Covering 80,000 sq metres, rising from 150m to 300m above sea level and full of the most exotic assortment of plantlife in Europe, Madeira's main botanical garden is much like few others. Unlike other institutions of that ilk – normally the preserve of botanists and bored schoolgroups – the Jardins Botânicos da Madeira teem with tourists who wander in amazement in the leafy spectacle offered. Only created inside the 1950s, it's certainly one of Madeira's top sightseeing opportunities.
There's much to see here it is difficult to know where to begin. Some with the highlights range from the Madeiran indigenous and endemic species section, the region of succulents and cacti, the topiary section, the region devoted to medicinal and aromatic plants, the palm tree garden plus the formal shrub garden mosaic, one among Madeira's top photo opportunities.
Plants to seem out for will be the estrelícia (bird of paradise) that flowers in the winter months, the mammoth prickly pears with leaves like saw blades, the indigenous Musschia aurea making use of their triffid-like blossoms plus the Geranium maderense that bursts just like a firework inside a shower of purple flowers.
The neighbouring aviary on the southern end is usually visited about the same ticket. Here parrots, parakeets, cockatoos, budgies, canaries and warblers squawk and chitter the afternoon away inside their spacious cages. The multi-coloured birds listed here are from every corner in the globe but many hail from South America. A colossal, ancient-looking turtle occupies the artificial pond around which some on the cages are arranged.
Away on the main areas, the gardens have several hidden corners that happen to be worth seeking. The Lover's Cave can be a fern-lined rocky grotto which has a table and chairs manufactured from volcanic pebbles. The miradouro (viewing point) has cracking views in the Bom Sucesso creek – controversially, however, the via rápida (motorway) actually tunnels its way just underneath the gardens, which spoils the result somewhat. In another nook you will find a typical Santana A-frame house.