The volcanic cave Algar do Carvão and Furnas do Enxofre on Terceira (Azores)
Life on Terceira was relaxing and stress-free for us. The islanders love to organise barbecues and we had many interesting and pleasant conversations with the locals in the picnic areas of Terceira on the weekends, which often seem very American to me. Many Azoreans have lived in Canada or the USA for a while.
With enormous force,
the liquid rock shoots up,
looks for a new way out of the interior,
is massively blocked shortly before leaving the earth
and then opens the unstable flank of the volcano
with explosive force
to create new land.
The interior of the island is even more tranquil than the coast. In the fantastic landscape formed by imposing volcanic cones and lushly wooded mountain ranges, there are virtually no settlements. Instead, there is an almost-untouched natural landscape and an outstanding sight, the volcanic cave Algar do Carvão, one of the few places on our planet where you can climb relatively deep into the vent of a volcano. The volcano cave is part of the huge Caldeira Guilherme Moniz, the largest of the whole archipelago, but it is hardly recognisable as such today. It was formed about 3,200 years ago during the last eruption of the associated volcano about 2,000 years ago. Since the lava flowed back into the magma chamber very quickly after the eruption, the vent of the Strombolian volcano remained as a cave.
We climbed comfortably through a long tunnel into a cave with such black walls that we could immediately understands why it is called a coal chimney. At the end of the tunnel, you can see about 60 meters into the deep, where rainwater has accumulated into a small clear pond. A look upwards shows the ejection hole from which the last eruption of the volcano pressed the very thin lava. Now, as in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, you can descend all the way to the bottom and ask for friendly and complete information on the details of the cave from specialists standing by.
You will be informed about the occurrence of endemic plant and spider species, but the latter are almost invisible to the naked eye. Furthermore you can admire geologically interesting stalactites and stalagmites.
Although there is hardly anything exciting to see in this volcano cave for non-experts, our children were impressed and enthusiastic, and they have been especially interested in volcanoes since their visit.
Only a short drive away from the Algar do Carvão, there is another highlight, the Furnas do Enxofre, which belongs geologically to the volcanic system Pico Alto and in which some volcanic activity is still visible. We walked comfortably from the visitor parking lot on small paths and wooden footbridges around a small crater, from which steams vent out of different places. Carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide gas are released here that are so hot and so extensive that you should never leave the designated paths.
The path can be walked in half an hour comfortably, and again and again you have a beautiful view into the unique landscape of Terceiras.
Both activities are very well suited to showing the volcanic activity of the Azores to young children without taking a greater risk. We can therefore highly recommend that you visit these sites.
For the cave, you should bring warm clothes, even in summer. The path around the fumaroles can be a little muddy after rainfalls, and on Terceira, dirty rental cars are punished with additional cleaning costs. Therefore, an additional change of shoes could be useful on such days.
Algar do Carvão:
You can park your rental car comfortably at the visitor parking lot.
GPS: 38.728032, -27.216533
Daily from 2:45 pm to 5:45 pm
Daily from 3:00 pm to 5.30 pm
Entrance fee: € 4
Furnas do Enxofre:
A small parking lot is also available here.
GPS: 38.728931, -27.230866
Always open and free of charge.
Less than 10 minutes away from Furnas do Enxofre, you will find a nice picnic spot at a lake with many ducks (Lagoa das Patas). This place is also used by local families and it is easy to talk to them.
Gruta do Natal:
The lava cave Gruta do Natal, which is also worth a visit, is also almost within walking distance.