13 Jan Review of Bespoke Intermittent Fasting, HIIT, Yoga and Thermal Spa Retreat in Furnas, Azores Islands, Portugal
Location: Furnas Boutique Hotel & Thermal Spa
Organised by: Longevity Escapes
I really needed a wonderful week to reboot and escape into nature! I had no idea that the Azores were going to be so beautiful! A tailored made break created by Longevity Escapes was just incredible, from the food, detox daily juice, yoga and HIIT, I was made to feel special every step of the way! Longevity Escapes handled all my bookings so all I needed to do was pack my bag and go forth and enjoy! The hiking dips, swimming in wild waters and daily relaxation in the hot spring waters and extensive spa was just what I needed to truly relax and take a step out of daily stressors we all juggle.
Furnas Boutique Hotel and Thermal Spa
Furnas Boutique hotel sits on the outside of the village of Furnas on the Eastern side of the island of São Miguel in the Portuguese Azores. It is nestled under the rolling green pastures and the backdrop of the Azores mountains. The hotel was renovated in 2015 and reflects the nature that surrounds it. This begins as you enter the lobby with a constant feeling of being in nature the whole stay. You will love the floor to ceiling photo of a local waterfall. This is a token of how the hotel embraces the beauty of the environment which is further reflected in the green tones used throughout the hotel.
The village of Furnas lies inside a volcanic crater which boasts the largest geothermal springs in Europe. This valley is also home to beautiful Botanical Gardens. Just 50 kms from Ponta Delgada you are transported to a sense of New Zealand skies and a blend of tropical Singapore!
I arrived in one of the wildest storms the island had had all summer and with the rain battering down I was given the warmest of welcomes by the Hotel Manager and his team. This was my first time ever in a wellness holiday at a hotel on my own. However, given the charm of all the staff members keen to make your stay as comfortable as possible whether at the restaurant, at the spa or by the room service, it couldn’t have been any better. No task too great whether we tried to sort the air conditioning in the gym or provide me with extra lemon slices in my room! Sometimes it’s hard with a masked face and only eyes to communicate warmth but the Boutique Hotel team surpassed all these boundaries and gave me nothing short of a royal welcome!
Exploration and Adventure in Sao Miguel
Seated at the glass table in the Reception is the infamous NuNu the Azores, the safari Guru with an outstanding local knowledge for what to do. Whether you wish to hike, seek dolphins or Sperm whales, mountain bike or kayak, he is your man! His enthusiasm and tenacity is limitless and quick to get the measure of you and pick up a trail and send me off for the day! Backpack with a cold pressed juice in one pouch and lemon water in the other, I was sure to remain hydrated! Delicious brunch individually wrapped by Alexis deliciousness beyond all expectations. Local honey and Greek yogurt, overnight cinnamon Oats, the famous Azores pineapple and their handmade sweet potato crisps. It was always a great treat to pause for my picnic and discover the menu of the day using local ingredients, organic vegetables and herbs. It all tasted all the better: lakeside or nestled by a waterfall.
I was so lucky to be supported by the local Taxi team set up by Nu Nu. They tailored my days which took away all stress and meant I could get to the right place to start a mountain trail and simply a text message to be picked up. Sometimes helped out by kind locals hanging out in their village bar to guide the taxi back to find me! I never felt worried or lost. Everyone is so friendly and happy to help you find your way.
Thermal Spa and Wellness Sessions
The spa is the inner sanctuary of the Boutique Hotel and the staff are highly professional and gifted. Keen to always ensure you are comfortable at all times. The Spa and fitness facilities comprise a thermal spa with own spring iron waters up to 40º and muds sourced at the site, and an outdoor thermal pool (heated in winter), an indoor dynamic thermal pool, an active thermal circuit, body treatment rooms, reflexology and a float bed.
My wellness package included my own personal trainer and yoga – all organised by Longevity Escapes. My mornings began with the vibrant energy of Hugo who put me through my paces in the gym with a 45 minute bespoke HIIT workout. So much fun and a wonderful way to start my day. I was also given two gorgeous yoga sessions with Carol. She is a wonderful yogini, with a great energy and spirit. The last morning and under sunny morning skies, we had a beautiful yoga session on the Furnas rooftop garden.
The spa menu is based on local ingredients: sea salt scrubs and scented oils. I was taken into candle lit rooms beautifully scented with Ylang Ylang aromatherapy oil and treated to a body scrub and a lymphatic massage. Each treatment begins with the welcome foot scrub using lavender oil and sea salt. Then your feet are cocooned into hot towels simply heavenly after a long day on the trails.
The body scrub was an invigorating exfoliation with natural ingredients from the São Miguel island: sea salt and herbs, seaweed and Gorreana green tea, sugar and spices. The oil base in the scrub leaves your skin glowing and after a warm shower to rinse off the scrub, a herbal tea awaits you whilst reclining on a relaxing bed.
A lymphatic massage is a wonderful way to begin a week of detox. It helps unblock and encourage the body’s natural ability to detoxify and boost immunity. Light rhythmic movements improve drainage and leave you feeling lighter and deeply relaxed.
I loved the treatments so much that I had to book the famous Furnas Power, a 90 minute pure indulgence. I chose a late evening booking so I could then fall into bed having eaten early to really benefit from this treatment. This is a top tip as the spa closes at 9pm so any relaxation treatment I would strongly recommend you book in advance and enjoy at the end of your day. Especially if you have been on one of the great island hiking trails!
The massage ritual begins with a clay wrap and then moves into a volcanic hot stones massage to boost your energy and mood. The massage oil is warmed so it really gets deep into your muscles and leaves you feeling truly pampered.
Bespoke Food and Nourishment
Practicing intermittent fasting, I was provided with a gluten free vegetarian menu with a cold pressed daily juice. The award winning sous chef Alexis was passionate and so willing to get the week perfect for me. Longevity Escapes provided a healthy brunch menu but he had also done his own research to come up with different ideas with flair!
The food and stunning garden restaurant is very much at the heart of this hotel. As you pass through reception or enter the spa, delicious free flowing locally grown green tea or scented water awaits you to hydrate. It adds to a sense of being nourished and cleansing the soul too! Sitting in the relaxed garden restaurant with green hanging baskets and a glass roof, makes your senses alive and you feel you are truly at one with nature.
The menu features diverse dishes using locally sourced ingredients from the sea or land, and steamed in the volcanic earth or in their wood fired oven. I decided to explore the local fish famed for its superior taste which was served alongside a basket of locally sourced nutritious organic vegetables. Everything tasted so good and was beautifully presented in earthen pots or wooden platters, which made all meals more enjoyable!
The sous Chef Alexis spent the first morning with me going over meal ideas, detailing ingredients that he had managed to source despite being on such a small island far away from the usual access to health food shops. I was so touched he had created his own Oat and Peanut gluten free bread so delicious in texture and high in protein, that it became one of my favourite staples whilst exploring the island.
Given my experience, I have no doubt the hotel can cater for all dietary requirements as they are so willing to learn and experiment. I was looked after so well each brunch. As a surprise, one of my favourites has to be the courgette fritters with a yoghurt herb dip and the gluten free banana pancakes drizzled with local honey and finely chopped with seasonal fruits! A healthy real treat!
Will I Return?
Travelling alone, I loved to spend my evenings dipping in and out of the hot volcanic waters and enjoying a few lengths of the outside pool. Then back into the sauna or steam room. But nothing was as deeply relaxing as floating around in a fluffy white dressing gown which is even allowed in the restaurant in the daytime.
With the support of Furnas Boutique hotel and Longevity Escapes, my 7 nights were really memorable. I left revived, detoxed (no caffeine or alcohol for me!), and more importantly, reset after what has been for us all a truly challenging 18 months living the dance of lockdown life. I love my work but it is a privilege to be able to take stock, take the time to reset and to step out of daily life.
The Azores surpassed all expectations. I truly had no idea the island was going to be so breathtaking and so diverse. I could begin a day at sea level and end up 2000m above with outstanding views across the Atlantic or finding a hidden waterfall to dip in or hike to a freshwater lake. I loved seeing the cows on the high pastures so rich in the diversity of the flora and fauna. The sound of bird songs filled my hikes and the hydrangeas flowers the size of footballs lined the pathways of my mountain adventures. A sense of another hidden gem was always just around the corner!
Will I be back? Oh yes!
Susie R. from UK (Travelled in September 2021)