There is something truly special about Botanical Gardens. The preservation of nature, usually slap bang in the middle of a bustling city, is amazing. I often find cities to be a bit too much for me, so botanical gardens are the perfect escape from the chaos and a chance to just relax in nature. Usually, when I visit a new place, I check to see if there is a botanical garden. It’s always top of my list for places to visit, and I’m normally never disappointed. And it turns out I’m not alone in that.
I have brought together some amazing women to talk about their favourite botanical gardens all over the world. From the US to India, from Ireland to Hawaii. We’ve got the globe pretty covered. I got so many submission in fact, that I have have to split this post into two, so keep your eyes peeled for part two coming soon.
Bruna – Rio De Janeiro botanical garden
The fresh smell of nature purifying your body, the happy birds singing above your head, and the peaceful statue of Christ The Redeemer watching over the city. That’s the scenario you experience at Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens. Among buzzing streets and venues, these gardens act as an oasis where visitors can relax and have a deeper contact with nature.
Naturally, no trip to Brazil will ever be complete without catching a glimpse of the country’s unique wildlife and flora. And that won’t be a problem for you here as you can spot, among others, sloths, turtles as well as many species of birds and monkeys. Note that these animals aren’t aggressive, but the garden’s staff don’t advise to pet or feed them. After all, they’re wild animals and need to feel safe.
Further out, whatever season you visit the park, be sure to use a repellent with picaridin to avoid the annoying mosquitoes bites. In fact, use it in the whole city. Rio de Janeiro is a coastal city with lots of nature spots, so a good repellent, hat, and sunscreen are essentials items. Just remember to charge your camera because you’ll want to photograph the well-maintained green halls and beautiful plants of this botanic garden. It’s even an excellent spot for stunning shots of yourself. After all, why not? You’re in the middle of an oasis.
Admission: R$ 15
Opening hours: Mondays from 12 pm to 6 pm. Tuesdays to Sundays from 6 am to 6 pm.
Address: Rua Jardim Botânico, 1008
Sarah – Koko Crater Oahu, Hawaii
When most people think of an Oahu botanical garden, they immediately think of the popular Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens. And while that garden is stunning, Koko Crater Botanical Garden is a hidden gem that is on par with the island’s most popular one.
There are two broad sections to Koko Crater Botanical Garden. There is the plumeria grove, and there is the two-mile loop. While both are breathtaking, my personal favorite is the plumeria grove. There are dozens of different types of plumeria trees, all right next to the entrance of the garden. You’ll not only see the white plumerias, but you’ll also get the chance to see yellow, pink, and even orange ones! If you want to explore the two-mile loop as well, be prepared for a bit of a hike! Lace on your athletic shoes, fill up your reusable water bottle, and head out! Over the course of this loop, you’ll be able to see plants from all around the world – from the flora of Africa to the plants of Hawaii!
Before you head to Koko Crater Botanical Garden, I would highly recommend purchasing some picnic food to enjoy at the garden. Not only will you need some energy after that two- mile loop, but how often do you get to enjoy a picnic in nature with no one else around? Koko Crater Botanical Garden is open every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day from sunrise to sunset. There is no entrance fee to the garden.
Alina – Calarca, Quindo Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden in Calarca, Quindio, is a must see when visiting Colombia’s Coffee Triangle. It is mostly famous for its butterfly garden, but actually this is just the final part of an awesome tour through a huge tropical park. It is a great natural experience for both children and adults.
The Botanical Garden in Quindio is a large tropical garden with countless native plant species like bamboo, palms, ferns or heliconias. Some of the highlights of the tour are the suspension bridge to the birds observatory and the tower which raises above the canopy. There is also a museum section about geology and insects, so that you can have the full picture about the ecosystem in the region. The tour ends with the butterfly area, which is even more impressive than in pictures. Hundreds of butterflies from 30 navite species are flying around, sometimes landing on your hands or clothes.
The best time to visit is in the morning, when the butterflies are more active. You can visit the botanical garden just with an authorised guide and the whole tour takes 2-3 hours, depending how much time you spend in each location. The price seems quite reasonable
(around 10 USD) for what it offers and it is used for property maintenance, as it is operated by a foundation. Make sure you check in advance the timing for the tours, so you don’t have to wait too much at the entrance. The tours are in Spanish or English and the guide explains a lot of things about vegetation and the ecosystem.
Natalia – Royal Botanical Garden, Melbourne
The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, Australia is only a few minutes walk from the middle of the city and is the perfect place to immerse yourself in nature for a few hours. Founded in 1846 on the south side of the Yarra River, it has a diversity of over 10,000 different species of both native and non native flora and extends across 89 acres. Containing tranquil lakes, lush tree fern rainforests, arid cactus deserts, exotic flowers and perfect green lawns, it’s an easy 15 minute walk from the Melbourne City.
The gardens are free to visit and are open from 7:30am to sunset every day of the year. The eastern side near Guilfoyle’s Volcano, is always a very quiet area to sit. My favourite part of the gardens is The Fern Gully. It’s a natural gully that contains a stream with tall tree ferns around it. There are wooden boardwalks, secret areas to explore and they’ve recently installed a suspended swing that is a great place to get those Instagram shots! Guilfoyle’s Volcano is also a very interesting place. It contains species of plants that don’t need much water like cactus and there are boardwalks and viewing platforms you can walk up to see glimpses of the city.
Around the circumference of the gardens is Melbourne’s most popular running track called “The Tan”. It’s 3.827kms long, mostly made out of gravel, fully floodlit until late at night and is suitable for runners of all abilities. There are also a wide variety of facilities in the gardens including a souvenir shop, a couple of restaurants, an Icecream shop and a visitor centre. Dogs are allowed but must be on a leash. Even though it’s so close to a major capital city, you can easily find peace, relaxation and calmness in these beautiful gardens.
Alicia – David Welch Winter Garden, Aberdeen
David Welch Winter Garden is a large and impressive Botanic Garden in Duthie Park in Aberdeen Scotland. In fact it is one of the largest in Britain. It is an indoor garden in a large maze of greenhouses and it feels tropical all year long. We visited on a particularly grey Aberdeen day in mid March and we were greeted with blooms of all colors.
There is a large diversity of plants from all over the world and each room in the greenhouse features a different variety. One room is dedicated to cacti from all over the world. Some reach up the the ceiling while others are wide and flat. I honestly have never seen so many different varieties. The room feels hot and dry and you feel totally transported. There is a “talking” cactus named Spike, who will delight your kids. Another section feels as if you walked into a tropical rainforest, and it feels lush, green and deliciously overgrown. Banana trees, ferns, and vines all tangle together.
If a traditional English Garden is more your speed, you will find that in the botanical garden as well. Geraniums, hollyhocks, and peony’s were on display. Many are in what is called the “corridor of perfume”.
The best part of the Winter Garden is that it is free! It’s a perfect place to visit when the Aberdeen weather doesn’t cooperate.
Danielle – Montreal Botanical Garden
One of the best botanical gardens I’ve had the opportunity to visit was on my weekend trip to Montreal last year. The Montreal Botanical Garden hosts over 20,000 species of plants across almost 200 acres and features numerous themed gardens with plants from all over the world. Some of the best themed gardens include the Chinese Garden and the Japanese Garden. In the Japanese Garden you will find a set of immaculately cultivated bonsai trees and a waterfall that features a pond filled with Koi carp. You can also partake in a full Japanese tea ceremony. The Chinese Garden holds a set of Chinese architecture and stone paths among the plant life.
There is also an entire garden dedicated to the indigenous plants of Canada along with a number of greenhouses to display plants from other areas of the world. The sheer size and volume of species is amazingly well organized and gives you the feeling of moving from one world to another as you stroll between the different gardens. I love that it’s so easy to get lost in such large gardens and forget you are in the middle of a bustling city.
The Montreal Botanical Garden is just one of several attractions in this area of Montreal to promote science and nature. There is also a planetarium, insectarium, and the Biodome across the street. Together these museums conserve endangered plants and animals, educate the public, and act as a research institution. If you are planning to visit as a tourist there is a fee for admission, but residents of Montreal can actually get a pass to visit for free! To learn more about some of the other sites you can visit in Montreal besides the botanical garden, check out my post on the best Montreal attractions.
The Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden formerly known as the Indian Botanic Garden, renamed after a renowned Bengali polymath, is one of the oldest botanical gardens in India. It is situated in Shibpur in Howrah district of the Indian state of West Bengal. Colonel Robert Kyd, of British East India Company, founded the gardens in 1786 primarily for identifying new plants of commercial value and for mostly growing spices.
Today, this vibrant garden boasts of being home to more than 12000 perennial plants and is reckoned to be one of the most spectacular landscaped gardens in the entire country with undulating land topography and astounding artificial lakes. Giant water lilies known as Victoria Amazonica, adorns these lakes increasing the beauty of this garden by manifolds.
The entire garden is split into sections, where trees from different regions have been planted. One of the rare species of the garden now is the Double Coconut Tree (Lodoicea maldivica), which is native to 2 of the 115 Seychelles Islands. Among its achievements was the introduction of the tea plants from China that are now grown in Indian states of Assam and Darjeeling by the superintendents of Calcutta (Kolkata) and Seharunpore (Saharanpur).
My favourite part of this sprawling garden is the enormous banyan tree which is considered to be the largest tree in the world and forms the second largest canopy. The canopy occupies a position in the Guinness Book of World Records due to its circumference of about 450 metres which makes it look like a miniature forest. You might need some time to fully absorb everything in and marvel at nature’s creation.
After admiring the canopy of the giant banyan tree, you can explore other areas of the garden like Kyd Monument, Kurz Monument, Roxburgh Monument, Cactus House, Medicinal Plant Garden and Central National Herbarium (consisting dried plant specimens). A must for the nature lovers, the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden, is a great place to bring your family and friends to observe nature closely.
Sarah – The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Big Island
The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is located in Onomea Bay, one of the most picturesque spots on the Big Island of Hawaii. You’ll reach it after a scenic drive from Hilo along the meandering Old Mamalahoa Highway. What was once an impenetrable and neglected jungle, has been transformed to an idyllic botanical garden featuring a collection of over 2000 species of tropical plants. All these varieties thrive on this wild and untamed part of the island thanks to the fertile, volcanic soil and rainy climate.
When entering the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, an elevated boardwalk winds down and leads to several pathways. The beautiful setting includes gentle streams and even a gorgeous waterfall. Finally, the path opens up to the most stunning ocean vistas in Onomea Bay. The two hours I spent in these gardens were truly magical. I had arrived early, around opening time at 9 am, and was lucky enough to have this mesmerising place all to myself for the first part of my visit. I loved the perfumes in the air and the colorful birds that found refuge in the lush vegetation.
The variety of palms and tropical plants, such as heliconias and orchids, is overwhelming. Apart from the personal delight I take in visiting tropical gardens such as this wonderful one, I also highly value the preservation of disappearing species. To me, that justifies the $20 entrance fee. Some tips: You might want to cover your legs and bring your mosquito repellant especially if you’d be visiting later in the day. Latest admission is at 4 pm. When you’ve finished your visit, head to What’s Shakin’ a little further down the road for a refreshing smoothie.
Catherine – Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver, BC is probably the last place you’d expect to find a tropical garden. But for those willing to stray a bit from the beaten path, you can find lush greenery and plants that have existed since the dinosaur age as well as flocks of free-flying birds.
Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver, British Columbia is an enclosed glass dome where plants more suited to the equator thrive. A path loops around this botanical garden, taking you over a small stream and past towering palm fronds.
All the while, birds are flying overhead. You’ll catch glimpses of brightly colored finches, parrots that can speak and—if you look carefully on the ground—even a long-tailed Chinese pheasant, which likes to stay stealthy behind the foliage. The front desk is happy to give you a sheet of paper with color photos of the 120 species of birds so you can match what you see to the bird’s name.
You’ll want to budget about an hour to walk through the Bloedel Conservatory. Admission is $6.75 CAD for adults; children 4 and under are free. When you’re done exploring this botanical garden, take a moment to check out the city’s skyline from above: Bloedel Conservatory’s spot in Queen Elizabeth Park is the highest spot in Vancouver.
Fiona – Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney
If you’re planning a holiday down under I’m sure Sydney is one of the Australian landmarks on your itinerary. If so the botanical gardens there is well worth a trip. The location is one of the most spectacular of all botanical gardens around the world, which is why it’s one of my favourites. The 74 acres in Farm Cove lie between the edge of the Central business district and the Sydney Opera House.
The botanical gardens are within easy walking distance of Circular Quay, so wherever you’re based in the city, the gardens are easy to reach. Sydney’s botanical gardens are open from 7 am and close between 5 pm and 8 pm depending upon the time of year that you visit. It’s free to visit there are free guided tours if you’re short on time.
In the heart of the gardens is the striking contemporary glass exhibition centre known as the Calyx. One of the highlights of the building is the stunning green wall, which is the largest in the southern hemisphere. Displays change yearly so even if you visited here on a previous trip it’s always worth a look. The coffee shop is a fantastic place to stop for a relaxing bite to eat, and there’s a garden shop where you can purchase gifts.
Highlights of the garden have to include the rainforest walk, the Camila garden, the main pond and the grounds of the government house. If you want to learn more about the indigenous plants and Australians bush foods, you can book an experience bush food tour. Or to learn more about the Cadigal people who used to live here I can highly recommend the aboriginal Heritage tour.
My favourite spot, although not strictly in the gardens, is Mrs Macquarie’s chair. The view of the opera house and harbour bridge is one of the best in the city from here, especially at sunset.
Sophie – Kew Gardens, London
Located about 30 minutes – 1 hour outside of central London on public transport, Kew Gardens is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of London. This UNESCO World Heritage site will take you on a journey through a variety of captivating ecosystems comprised of over 50,000 living plants over 300 acres.
There’s so much to see that it’s worth planning for at least 3 hours here. That said, it would be easy to spend the entire day meandering through all the different displays. I’d recommend checking opening hours online as they vary throughout the year; click here for the most up-to-date times. There are also different opening times for some of the features, be sure to also check these so you don’t miss out!
Top tip: Buy your tickets online from the Kew Gardens website for a cheaper price and to avoid the queues when you arrive. One of my favourite parts of Kew Gardens is the iconic Palm House. As you enter this giant glasshouse, you’ll step through the mist and become immediately immersed in a lush green rainforest. Climb the spiral staircase to get a better vantage point overlooking the tropical plants below… but be warned it gets very hot up there!
Also be sure not to miss the Temperate House, which recently re- opened in 2018 after undergoing a 5-year renovation. Here you can venture through the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse, discovering over 1,500 plant species and 10,000 individual plants from temperate zones around the world. However, Kew Gardens is so much more than just a pretty place to explore. With over 350 scientists on their team, it is globally renowned for its contribution to science, ranging from identifying new species to conservation and the effect of climate change on habitats
Brianna – National Botanical Gardens of Dublin
The National Botanical Gardens of Dublin are set on a beautiful landscape with gorgeous trees and themed gardens. Perhaps the highlight of the gardens are the historical and restored Victorian-style glasshouses. These glasshouses were built in the 1800s and are a very striking sight. Each of the glasshouses has a different theme and there is everything from a cactus garden to a tropical paradise in the palm house. Even on a rainy day or during winter you will find something blooming here.
The large grounds here house multiple themed gardens to explore. You can easily spend an afternoon here. My favourite is the rockery, a rock garden set with small trees and colourful flowers. It will depend on the time of year you visit, but there is always something to see in the National Botanical Gardens.
In addition to botanical delights, there are also some permanent sculptures to take in on your visit, including sundials. If you visit in September, every year there is an event called Sculpture in Context where temporary sculptures are installed. These sculptures tend to be on the more modern and quirky side and are fun to explore.
The National Botanical Gardens of Dublin are one of my favourite places to visit while in Dublin. Located in the Glasnevin area of Dublin it is easy to access by public transit or a short walk from Drumcondra. In a city full of expensive tourist sights, the botanical gardens are free to access, including all of the glasshouses. It’s also located adjacent to the Glasnevin Cemetery, a popular site for tourists to take tours of Irish heroes and visit the museum.
Are you inspired to go out and visit all these incredible Botanical Gardens, becasue I know I am! A massive thank you to all my contributors for this post. And don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for part two, as there were just too many to fit into the one post!
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