• 10/11/2020 3:13 PM
  • João

Fly4free hotel review: Terra Nostra Garden Hotel, São Miguel, Azores

On our recent holidays we spent a few days on the wonderful São Miguel Island and stayed at Terra Nostra Garden Hotel, one of the ex-libris of Vale das Furnas. Check out our experience!

Disclaimer: The reservation was paid for in full by us and in order to keep the experience as genuine as possible and the hotel was not informed about our intention of preparing this article at any time..

The Hotel

Open since 1935, Terra Nostra Garden Hotel is one of the icons of the Azores, with 86 rooms and divided into two wings. The architecture is influenced by an art deco style, evident at all times, both in the oldest wing, which dates back to 1935, as well as in the most recent one, from the 90s. In 2013 the hotel underwent a thorough renovation, having been reopened in early 2014, with wellness and event spaces added. To reach Terra Nostra, located at Vale das Furnas, an approximately 30-minute drive from Ponta Delgada is required. The access is good and is properly marked, which is very important given that the traffic inside Furnas is often made through narrow and one way streets. The hotel has an exclusive car park for guests.

We arrived at the hotel around 22:00 and were greeted at the entrance by a member of the staff who took our temperature. Then we were kindly taken to the reception area, where we started the check-in process. At this moment, the hygiene and safety rules in place were explained to us, as well as the possibility to access the Terra Nostra Gardens and the Geothermal Pool and jacuzzis, which are part of the hotel complex. The guests have 24 hour access to all these facilities.

The Room

We went off on a good start. An upgrade: instead of a “Standard Cozy Art Deco” room, we were offered a “Deluxe Garden View”, the most premium room type if you don’t consider the Suite. As it was already late and because this editor sometimes does not know very well what he is doing, I cannot explain if the upgrade was a courtesy of the hotel, operational issues related to Covid-19 or if it had to do with the fact that I am a Gold member of one of the biggest OTA’s – which has guaranteed us many times better rooms than we had booked.

As you can see in the photos, the room is quite large, with a seating area, comfortable bed and a private terrace overlooking the gardens. The bathroom was perfectly sized and the amenities were of excellent quality.

A negative aspect that we have to mention was that after taking the card out of the typical slot to activate the lights, we had to call the reception to activate the air conditioning in the central system. It is not an extremely uncomfortable situation, but we have never seen this policy in place before.

Outdoor Area & Pools

The name Terra Nostra Garden Hotel makes perfect sense, because in this case it is not a hotel with a garden. It is a garden with a hotel. And calling it “garden” is doesn’t quite do it justice. Just check the photos:

Parque Terra Nostra is an incredible botanical garden, with a wide variety of rare flora, endemic to the Azores but also native to other places, adapted to the unique climate of Furnas by the maintenance team. It is a spectacular place for a walk in the middle of nature.

It is also in the Park that you can find the iconic and instagrammable Geothermal Water Pool. Fed by volcanic water, with a temperature around 38 ° C-40 ° C. After check in, staff informed us that guests had 24 hour access to the entire complex. We went to the room, put on the robes (very stylish by the way), and off we went to the pool, around 10:30 pm. After a 3 minute walk through the garden, you go up a stone staircase and come across the huge pool and fountains spewing thermal water, rich in iron and other highly “beneficial minerals for the skin “.

It goes without saying that we slept relaxed, very relaxed. In addition to the huge pool, there are also two jacuzzis, much smaller and private, which are equally pleasant. According to locals, “in September it’s good, but when it is cold and rainy it’s even better”. And we totally believe them.

It should be noted that both the Park and the Pool are open to the general public, but tickets are only sold between 10:30 and 16:30. In other words, outside of these hours, the entire Park is available exclusively to hotel guests. Most of the time we were at the Pool and jacuzzis, we were alone.

The hotel also offers a wellness area with a nice indoor pool, which is usually empty. Wonder why…

Restaurants & Meals

Breakfast at Terra Nostra Garden is served at the hotel’s restaurant, “TN” between 7:30 and 10:30. Due to current restrictions, we were asked to reserve a specific time in order to avoid crowds. We ended up booking for 9:30.

Breakfast is served à la carte. The juice of the day, the fruit of the day, the eggs of the day and the dessert of the day (yes, we were entitled to dessert for breakfast) all change daily. The “backbone” of the meal consists of an excellent variety of bread / croissants, cheeses and cold meats.

We always chose the orange juice and juice of the day, yogurt with granola (very good by the way) and the fruit of the day. In the 3 days of our stay, we were served scrambled eggs with chorizo, mushrooms and bacon omelet, poached eggs with avocado and butarga (in addition to these, scrambled, fried and poached eggs etc were always available on request). Dessert ranged from chocolate cake with doce de ovos, pancakes with maple syrup and – our favorite – sautéed orange in olive oil, honey and nuts. We were extremely impressed, not only with the breakfast and the quality of the ingredients, but also with the extreme professionalism and knowledge of the staff.

In addition to breakfast, we decided to have lunch at the hotel in one of the days. Being in Furnas, it would be almost criminal not to taste the dish that bears the name of the region. And, apparently, the place where they serve the best Cozido das Furnas is exactly in the TN Restaurant. Curiously we scheduled the meal on the same day that we visited the Fumarolas of Lagoa das Furnas, at which locals and restaurants in the region use to cook this delicacy, and we ended up seeing the sign that marked the hole where our stew was being cooked.

But let’s move on to the piece de resistance: The Cozido das Furnas (Furnas Stew). It was exceptional. It is presented in a simple way, just as a Cozido das Furnas should be and the jus comes in a teapot, being served by the staff according to the desired quantity. The quality of the ingredients was superb and the amount was generous. In addition, it is possible to repeat as many times as you wish, something that this editor did not do, because he was completely stuffed (and wanted to try the dessert). His lovely lady, who doesn’t even eat a lot, liked the beef so much that she asked for another piece. One of the staff members immediately took care of the request, with an expression of almost pride that amused me a lot.

And then came the desserts: We ordered “Chocolate” and “Carrot”. “Chocolate” consisted of a chocolate semifreddo with praline and ice cream. What flavour? You guessed it…chocolate. It was good, but not amazing.

The “Carrot”… oh the “Carrot”, a wonderful dessert, which consisted of a spiced crumble with sponge cake and a carrot cream with mascarpone that left us wondering if we should ask for one more to repeat. We didn’t, but it was hard to resist. Very hard.

The Service

We already “spoiled” this part a bit, but the service in general was absolutely exceptional, with special mention to the restaurant staff with great professionalism, friendliness and knowledge of all products and the region. No flaws whatsoever.

Final Thoughts

The Terra Nostra Garden Hotel is the perfect example that the stars often don’t tell the whole story. The art deco architecture is very interesting, the hotel is extremely well preserved, the staff is ultra-professional, the rooms are comfortable (despite that air conditioning thing) and the meals we had at the TN Restaurant were fantastic. However, what truly distinguishes this unit from all the competition is the exterior surroundings such as the Park, the Geothermal Water Pool (and the 24h access to them). It may be officially a 4 *, but if we didn’t know, we would consider it easily a 5 * hotel.

Also important: the price is very attractive.

Main photo: Fly4free
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