I thought it might be nice to share some information about a recent trip I had to Madeira and some of the gardens that I visited in and around the capital, Funchal.
Madeira, situated a little north of the Canary Islands has a sub-tropical climate so is much greener than the main Canary Islands. It has long been famed for it’s lush growth and ability to grow a huge variety of plants.
Also know as the Madeira Botanical Garden. It was opened to the public in 1960 after previously being part of William Reid’s (founder of Reid’s Hotel) estate.
You can get to the garden via public bus but the most common way is by cable car ride from a station located a short walk from the Monte cable car station (the main cable car that you see leaving Funchal by the coast). You can buy a combined ticket for both cable cars and entrance to the garden at the Funchal cable car station.
The garden is steep, as is everything in Madeira, but in this case, particularly the entrance it is very steep and set over various terraces as you walk down the garden. Plan in a couple of breaks for the walk back up!
It is mainly famous for its dense bedding garden and fabulous views over the bay of Funchal. However there is a lot more to it and the cactus garden is notable, as is the tea house.
Monte Palace Tropical Garden
Situated right next to the Monte cable car station and worth doing in the same trip as Jardim Botanico before heading back into Funchal via a ride on the famous basket sleds.
First of all, it is huge, 70,000 sq metres and is terraced into the hillside. Again, you enter at the top and leave at the top. Easier going down that back up. It is an exotic garden with a far east feel to the bulk of it. It was first opened to the public in 1991 and was created by Jose Berado who was influenced by a trip to Japan and China.
Madeira is very proud of this garden and it is one of the main garden’s to visit on the ‘list’ along with the Jardim Botanico. At times I found it a bit overwhelming, so vast, so much planting, so much lush vegetation, so many ponds and so many Koi. I don’t for one minute say that is a bad thing, maybe it is one of those gardens you need to take more time over, or maybe, if possible, to visit more than once.
It is the most expensive of Madeira’s gardens to visit at 10 euros, plus factor in the cost of the cable car and potentially the wicker basket trip down towards Funchal (30 euros for two) and it is an expensive day out, but you need to see it, savor it and have an opinion on it.
Situated just up Avenue Do Infante, behind Santa Catarina park, heading towards the hotel district from the centre of Funchal is the garden of Quinta Viglia. It is the home of the President of the Regional Government and if he is not is residence then the garden gates are open and the public can visit for free.
A tiny chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows was founded on this site and in 1662 and the chapel has been incorporated into the presidential buildings. The gardens were remade between 1979 and 1982 and are maintained by staff from Jardim Botanico
It is the best free garden I have ever visited and a must if you go to Madeira. It is only small but is a great representation of a Madeiran garden and is so well kept and preserved. It also appears under-visited (I think I have been three times now and each time it feels quite private, which is a pleasant experience) and at the end of the garden a great terrace offers some stunning views over the harbour and bay of Funchal, even when it is raining (the subtropical climate means it does sometimes rain in Madeira.
Santa Catarina Public Park
A genuinely fantastic public park situated just on the rise of Avenue Do Infante out of Funchal. It offers amazing views of the bay and the municipal planting beds are filled with house plants from back home, amarylis, spider plants etc. In April, the stocks and calendular were in full blood like an English summers day.
As with Quinta Viglia (above) it is free to visit, (you can cash this in as an off-set for the price it cost you to visit Jardim Botanico and Monte Palace Garden, or visit them more than once).
When the sun comes out so do all the lizards which dawn the volcanic rock walls that flank the garden.