Take time from your visit to Tenerife to explore the peaceful haven of the Botanical Garden in Puerto de la Cruz.
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In the bustling city of Puerto de la Cruz on the northern coast of Tenerife, the Jardín de Aclimatación de la Orotava is a sanctuary of peace and quiet.
I always love visiting botanical gardens, and have been to several here in the UK. And when I visited Tenerife, I was keen to see an example of a botanical garden in the Canary Islands.
So one afternoon, I headed over to the garden to take a look around. I expected to see plenty of tropical plants and impressive trees, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed!
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History of the Puerto de la Cruz Botanical Garden
In the late 1700s, Europe was going through the ‘Age of Enlightenment’, a period which saw the advancement of knowledge and promotion of science. King Carlos III of Spain was a supporter of this movement.
He wanted to fill his Madrid palace with exotic plants and trees, as a display of his ‘enlightenment’. These would be imported from Spanish-held territories across South and Central America.
In order to acclimatise the tropical plants to the cooler European climate, it seemed sensible to stop off en-route at the Canary Islands. And so an ‘acclimatisation garden’ was established in Puerto de la Cruz in 1788.
This was Spain’s second botanical garden after the botanical garden of Madrid, which was another of King Carlos III’s projects.
The site for the garden was commissioned by Alonso de Nava-y-Grimón and Benítez-de-Lugo. King Carlos III died shortly after the garden was commissioned, but fortunately his successor Carlos IV also supported the project.
Unfortunately the idea of an ‘acclimatisation garden’ was ultimately unsuccessful. The inland Iberian climate of Madrid is simply too different from that found in Tenerife.
But luckily for us, the experiment created a fabulous place to explore while you’re enjoying a holiday in the Canary Islands.
How to find the Botanical Garden of Puerto de la Cruz
Although there are two airports in Tenerife, most airlines fly into the larger Tenerife South Airport. If you’re flying from the UK, you can fly direct from several major airports including Edinburgh, Birmingham and London Stansted.
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Once you are at Tenerife South, the journey to Puerto de la Cruz takes around an hour by road. I travelled with Jet2Holidays, and the transfer was included in our package.
If you are staying near the seafront in Puerto de la Cruz, it will take you around 25 minutes to walk to the gardens. But the walk does get quite steep, so if mobility is an issue, you may be better off getting a taxi instead. The trip should take less than 10 minutes.
Once you arrive at the garden, simply pay your entrance fee (3 euro) at the little booth at the top of the steps, and go inside the garden.
A Peaceful Haven
Although the garden is in the centre of Puerto de la Cruz, you’ll soon forget that you’re in the heart of the city.
Straight away you’ll see that the Puerto de la Cruz botanical garden is certainly different to gardens you may have visited back in the UK.
The year-round warm climate in Tenerife makes it ideal for tropical and semi-tropical trees, plants and flowers to thrive. And a lot of species that you would see under glass in UK botanical gardens grow happily outdoors in Tenerife.
In fact, there’s no glasshouse at the Puerto de la Cruz botanical garden – they simply don’t need one!
The garden now covers 20,000 acres, and a major project to expand the garden is currently underway. You should reckon on spending at least two hours here, although you can easily take half a day to explore. It’s a lovely way to escape the heat of the afternoon sun.
A Pattern of Geometric Designs
The garden is laid out in a series of geometric designs, with pathways that guide you through.
Tall trees around the botanical garden offer shade from the heat of the afternoon sun. And they also help to block out the sound from outside the garden’s walls.
You’ll quickly forget the city streets outside, and feel transported to a lush tropical paradise.
And where the paths intersect, you’ll find open spaces with pools and lower planting. They help to make the garden feel lighter and more airy.
When you visit the Puerto de la Cruz botanical garden, you’ll find yourself surrounded by tall trees quite unlike those back in the UK.
I found it fascinating to see trees growing out in the open that usually I would only see in glasshouses. Towering palm trees, citrus trees, even a banana tree.
There were a few examples of fig trees, and I came across this one very early on in my visit.
At that point it was the largest fig tree that I had seen. I spent quite some time looking around this tree, fascinated by its complex trunk and the air roots wending their way down to the ground.
But if you think this one looks impressive, you’ll be amazed by the specimen in the centre of the garden!
And of course there are dragon trees on show as well.
The dragon tree (Dracaena draco) is native to the Canary Islands. They’re one of the natural symbols of Tenerife, and you’ll see them all over the place in Puerto de la Cruz. There were a few examples in the botanical gardens, but for a truly spectacular example I recommend heading to the Sitio Litre garden.
Some of the trees that I saw were totally unfamiliar to me, like this Screwpine – pandanus utilis bory.
It’s native to Madagascar and despite its common name, it is actually more closely related to grasses and orchids. It has a system of stilt roots that emerge from the stem. These help to keep it securely upright, especially on sand or unstable ground.
And I was captivated by the tale of 100 years of solitude that accompanied the tree below.
This is a lone female specimen of Encephalartos laurentianus, the Kwango giant cycad. It had been growing quietly on its own in the garden for over a century.
Then at the start of the 21st century, it was hand pollinated with pollen from a lone male specimen in Malaga. The tree bore its first seeds in 2002, and there are now several descendants growing in the surrounding area.
It’s a great example of the important conservation work carried out by botanical gardens.
An Awe-Insipiring Fig Tree
It’s not often that a tree leaves me speechless, but I was lost for words when I saw this imposing Ficus macrophylla.
At first I thought it was a closely planted collection of slender saplings, with some larger trees at the centre. But as I drew closer, I realised that this is one massive fig tree, with a plethora of air roots surrounding it.
Ficus macrophylla is commonly known as the Moreton Bay fig or Australian banyan, and is native to Australia. Interestingly, this species of tree is often used in bonsai, due to its interesting buttressed roots.
This is a Lord Howe variety of the tree, and this particular tree is around 200 years old. It’s amazing to see how it has developed over time. The layout of the garden allows you to examine the tree closely from all angles, which I found really fascinating.
You can see how the air roots are cast down from the tree’s branches, looking more like vines at this point.
Once they make contact with the ground, the air roots start to form slender trunks which thicken up over time. As well as supplying water and nutrition, they also help to support the massive expanse of the tree’s crown.
The parasitic development of the ficus macrophylla means that it will usually start to grow on a host tree. It sends down roots along the host’s trunk until it is strong enough to stand alone, killing the host tree in the process.
I’ve seen plenty of fig trees, but none so impressive as this one. It was definitely one of the highlights of my visit to the Puerto de la Cruz botanic gardens.
But there’s more to see than just trees in this botanical garden!
A Host of Colourful Flowers
Throughout the garden, you’ll find many flowers that would need to be kept indoors in the UK.
From the massive expanse of the ficus macrophylla to these tiny red flowers, there’s so much to see at Puerto de la Cruz.
Because the weather is consistent throughout the year, it’s a haven for many sub-tropical species like this elaborate Bird of Paradise flower.
You may have seen these kept indoors in the UK, but they thrive outdoors in the Canary Islands.
And you’ll see them all over the place in Puerto de la Cruz. They’re a very popular plant in roadside flower beds, as well as in hotels and restaurants.
And you’ll see other very familiar plants around the garden as well, like these red Anthurium.
They’re a tropical plant, native to central and South America, so over here in the UK they’re treated as an indoor plant. But in the warm climate of Tenerife, they flourish out in the open.
This beautiful white Arum lily also caught my eye. It’s part of the Zantedeschia family and you can actually grow these outdoors in the UK. A tender Zantedeschia is hardy down to -12C and some hardy varieties are even OK down to -25C.
The vivid colours of the flowers of the botanical garden really pop against the dark green foliage.
I also love the hot orange of this Kaffir Lily (clivia miniata), which looks perfect in the sub-tropical setting of the botanical garden. It’s native to South Africa and Swaziland, and is a popular indoor plant in the UK.
Grown as an indoor plant, these cheery orange trumpet flowers will brighten up any room. And even after the flowers fade, the lush green foliage is very attractive.
It needs a period of cool temperature over winter, and then will reward you with a bright display in March or April.
And these bright yellow flowers caught my attention as well. It’s pachystachys lutea, more commonly known as the lollipop plant or the golden shrimp plant.
It’s a large plant that needs temperatures no lower than 12C, so in the UK you’ll mainly see it as an indoor plant. You could put it outside in the summer, but do remember that it doesn’t like direct sun.
And I also saw plenty of spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) during my visit. That’s a very familiar houseplant in the UK but in Puerto de la Cruz, it was being used as an edging plant!
A Tranquil Pool
If you feel like taking a breather during your walk around the garden, this pool is the perfect place to sit and contemplate your surroundings.
There are water lilies and fish in the pool, a glorious pink Bougainvillea in the corner and a Mexican Cypress (Cupressus benthamii) casting welcome shade.
It’s the perfect place to stop for a while and relax, soaking in the peaceful atmosphere of this haven among the vibrant atmosphere of Puerto de la Cruz.
And I’m not sure where this intriguing door leads to…
I thoroughly enjoyed my wander around the beautiful botanical garden of Puerto de la Cruz. It was certainly very different from botanical gardens in the UK, and a relaxing way to spend a few hours during your holiday to Tenerife.
The Botanical Garden of Puerto de la Cruz
Jardín de Aclimatación de la Orotava
Calle Retama 2, 38400 Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Spain
Entry costs €3 for adults.
The garden is closed on Good Friday, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day