Monte Tropical Gardens, Madeira
Just above Funchal City, "My favourite place," says Mark Blezard.
Open to the general public since 1991, Monte Tropical Gardens is a great day out, and best accessed via the cable car from the "old town," give yourself most of the day from start to finish.
Also, if it is a cool day in Funchal, take a jumper or extra layer as not only is it cooler up in Monte but most of the walks are shaded by the exotic plants.
However, Monte Tropical Gardens are so much more than just "gardens." Throughout the maze of walks you will find a subtle exhibition of tiles representing several eras and coming from palaces, churches, chapels and private houses throughout the former Portuguese empire. Add to this a museum of African sculpture, a magnificent former home, statues, peacocks, to mention just a few features....!
Mark Blezard says, " The Monte Palace Madeira occupies an area of 70.000 square meters."
The African Museum of sculpture is amazing and included with your entrance fee to the gardens.
You don't have to be a fan of African art to enjoy the exhibits and the fantastic effort in display.
In 1988 José Berardo donated the Monte Palace to the José Berardo Foundation to ensure its preservation. During a trip to China & Japan, José Berardo became enchanted by their history, culture, and way of life and by the influence of the Portuguese on the Orient over 200 years. As such, the two oriental gardens are an attempt to recreate that culture, linked to Buddhism, with its respect for Nature and its highly symbolic elements.