To go down one must first climb up, but we took a cable car up to Monte Botanical Garden – not because we were lazy but because two of us have a fear of heights and we wanted to conquer it for once😊
There are several options you can choose from: walk up and down, do the round trip by cable car, walk partially (like we opted for), or even take a bus both ways.
The cable car base station is in Almirante Reis in Funchal which is easy to access by public transport. You can buy the ticket on the spot or online. Depending on which option you choose, I drop the link below for you to check the prices and fairs.
Please make sure to check the Levada difficulty before choosing one as some of them are easy and relaxing but can also be narrow with crumbling edges where a slip could result in serious injury or death. It may be easier to book a guide that will walk you through some of the most amazing paths across the island. There are plenty to choose from as the tour guides are available around every corner in Funchal.
The average one-way trip takes about 20 minutes but for someone with a fear of heights the time seems to be going too slow😊However- it’s so worth trying.
As you go up you realize how different the city looks from above, the houses turn into red roofs surrounded by a plethora of hills and valleys with an amazing ocean in the background. There is basically stunning whenever you turn your head around.
The route ends at the church of Our Lady of the Mount, also known as Monte. It is located 550 meters above sea level and approximately 10 km from the city of Funchal. It has been built by the first man born on Madeira Island!
From there we purchased a ticket to see the famous Jardim Botanico da Madeira a botanic garden that has been open to the public since 1960. The price for an adult is 12.50 euros and the place is open every day except 25th December (which also happens to be my birthday!)
The garden space is as huge as 70000 square meters with a massive collection of exotic plants from across the globe. The park is divided into 6 areas: Madeiran indigenous and endemic species, arboretum (collection of trees and shrubs), succulent plants, agro-industrial plants, medicinal and aromatic plants, palm trees, and cycads (seed plants).
There is plenty to see around, and we have walked for at least 4 hours, and we probably didn’t see everything. Many lakes to ponds populated by swans and peacocks, unique collections of stones and minerals (from South Africa, Brazil, Peru, Portugal, North America, and Argentina), and interesting exhibitions of African sculptures (more than 1000 scattered across two floors). You can also find a café if you want to have a break and also, outside the palace, there are places to have something to eat and drink traditional Poncha – an alcoholic drink from Madeira made from sugar cane.
To find out more about the garden before you visit, please click the link.
As mentioned above, we choose to take a lift only one way- up, as we had planned to take the Levada down back to Funchal City. Levada is an irrigation channel for water supply and nowadays it is used as a walking path through beautiful countryside.
Levada Do Bom Sucesso looked safe but that depends if the weather is mild and outside of the rainy season. Please be also aware that, despite the walks looking easy- it can be difficult based on the weather conditions. With this hike, you can find mixed information which depends on the personal ability and the time of the year this levada is being explored.
There were 4 of us and me and Filip did that walk before so we knew what we are getting into. It takes you down from Monte straight to Funchal in about 2-3 hours depending on your speed and there are usually barely any people so it’s not crowded at all. You will need comfortable non-slippery shoes to walk this path as there are stairs that may be slippery, especially after the rain.
I am not sure how long would it take to do this trail walking up but there are steep stairs so may be more challenging than I think… I have heard of people getting stuck on the trail because they started the journey late in the evening, which I think is not the best idea! Then the rescue team gets involved simply because people do not use their common sense.
The Levada itself feels magical. The trees and plants grow everywhere and cover the peaks left right and center. As you decent further, it feels like you are on an adventure to destroy an evil ring😊
There are a few small waterfalls along the way.
You can stop to take some great pictures or to rest surrounded by the stunning flora of this amazing island. We came across a couple that was climbing up with a small child carried on their shoulders… they were resting eating sandwiches around halfway through the path.
The obstacles to point out are fallen trees here and there, steps without any handrails (to be considered if you are afraid of heights) occasional sharp corners with deep cliff falls, and last but not least- possible falling rocks.
All 4 of us loved every part of this walk, even the areas that seemed scarier at times. The magical views and smell of fresh crisp air outweighed the feeling of possible danger.
As you get closer to the city there are a few local pubs where you can relax with cold Coral (local beer) or Bica (coffee like espresso). What is also nice about those places is that they do not want to overcharge you simply because you are a tourist (In many places in the city center, you pay a different/traveler’s prices). With the friendly atmosphere of local people and the owners, it’s so worth it to rest and support the business whenever you can. We ended up chilling for at least an hour at Bar Clube do Bom Sucesso, which we recommend especially after many hours of walking, exploring, and hiking.