Madeira is a wonderful place for people who love flowers and plants. Thanks to its mild climate and its very fertile soil almost anything grows. The capital of Madeira has two botanical gardens, of which Monte Palace tropical gardens is one of the main tourist attractions of the island. The other botanical garden is the official scientific one, owned by the government. Many told me the Monte Palace garden was the one to see, but to be honest, it was bit of a disappointment to me. As many tourists we took the cable car from the seafront of Funchal to the Monte Palace tropical garden. You then have the option to take another cable car to the botanical garden or, as we did, hike to the other garden. So let’s start with my least favourite one.
Monte Palace Tropical Garden
This vast estate hoovering above the city of Funchal once belonged to the British consul and was later bought by Alfredo Guilherme Rodrigues. He built the big manor house, inspired by German castles. He turned it in a popular hotel, which closed in 1943. Only in 1987 it was bought and turned into the public gardens you can see today. Worth mentioning are the Cyads collection and some very old olive trees. The garden is lush and has some quite beautiful specimens in its collection (loved the tree ferns). But…as I said I was quite disappointed. The whole garden is cluttered with statues, pavilions, and a mishmash of constructions. For some this might add to the attraction of the garden, for me it took the charm away. I am aware many will disagree. So don’t hold back and have a stroll in the “oriental” gardens, or enjoy African art or mineral collection in one of the museums.
As I mentioned before you can make a nice hike between the two gardens of about 5 km. You walk through what was once a lush valley, but was destroyed by fire a few years ago. But the interesting part of the walk is to see how vigorous nature comes back after the distruction. Although the hike is not so far in distance, it contains some steep parts, so be prepared. Most of the walk is quite straightforward. But when you come back in the residential area you better check google maps to find the steep stairs that lead you towards the botanical garden.
Jardim Botânico da Madeira
After our hike from Monte Palace we arrived at the official botanical garden of Madeira. The Botanical garden of Madeira covers about 80.000m2 and has more then 2500 species, of which 200 that are home at the Madeira Archipel. Although there was already a botanical garden in Funchal in the 18th century, this particular garden opened in 1960. It’s also a scientific institute and even has a small natural history museum on its premises. In this terraced garden you can find different zones. The “Flore de Madeira” zone shows you the indigenous plants and gives you the chance to discover all the plants you saw on one of your hikes on the island. Quite impressive is the succulent and cacti collection. I also liked the agriculture part, where you can see all the crops and fruits they grow on the island. There is plenty to discover to keep you busy for a while and near the cable car entrance you can find a nice place to have a drink or a light meal during a short break.
Monte Palace Garden Info : https://montepalacemadeira.com
Botanical garden of Madeira : http://www.visitfunchal.pt/en/culture-and-heritage/parks-and-gardens/660-madeira-botanical-garden.html