Often referred to as the floating garden of the Atlantic, Portugal’s Madeira Island is famed for its natural beauty. With six different climate zones, the island offers a unique environment for plants from around the world to grow and flourish.
Despite its size, Madeira has a wealth of majestic scenery. Rent a car and discover the charms and hidden corners of the lush forests and stunning mountains. While most of the island has been set aside as a nature preserve, there are also many other more manicured green spaces, found in the gardens and parks throughout the island. These carefully maintained areas exhibit a vast array of flowers, plants and trees and in 2000, the capital city of Funchal received recognition as a European Flowering City for its stunning gardens.
Madeira Botanical Garden: Located one mile from the center of Funchal, the botanical garden benefits from the exceptional growing conditions on the south side of the island. More than 2,000 exotic plants from all over the world grow here in the garden’s 41,000 square yards of land. Because of the destruction of plant and animal habitats all over the world, the garden has also become a center for scientific study in the defense of endangered plant species. Make sure to look beyond the flowers and shrubs while at the botanical gardens and enjoy the sweeping views of the city and bay.
Monte Palace Tropical Garden: Curated by the José Berardo Foundation, Funchal‘s Quinta Monte Palace is home to plants from all over the world. Visitors will find a collection of more than 100,000 species including azaleas, heather and a wide variety of ferns.
Orchid Garden: This Funchal garden with more than 50,000 plants features an orchid jungle unlike any in Europe. Visitors can see beautiful flowers year round and horticulture enthusiast will enjoy the unique plants created by innovative cross-breeding.
Palheiro Gardens: The Palheiro Gardens has plenty to offer sight-seers, with spacious lawns, lakes and panoramic views of Funchal. The gardens also have some of the rarest and most valuable exotic plants in the world.
Quinta das Cruzes Garden: This Funchal garden is located in a park adjacent to the Quinta das Cruzes Museum. Boasting a wide range of local and exotic plants, the site also draws visitors for its history, dating to the sixteenth century.
Quinta da Boa Vista Gardens: This estate has areas devoted to South American bromeliads, Australian martinetes and African aloes. The main attraction, however, is the 20-year-old orchid exhibition. From December to May, the orchid houses are a riot of colors. Cymbidiums, Paphipedilums (slipper orchids) and Lycastes are all on display. During the rest of the year, the estate gardens feature a superb collection of hybrids and exquisite species.
Quinta do Arco Rose Garden: This estate features one of the largest collections of rosebushes in Portugal, with of more than 1,000 different varieties. The gardens are designed in both old and modern styles and include climbing and non-climbing roses. The rarest and most important species are marked with their names and classes.
Municipal Garden: The Funchal Municipal Garden, also known as Dona Amélia Garden, has beautiful specimens native to Madeira, as well as plant species from the rest of the world. Visitors looking to learn about Madeira’s different plant varieties can do so here, with the help of marked displays.
Funchal Ecological Park: This park covers about four square miles, climbs high in altitude and offers a glimpse at the island’s various climates. The considerable differences in altitude and the park’s many rivers, streams and ponds provide a wide variety of indigenous flora. Trees such as the “stink” laurel, (Ocotea foetens), Madeira mahogany (Persea indica) and Canary laurel (Apollonias barbujana) are found here. Shrubs also thrive in the higher areas of the park, with a predominance of tree heath and Madeira bilberry (Vaccinium padifolium).
Ribeiro Frio Forest Park: Located nine miles from Funchal, the Ribeiro Frio, or Cold River, is known for its beautiful gardens where plants and trees live side by side in perfect harmony. A variety of rare and native plants thrive here. Visitors and natives alike enjoy taking a relaxing walk through the park. Savor the fantastic views of the deep valley of Ribeiro do Faial and the rocky amphitheatre of Maciço Central. For the more adventurous, try the trail to the Pico Ruivo, the highest peak on the island.
Queimadas Forest Reserve: Queimadas is an isolated spot ideal for a picnic or walk. Travel west from the scenic town of Santana until the road quickly turns into a rough mountain track. This trail leads through gorse bushes, hydrangeas and wild flowers into a lush forest. Along your hike, fields of flowers and traditional houses will welcome you.
Madeira’s Flower Festival - April
Every April, the main streets of Funchal are filled with colorful floats displaying the diverse array of flowers found across the island. On the eve of the parade, thousands of children gather in Praça do Município to create a floral “Wall of Hope,” building it one blossom at a time. Visitors to Funchal in April will also find locals making carpets of flowers in the streets and performing old folk tales. Visit the many flower shows, music concerts and variety shows that accompany this festive event.