Monte Palace Tropical Garden. Funchal, Portugal
Madeira Island (Portuguese archipelago) is certainly not the place where you will spend time for buildings and museums. Having come here, you would definitely want to climb deeper into the dizzying mountains, wander along the amazing, rugged edge of the surf, study the ancient relict forests, expecting that you are about to stumble upon the cave of a prehistoric man. However, the Monte Palace is an exception. The palace and the tropical garden of Monte are worthy of your visit! This is a unique place in Madeira, which refers not to natural, but to man-made attractions.
The Monte Palace Tropical Garden is located on the top of Mount Monte, the slopes of which are densely built up by the city houses of Funchal, the main city and the seaport of the island of Madeira. The garden occupies an area of 70.000 square meters. The well-tended and harmoniously arranged Tropical Garden of the Monte Palace is a large multi-level park of amazing beauty. Surprising and rare for this area plants brought from all over the world grow here, for example, heather from Scotland, azaleas from Belgium, laurels from the Canary Islands.
The garden offers its visitors not only to admire the collection of exotic vegetation, but also to get to know the animals living here. Walking through the park you can meet elegant peacocks, brought from Lisbon, the Tropical Garden of Belém, and fighting cocks from Indonesia, chickens, known as Combat Cock, brought from Indonesia, Capped-Heron and ducks. There are two very beautiful artificial lakes surrounded by walking paths, which were inhabited by rare species of fish, and you can even see Japanese carps (Koi fish). By the way, such majestic birds as black and white swans also swim on the surface – they like the shallow cool water of lakes – quite favorable conditions similar to their natural habitat. Black swans personify Australia and New Zealand, and the white ones represent Iceland and Scandinavia.
But not only the living creatures will attract your attention. All manner of stones, marble figures of dragons, ancient emblems and coats of arms, intricate niches and pagodas, sculptures and figures of Buddhas, lanterns from different parts of the world give a special piquancy to the park. Here you can see a collection of ceramic tiles of the 15-20th centuries, as well as a quaint panel of 166 terracotta tiles called “The Adventures of the Portuguese in Japan.” A water fortress with water cannons that emits streams of water into the surrounding lake looks fantastic and sends us to the Italian theme in the garden. Grottoes, gutters with streams of water, waterfalls and cascades – a wonderful water extravaganza in the park! Japanese and African motifs dominate, but the mixing of cultures of different countries is everywhere.
The palace of Monte deserves a separate mention. The palace was built in the 18th century, and in the 19th century this place became one of the most fashionable for a secluded rest. This is a three-storey building which is an architectural dominant garden. Over the whole history of its existence the building managed to change many owners; at the moment here is the Berardo Foundation – an organization that deals with the conservation and development of the garden, named after the last owner entrepreneur José Manuel Rodrigues Berardo. But in addition, it is a museum, on two floors of which there are exhibited sculptures, and on the third – a collection of minerals from different corners of the world. For example, the exhibition “African Passion” is famous for the modern sculptures of Zimbabwe (1966-1969). The exhibition “Mother Nature Secrets” demonstrates one of the best collections of minerals from Brazil, Portugal, South Africa, Zambia, Peru, Argentina.
The favorite tourist attraction on the territory of the Monte Palace is a natural observation deck at an altitude of 600 m. It offers a magnificent view on Funchal and the leaden- azure Atlantic Ocean. Walking along the terraces you can go to the park cafe and taste the local drinks, enjoying the view of the palace. The garden is so diverse and multifaceted that you will certainly want to come back here again to open new corners, to examine all the details and just rest from daily routine.