A complete guide to Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, Madeira
If you’re visiting the beautiful tropical island of Madeira and are planning a trip to the island’s capital, Funchal, you’re going to want to head up high up the mountainside to Monte. Funchal is an extremely picturesque town, best viewed from high up, so what better way to take in its beauty than heading up in a cable car to Monte Palace Tropical Gardens? The palace and garden area of Monte is one of the most popular things to do in Funchal, if not the whole of Madeira.
In this guide, we’ll provide all the information you’ll need to help plan your trip to Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, including how to get there, how long you should spend there, costs and what to see and do. Be sure to drop us a comment down below if you have any other tips and tricks!
What is Monte Palace Tropical Gardens?
Monte Palace Gardens is a vast, tropical garden located in the village of Monte, on Funchal’s mountainside. The garden as we know it today is a picturesque park that has a mix of both Asian and African inspired influences, giving it an enchanting façade that’s full of interesting plants. During your visit to Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, you’ll encounter Japanese-inspired gardens with traditional red bridges, Monte Palace itself, waterfalls, a river, statues, a museum, colourful tropical plants and various water features throughout the garden. It’s without a doubt a must-see attraction in Madeira.
This stunning estate has a lot of history, dating back to the ownership of an English consul in the 18th century. Around 100 years later, the estate was bought by a man named Alfredo Rodrigues, who built a mansion on the grounds that was later transformed into a hotel; Monte Palace Hotel.
When he passed away, the hotel was closed and taken over by José Berardo, who completely transformed the estate into this magnificent work of art that we know it as today. This is how the Monte Palace Tropical Garden was born.
How to get to Monte Palace Tropical Gardens?
There are several ways to get to Monte Palace Gardens, but the main and most exciting way to reach Monte is by cable car. You’ll encounter the most spectacular views of Funchal on the way up, with its rows of traditional terracotta buildings and backdrop of the sea. You might even catch a glimpse of a cruise ship coming into port. The cable car slowly but surely ascends above the ground and covers a distance of 3200 metres, which takes around 15 mins one-way. The cable cars depart from just outside Funchal town centre, adjacent to the promenade. It runs seven days a week from 9am – 5:45pm, 364 days a year.
If you’re not a fan of heights or prefer a quicker route to get to Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, you can also get there using a hire car, book an organised coach trip with your hotel, or jump in a taxi. The winding road up to Monte is an adventure in itself!
How much does the cable car cost?
The Funchal cable car to Monte costs €18 per person for a round trip, or €12.50 for one way. We opted for a package ticket, which granted us access to two botanical gardens, as well as the return cable car ride. You can find out more information on the various packages on their official website.
A standalone ticket for Monte Palace Tropical Gardens costs €12.50 per person. Simply pay at the entry ticket booth on arrival.
How long will it take to reach Monte?
The cable car will take approximately 15-20 minutes one way to reach the top of Monte. Once you arrive, the tropical gardens are directly opposite the cable car exit. We recommend arriving at the cable car office in the morning, between 9am -11am to avoid the long queries, which can be especially bad during the busier summer months. We travelled during the month of November and had to queue for a while, even though it’s not considered a peak time to travel.
What to wear and pack for Monte Palace gardens
Depending on the time of year you visit, you may want to pack clothes for all weather conditions. As Monte is over 1000 metres above sea level, it naturally has cooler temperatures than Funchal. Here are some of our top tips to ensure you’re fully prepared for all conditions, come rain or shine:
- During the cooler months (November – April) we suggest packing a thin jumper or hoodie in case you get cold.
- Pack a foldable waterproof jacket no matter the time of the year you’re travelling. Madeira’s mountain climate can surprise you with rain at any time.
- We suggest wearing a pair of comfortable shoes, either trainers or hiking shoes. Parts of the ground are a bit rocky at the gardens. To avoid injury and for a more comfortable walk around, avoid sandals or flip flops.
- This area of Madeira is lucky enough to have sunshine year-round. Pack a bottle of sun cream and plenty of water so you stay hydrated.
When’s the best time to visit Monte Palace Tropical Gardens?
Due to Monte’s location, high up in the mountains, it’s important to check the weather forecast ahead of planning your visit. During the summer months (May – September) the weather is usually warm and sunny, but the rest of the year can be unpredictable at times. You ideally want dry, warm weather when visiting the tropical garden.
In terms of the best time of day to visit Monte, we recommend going early in the morning when the cable cars first start operating, ideally at 9am. Not only will it get you to the gardens for opening, but you’ll also get to admire its true beauty at this time in the morning. There’ll be less crowds too! Avoid going in the afternoons, especially during peak times of the year. Weekends can also be busy.
What are the top things to see and do at Monte Palace Tropical Gardens?
Monte Palace Tropical Gardens is has plenty to keep you entertained for at least a few hours. We recommend spending a full morning here exploring the peace and quiet of the different garden areas. Be sure to check out the following:
- Admire the architecture of the Japanese bridges and the various garden features. The red bridges are an iconic representation of Japan and Monte Palace Gardens has many of them. In the main area, there’s also a small pond with many large koi fish. You’ll also find a giant golden Buddha statue and a grand Japanese-style archway.
- Whilst walking around the gardens, you’ll come across a few different viewpoints of Funchal, each offering a unique vantage point of the sprawling seaside city. We loved taking a rest on a park bench to admire the stunning views.
- If you’re a lover of tropical plants, then you’re in luck, as Monte Palace Gardens has many different types of colourful plants from all around the world. ‘Tropical’ is in its name and it certainly lives up to it.
- One of the best features of Monte Palace Gardens is Monte Palace. It’s located in the centre of the gardens, a short walk away from the Japanese bridges. Once a hotel and now the heart of the gardens, it’s an architectural gem in the middle of a forest.
- Explore the three museums at Monte Palace Gardens. There’s an African culture exhibit, ‘under the sea’ museum and a collection of artifacts from different global cultures. We highly recommend visiting these museums if you get the chance, as you’ll get a real feel of the inspiration behind the creation of the park.
- Finally, you can stop off at the terraced café, which is located towards the back of the gardens. Here, you can show your tropical gardens entry ticket for a sample of Madeiran wine. The café also provides various cold sandwiches, snacks and hot and cold drinks.
The main attraction of the tropical gardens is simply wandering around, getting lost amongst the many pathways and walking deep through the jungle-like terrain. Wander around and explore freely! There isn’t a particular route you should follow.
How long should I spend at Monte Palace Tropical Gardens?
As there’s so much to see and do in Monte, it’s worth allocating at least half a day, or better still, a full day here. It’ll take at least 2 hours to walk around Monte Palace Tropical Gardens. You’ll then want to see the local church, Madeira Botanical Gardens and grab some lunch. We personally recommend checking out Pátio das Babosas. It’s a restaurant with great food and amazing views as you eat.
What else is there to see in Monte?
After visiting the tropical gardens, you’ll definitely want to explore more of the area. Be sure to check out the following nearby attractions:
- Take a small 5-minute cable car ride to Madeira Botanical Garden. Different to the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, the botanical gardens is a collection of outdoor terraces with many more varieties of plants and flowers. Both gardens are worth visiting in their own right. You can buy a combination ticket to see them both in one day.
- Near the entrance of Monte Palace Gardens, you’ll find Monte Church. This quaint white church is a beautiful building to marvel at, with a long stone staircase, multiple turrets and a design that’s common amongst many Madeiran churches. It also has some excellent views of Funchal from its hilltop location.
- Check out one of the many cafes and restaurants in Monte. They each have a nice view of Funchal and are a nice place to relax after a morning of sightseeing. We found prices to be very reasonable for such a touristic area.
- Fancy taking a unique mode of transport back down to Funchal? Head over to the famous Carreiros Toboggan Sled Ride! This activity is in almost every guide book and has become a firm must-do for any visit. Even if you’re not keen (or don’t feel brave enough) it’s fun to watch other tourists slide down the hill. The start of the sled ride is just outside the entrance to Monte Palace Tropical Gardens.
How do I get back to Funchal?
There are various ways to get back down to Funchal city once you’re finished exploring Monte.
- You can get the cable car back down from the same place where you got off, just opposite Monte Palace Gardens. It’ll take 15 minutes to get down, and you can enjoy the same magnificent views in reverse. Top tip: if you’ve already decided that you want to get the cable car both ways, we recommend buying a return ticket. It’ll save you some money!
- We’ve already mentioned the adventurous way to return down the hill! A sled ride guided by men in straw hats. Well, only in Madeira as they say! The toboggan was used as a method of transport back in the 19th century by local residents and now it’s a popular tourist activity. It costs 15 euros per person for a 5-minute ride, but it’s a lot of fun and definitely makes a unique experience.
- The third and final way to get back to Funchal is by taxi. Whilst it’s not the most exciting way to end your day visiting Monte, it’s certainly the fastest, and one recommended for those who dislike heights. Top tip: We recommend downloading the ‘Bolt’ app. You can request a cheaper ‘Bolt’ taxi on the app and can also use it to book a standard yellow cab. Additionally, you can find a line of taxis waiting outside the entrance of the gardens.
So, there you have it, our complete guide to Monte Palace Tropical Gardens in Madeira. We hope you enjoyed reading our article just as much as we loved writing it! It’s an attraction that we recommend for any first time visitors to the island, truly living up to its excellent reviews and reputation.
If you have any further questions or would like to know more about this top Madeira attraction, leave us a comment down below!
By SusieAuthor bio:
I’m a passionate traveller that loves a sunny beach holiday, but also appreciate the cultural side to a trip and checking out undiscovered destinations. I’m the go-to Toucan Traveller for great holiday stories, cool photos and foodie recommendations.