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Aerial Tramway Trip to the Monte
The Monte is the higher-situated part of Funchal, literally - "the mountain" area. The Igreja Nossa Senhora do Monte Church, the Tropical Garden and the Botanical Garden are located in that area - as primary attractions.
I decided to take the a combination of bus and cable car and have visited most of the primary hotspots!
The Monte is 1,000 m above sea level... quite high. That indeed is a mountain!
I did feel some fatigue up there, which many feel after prolonged walking.
While central Funchal is "down there" at around sea level height, part of the it stretches to elevations surpassing even 1,200 m.
The Monte area is a civil Parish in the municipality and suburb of Funchal wil roughly 7,500 inhabitants.
The Gondola Lift Trip to the Monte
I had several choices to reach the Monte area: buses, cable cars, walking. I chose a combination of buses and cable cars thus, less walking was required.
The more expensive blue cabins take you up directly in a single journey from the shore to the Monte
Locals call the cable car "gondola" or "gondola lift". Let it be "gondola", then!
The more expensive gondola cabins depart from near the beach area, just a short walk from the São Tiago Fortress, but that one cost 15 euros up and down... unfortunately it didn't get anywhere near the Botanical Garden, so I opted for the other variant.
White cabin took me above scenic views, but the journey was shorter
This, more expensive gondola lift has large blue cabins and brings you all the way up to the Monte (directly) and the all the way down. But I wanted to spare some money and still - stop over at the famous Botanical Garden - one of Funchal's main attractions.
My trip implicated a bus trip that took me to higher ground, not far from the Botanical Garden, from where after a short walk - I was able to board the other (white cabin) gondola lift. This latter one flies above a different route, it's cheaper - 8 euros only up to the Monte and back, but the route was shorter.
Deep and wide gorges, thin waterfalls and daring infrastructure
On Top, Above Funchal...
It felt quite amazing being up there. Yet another view of Funchal that was totally different from what I've seen until then.
This was my last day on Madeira, so I took the time to enjoy the Monte. Too bad, I got carried away... Stayed up there for too long and missed lots of other attractions.
Besides the attractions up there, the Monte seems to be a place where the rich live.
I also can't omit mentioning how beautiful the views towards the Ocean were from there. There are several good viewpoints from where you can contemplate the World below you.
Modern simplist houses. I don't think prices are cheap up there!
Great views with palms and the blue ocean
Even more scenic, more exotic, more elegant!
The Monte Church
It was quite close, near the main street connecting the cable car/gondola station with the populated area.
The church's original name is Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte and dates back to 1818.
The Monte Church - an icon of Funchal
The Monte Church is also a pilgrimage site, I hear...
In 1748, an earthquake had severely damaged the church. Its looks today don't reflect the original design.
Charles of Habsburg, emperor and king, tragically died young while in exile on Madeira
Special attraction is Charles of Habsburg's tomb - the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It's actually a metalic coffin inside the church, on the left side, as you enter.
Charles was the last King of Hungary, under the title Chalres IV (IV Károly in Hungarian) and the last emperor of Austria as Charles I (Karl I). (Obviously this is so, because the Hungarians have had 3 other Charleses before him, but he was the first to Austrians).
The beautiful interior of the church
During troubled post World War I times, the dismembrement of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, Charles IV was exiled to the island of Madeira, where he contracted a severe lung diseases and at that time untreatable - the illness had killed him in 1922.
His tomb is often visited by Hungarian and Austrian tourists. Apparently, he's more loved by Hungarians (at the time when Austrians excluded him following the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy).
In fact, the king's tomb is one of the main attractions of Funchal. I even found postcards with him.
The coffin of Charles of Habsburg
The Monte toboggan rides are a popular activity in the area...
Literally, it's about sliding down the streets in a sled/sledge made of wood, driven by one or two people (known as "toboggan drivers").
These slides downhill were actually means of transportation (dating back to 1850)!
The downhill trip is 2 km (1.2 mi) long, takes about 10 minutes and even 48 km/hour (29.8 mph) can be reached.
Lots of foreign tourists take the ride downhill on narrow winding streets.
Normally, there will be two drivers pushing and braking the sled (they use their boots to brake, when necessary).
If you came up by the telecabin/cable car, then you might want to slide down fast in one of these "wooden boxes"! They usually depart from near the Monte Church...
The sledges parked in front of the Monte Church
It's a private garden full of flowers, various species of palms. Dense green park-like collection of lots of plants and there's even a geological museum - lots of semi-precious stones and minerals there.
The beautiful white Monte Palace with red flowers
Besides plants there are several buildings, water fountains, ponds.
I particularly liked the white Monte Palace (parts of which you can see on the photo above).
Traditional Madeiran house in the Tropical Garden
The Tropical Garden is on the side of the mountain, so you will have a lot of walking down and up to do.
It's huge, you can get lost. I sturggled a bit finding the exit. But in such a place you will want to get lost! Provided that you have enough time!
Stunning view! And there's a bench to sit down on, right in front of the statues!
The plants were impressive and there even was a little Japanese garden.
It reminded me of my trip to Japan (which was back in the year 1999).
Pavilion in the Japanese garden
Somehow this small Japanese garden didn't feel like the ones in Japan. But it was very well-made. It had Koi fish as well!
These rare fish cost tens of thousands of dollars. Some of the rare specimens can hit the 100,000 $ price tag!
The entire Tropical Garden is so huge and so dense, it's like a little forest.
Besides the Japanese garden, the exposed minerals and crystals, I also admired and African art collection.
The "African Passion" collection contains over 1,000 Zimbabwean sculptures dating back to the 1966-1969 period.
Beautiful palm tree
Visiting the Funchal Tropical Garden was an uplifting, refreshing experience! Don't leave it out if you're on the Monte!
I Missed the Beautiful Botanical Garden
Honestly, I was so lost in the Tropical Garden that I must have spent well over an hour in there. Meanwhile, the Botanical Garden (on lower ground, to which I had to take the gondola and still take a long walk) has closed!
Of course, the latter is far more interesting than the Tropical Garden. Too bad they literally closed in front of my eyes.
Simply, there wasn't enough time to see it all. And I just could not leave the Tropical Garden there without seeing everything! This is how I am...
My schedule was tight. I had to board the early morning flight next morning already all of these I'm describing here have happened very late in the afternoon, close to early evening.
Next time I will pay a visit to the Botanical Garden and I personally advise you to check it first, only then the Tropical one, because it's richer in plants and it also has a large number of exotic parrots.
This site provides details about getting to the Botanical Garden and to the Monte.
Over 2,500 exotic plants from all around the World are found on this 35,000 sqm area.
The Botanical Garden is open every day between 9 AM and 6 PM with last entrance at 5:30 PM.
Don't Miss the Beautiful Views From Up There!
The higher ground provides fantastic views over the city down below. This is one of the things I enjoy the most when traveling - I almost strive to get to higher ground and see the place from above!
I took several photos from up there, but too bad I had no filters for my camera and the Sun was shining frontally, as it was late afternoon and great ball of fire was descending on the western horizon.
The views from up there are splendid. And these are great free attractions that you must never miss!
Apart from all of the above, I also encountered a specimen of the local fauna...
Fat dog on the Monte. What a wicked posture to take a nap, isn't it?
About the Author:
Escape Hunter, the young solo traveler in his early 30's explores the World driven by curiosity, thirst for adventure, deep passion for beauty, love for freedom and diversity.
With a nuanced, even humorous approach to travel, an obsession for art and design, Escape Hunter prefers to travel slowly, in order to learn and "soak up" the local atmosphere...
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