surroundings, allowing the beauty of nature to shine through.
Each Japanese Cedar Villa is decorated in a minimalist style. A kitchenette and modest living room open onto simply appointed bed and bathroom. The understated interior lets the jaw-dropping views of the Furnas Lake Villas property steal the show. Floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding glass doors flood the rooms with light, and each morning you’ll likely wake to the family’s two white horses grazing on the dewy grassy just steps away. Set on stilts above a moat-like water feature, ducks swim beneath the villas and their morning chatter serves as a wonderfully natural alarm to wake up and enjoy the day.
On my plate
An authentic Portuguese breakfast basket full of breads with honey and jam, meats and cheeses, fruit and yogurt is served in the dining room of Furnas Lake Villas each morning. For lunch or dinner, you’ll enjoy cozido, the signature dish of the Azores. With cozido, a protein of meat or fish is nestled atop a bed of vegetables and cooked for hours above one of the natural hot springs near Furnas Lake. Served with bread (and vino!) it’s a hearty, delicious meal that will sustain you all day while you explore the island.
I wish I could take home…
The honey! With several beehives on the property, Furnas Lake Villas makes and sells its own honey. Served each morning with bread and homemade jam, the ‘incense’ honey is some of the best you’ll ever taste. Rich and floral, the flavour is reminiscent of the sweet scent that lingers in the area surrounding Furnas Lake Villas.
A day spent lounging around the Furnas Lake Villas property is certainly a day well spent. Take an after-breakfast hike up to top of the mountain just steps from the villas, then indulge in a refreshing dip in the pool. Schedule a cozido cooking experience with Manuel and Helena and you’ll get to learn all about how the meal is prepared from start to finish. When it’s ready, join them at Furnas Lake to retrieve the boiling pot of deliciousness from the hot spring and enjoy your lunch al fresco on the patio. To walk off the hearty mid-day meal, take a walk around the lake then perhaps enjoy a nap on the daybed under the shadows of hydrangeas.
Manuel and Helena grew up on São Miguel and seem to know everyone, so planning your itinerary is easy with their help. Kayak in a volcanic crater with Didi of Azores Adventure Islands or hike the stunning Sete Cidades crater trail. Go for a swim in the ocean pool next to Bar Caloura, then feast on fresh fish and octopus salad at the beloved bar and restaurant. For more breathtaking scenery, stroll the path to Fire Lake and take in the incredible crater-laden landscape around you. At times in the Azores, you’ll feel as though you’re driving through in the Irish countryside with rolling green hills, then moments later you’ll pass through a lush jungle with vibrant plant life and you’ll swear you’re in Maui.
… there were direct flights from New York City. As of now, the only direct flight from the US is from Boston. However, beginning in May 2018, Delta will start a direct route to Ponta Delgada on São Miguel from NYC, making our Azorean dreams from true.
Where to find it
A two-hour flight from the mainland of Portugal or a four-hour flight from the East Coast of the USA, the easiest way to get there is certainly by plane. Once you’ve touched down in Ponta Delgada, the property is about a 40-minute drive to the opposite side of São Miguel island and minutes from the town of Furnas.
by Sarah Driggs and Lindsay Ridenour of Compass + Twine
Sarah Driggs and Lindsay Ridenour are the storytellers behind the NYC-based luxury travel blog, Compass + Twine. Follow along on Instagram @compassandtwine as they unearth some of the best hotels and travel experiences around the globe. From scenic landscapes to local cafés, they reveal the true character of a destination, always highlighting the best place to stay!