If you're visiting Puerto de la Cruz on your holidays to Tenerife, there's one attraction that ought to be on the top of your to-do list. The Botanical Gardens Tenerife offer a complete change of pace from the sun-splashed beaches and bustling bars. With over 20,000 square metres of lush greenery, exotic blooms, and unusual plants, it's a welcome rest from the busy resorts, and a perfect spot to simply chill out for a day. Whether you're travelling with the whole family or stealing some time away with your better half, this is one of the most beautiful and relaxing places in the Canary Islands.
History of the gardensThe gardens came into being more by accident than by planning. Way back in the 18th Century, Spain was at the height of its military powers and owned various territories in the Atlantic, including bits of Mexico, South America and the USA. The monarch of the time, King Carlos III, was a huge believer in what came to be known as the ”Age of Enlightenment'. Explorers were coming back from their voyages to the Americas laden with exciting and previously-unseen species of plants. King Carlos decided that he wanted the gardens to be full of unusual foreign flowers and shrubs, so he got his army of explorers to bring him some of these wonders. However, the king worked out that the journeys involved would probably kill off his prized plants. To give them a fighting chance, he looked for a halfway house; somewhere with the right conditions to keep all these uprooted blooms fit and healthy. The imported plants were temporarily planted in northern Tenerife, in what was then known as ”The Gardens of Acclimatisation'. Unfortunately for him, the flowers, trees, shrubs and vines seemed to prefer the warm and sunny climate on Tenerife to the cooler conditions in mainland Spain. Realising it was a lost cause and that the plants kept dying every time he had them moved to the mainland, King Carlos abandoned his plans for a garden at the Royal Palace, and the plants were left to form what was to become the Botanical Gardens of Tenerife.
What's there?The botanical gardens have been under the care of the Canarian government since the early 1980s and, in that time have blossomed to become one of the islands' most popular attractions. Whether you're a green-fingered fanatic or just enjoy being surrounded by pretty flowers, the gardens are well worth a visit. There are over 1.5 million different species of plants, ranging from the faintly familiar to the unique and extraordinary. After arriving, you'll stroll among exotic plants and flowers from across the world, including orchids, bamboo, aloe plants, and fig trees. As you wander through, look out for the statues and sculptures hidden between trees and plants. You'll discover trickling streams and waterfalls as you walk from rose beds to herb gardens, past pineapple plants, and beneath the park's 200-year-old gum tree. Those in the know will spot the star of the show as the Moreton Bay Fig Tree. Vast, gnarled and impossibly thick, it towers over everything else and could easily have arrived as a cutting from Middle Earth. Similarly, the Liana Tree is another crowd-pleaser. A vast, intertwining network of bark-covered veins, it wouldn't look out of place in a horror film. Look out for delicate orchids, palm trees and the wonderfully-named ”dracaena draco', or the Dragon Tree. If you're looking for a quiet spot, relax on a bench by the bamboo plants and listen to the gentle drone of the bees buzzing from flower to flower. There are walkways, with wheelchair access for those with mobility issues. The paths will lead you through subtropical rainforests and past glittering ponds, where colonies of terrapins have made their homes.
How to get thereYou'll find the gardens in the middle of the northern coast, halfway between Puerto de la Cruz and El Durazno. They're open all year round, with the exception of Christmas Day, New Year's Day, and Good Friday. During the peak season, you can get into the gardens from 9am, with the doors closing at 7pm. Between October and March, they shut at 6pm. Getting to the gardens is easy, particularly if you're taking your holidays to Tenerife in the north of the island. If you're driving, look for the TF-5 motorway, heading north. From there, take Junction 32 onto the TF-31, towards Puerto de la Cruz. The Botanical Gardens in Tenerife are signposted as ”El Botanico', leading onto the TF-312. You'll drive through La Paz and you'll finally spot the gardens on your right. You can't miss the ornate entrance.