Take a look around the elegant Orchid Garden at Sitio Litre, in the city of Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife.
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If you’re visiting the city of Puerto de la Cruz, on the north coast of Tenerife, why not take a few hours out to visit the stunning garden of Sitio Litre.
The private mansion house and garden date back to the early 18th century, and in recent years the owners opened up their magnificent garden to the public.
Here you’ll find the largest orchid collection on Tenerife, together with the oldest dragon tree in Puerto de la Cruz, as well as a host of beautiful tropical and sub-tropical plants.
Mark and I visited during our trip to Puerto de la Cruz. And we both fell in love with the elegant garden and fabulous planting.
How to get to Sitio Litre
There are two airports in Tenerife, but most airlines fly into the larger Tenerife South Aiport. You can fly there direct from several major UK airports including Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham.
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We travelled to Tenerife with Jet2Holidays and stayed at the Hotel Sol Costa Atlantis. The transfer to our hotel was included in our package, and took around an hour by coach.
If you are staying near the seafront in Puerto de la Cruz, the walk to the Sitio Litre garden will take around 15 minutes. But the walk does get quite steep in places, as you can see in the photo below.
So if you prefer to take a taxi rather than walking, the trip should take less than 10 minutes.
The History of Sitio Litre
The house which is now known as Sitio Litre was originally built in 1730 as a convent. Puerto de la Cruz was then little more than a small fishing town.
In 1774, Archibald Little bought the property as a family home. His home became known as Little’s Place (Little’s Sitio) but locals found his surname hard to pronounce. Over the years, the name transformed into Sitio Litre.
In the mid-1800s, the property was bought by Charles Smith, the former rector of Bristol College and a keen astronomy enthusiast.
Sitio Litre remained in the Smith family through until 1996 when it was sold to the British businessman John Lucas. Lucas opened up the garden to the public, although the house remains private property.
The garden has been carefully tended over the years. When you visit Sitio Litre today, you’ll see one of Tenerife’s oldest bougainvilleas, as well as the island’s largest collection of orchids.
Exploring the Garden
One of the first things you’ll see when you step into the garden at Sitio Litre is the large fish pond.
Surrounded by tall palm trees and filled with water lilies and koi carp, the ponds sets a peaceful and elegant tone for your visit.
There are benches set around for visitors to relax and enjoy the view, and you can also buy food from the ticket office if you’d like to feed the fish.
You may even catch sight of Nelson the gecko sunning himself by the pool!
Moving on from the fish pond, winding pathways lead you through the garden. As you can see, we visited Sitio Litre on a beautiful sunny day, and the tall trees and pergolas offered welcome shade from the sun.
The garden is a charming combination of English formal garden design and tropical planting.
Sitio Litre was the first house in Tenerife to have grass lawns, and these immaculate lawns form a central part of the garden to this day.
Croquet hoops are set out on one of the lawns, and a hammock swings near another. These gently remind visitors that we are guests in a private garden, and that Sitio Litre remains a family home.
It was also fascinating to see succulents used as bedding plants around the garden.
We’re so used to seeing jade plants (crassula) kept indoors in the UK. But the consistently warm climate in Tenerife means that the conditions are perfect for them to live outdoors.
They looked fantastic used in borders like this. It reminded me of the Botanical Garden of Puerto de la Cruz, where I’d seen spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) used in a similar way.
Around Sitio Litre you’ll also see more colourful plants such as hibiscus. These always remind me of our family holidays in Portugal.
The hibiscus tree’s extravagant flowers looked beautiful in this tropical setting.
And the garden has a number of vibrant bougainvilleas dotted around the garden. Some, like the one in the photo below, grow over framework to give additional shade.
This massive bougainvillea is easily the largest that I’ve ever seen. Its bright purple bracts dominate the view in this part of the garden, giving it a very exotic feel.
I love how the fountain has been decorated with bougainvillea bracts. Sitio Litre is in a quiet residential area, and feels very peaceful.
The gentle sounds of trickling water and bird song make this garden a very relaxing place.
An Ancient Dragon Tree
As well as its orchid collection, Sitio Litre is also famous for its Dragon tree which is believed to be up to 600 years old!
Dragon tree (Dracaena draco) is native to the Canary Islands and is one of the natural symbols of Tenerife.
This specimen is not the oldest dragon tree on the island. That honour belongs to a tree in the town of Icod de los Vinos, around 30 minutes away from Puerto de la Cruz.
But the Sitio Litre dragon tree is believed to have been in existence before the Spanish conquest in 1494, and is certainly over 300 years old.
Famous Visitors to Sitio Litre
Sitio Litre has seen many famous visitors over the years. And you’ll see tributes to some of them as you wander around the garden.
The Marianne North Terrace
The Victorian botanist and botanical artist Marianne North defied convention to travel the world solo. Along the way, she recorded the tropical and exotic plans that she saw in vividly colourful paintings.
Her paintings depicted the plants in their natural setting, which challenged the established traditions of flower painting in Victorian times.
Marianne North stayed at Sitio Litre for a couple of months in the late 1800s, and said ‘I never smelt roses as sweet as those in Mrs Smith’s garden’.
There is a small terrace and bust dedicated to Marianne North at Sitio Litre. You’ll also see copies of her paintings dotted around the garden.
If you enjoy these, you can see over 800 examples of Marianne North’s work in a gallery at Kew Gardens, London.
The Humboldt Garden
Another famous visitor to Sitio Litre was the German explorer and botanist, Alexander von Humboldt.
Von Humboldt was a keen scientific traveller, referred to as one of the founders of modern geography. His Personal Narrative of his travels in Central and South America between 1799 and 1804 even inspired Charles Darwin.
He stayed at Sitio Litre during his visit to Tenerife in 1799, when he climbed El Teide to study the geography, plant life and weather formations there. Despite being so widely travelled, Tenerife was one of von Humboldt’s favourite places.
He declared that there was nowhere in the world with landscape as beautiful as the Orotrava Valley.
But the most famous visitor to Sitio Litre is probably the world-renowned crime novellist, Agatha Christie. She first visited the house after the breakdown of her first marriage.
Her first visit to the house was in February 1927, shortly after her infamous 11 day ‘disappearance’.
After being spotted and recognised in a fashionable hotel in Harrogate, she headed to Tenerife accompanied by her daughter and secretary. In those days, Puerto de la Cruz was a small village that formed part of La Orotava town.
Agatha Christie stayed in Sitio Litre several times over the years. It was here that she wrote ‘The Man from the Sea’ and completed her novel ‘The Mystery of the Blue Train’.
Sitio Litre is still a popular location for Christie fans to visit, and a biennial Agatha Christie festival is held there.
At the very heart of the garden, just in front of Sitio Litre house, you’ll find Cafe Orquidea.
It’s a beautiful place to sit and take a rest during your tour of the garden. They serve light lunches, snack and drinks, and you can sit a while, taking in the sounds of the garden before you finish your visit.
Mark and I enjoyed a delicious ice-cold smoothie. Mine was incredibly refreshing, and just what I needed on a warm afternoon.
After a short rest, we were ready to move onto what was our main reason for visiting Sitio Litre – their famous orchid collection.
A Fabulous Display of Orchids
The collection of orchids at Sitio Litre features around 350 different orchids, and is the largest collection on the island of Tenerife.
Today, many wild orchids are endangered, and collecting orchids in the wild is prohibited by the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
But discovering and collecting orchids was a very popular pastime in the Victorian era. This flower-inspired madness was even given its own name – Orchidelirium!
Rich orchid fanatics of this era would sent explorers to search for new varieties of orchids throughout the world. New varieties were often sold at auction in London for phenomenal amounts.
So the orchid collection at Sitio Litre is very much in keeping with the elegant Victorian grandeur of the house and garden.
Now, while I can appreciate the beauty of orchids, I’m definitely no expert. In fact, whenever I’ve attempted to keep orchids at home, I’ve failed quite miserably.
So I was a little disappointed that there was no information given about the orchids in the Sitio Litre collection.
Even a simple name tag would have allowed me to identify the flowers and look them up when I got back home.
But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the collection.
The collection features orchids of all shapes, sizes and colours, and I found the display absolutely fascinating.
Most of the collection is displayed in a shaded tunnel towards the back of the garden. The blooms are protected from direct head and sunlight, and it was lovely to see them in this environment.
But of course, there are some orchids which thrive in the Tenerife sun!
Whether you’re a keen orchid collector or just enjoy viewing a beautiful garden, Sitio Litre is well worth a visit during your holiday in Puerto de la Cruz.
We spent around two hours in the garden, including our pit stop at Cafe Orquidea, and I would definitely recommend it as a peaceful and beautiful place to visit.
Sitio Litre, S/N 38400 Puerto De La Cruz , Tenerife, Spain
00 34 922 382 417
1st May to 31st October – 9.30am to 5.00pm
1st November to 30th April – 9.30am to 5.00pm
Entrance costs €4.75