Dragon Tree - Icod de los Vinos
After breakfast, we drive along the northern coast to La Orotava, one of the loveliest towns in Tenerife. Set in a lush valley, the remarkably preserved colonial town is a picture-postcard maze of cobbled streets, flower-filled squares and handsome Castilian mansions. Every year during Corpus Christi celebrations, carpets of flowers mixed with coloured sand pave the streets in a stunning display of devotion. This exuberant explosion of colour can be seen throughout the year, especially in spring, in the bright flowers blooming on the surrounding hillsides.
During our guided walking tour, we step back in time to learn about La Orotava’s history and its system of centuries-old water mills and aqueducts. Discover how wealthy bourgeois families lived through the stately homes along Calle San Francisco, known for their intricately carved wooden balconies and leafy interior courtyards. Perhaps the most famous of these houses is La Casa de los Balcones, whose untreated balconies have lasted more than 300 years! Our tour includes entry to this 17th-century mansion, whose museum is dedicated to a variety of local handicrafts, from lacework to ceramics, and gives us an idea of how the house would have looked in its heyday.
There is time for lunch at your leisure before we continue to Icod de los Vinos, a charming town shaped by its relationship with the surrounding countryside. The Canary Islands has many unusual plants, but the most famous of them all is the dragon tree, a symbol of Tenerife. Shaped like an umbrella with branches that sprout tufts of spiky leaves, dragon trees – when cut – secrete a reddish sap once believed to have magical, medicinal properties. Icod de los Vinos is home to the largest and oldest surviving specimen, El Drago Milenario – the thousand-year-old dragon. Interestingly, dragon trees are not actual trees, so El Drago’s actual age is disputed, estimated to be anywhere from several hundred years to several thousand years old. Nevertheless, El Drago is a truly magnificent sight at over 65 feet tall, with an even larger circumference and over 300 main branches.
Apart from curiously shaped flora, Icod de los Vinos also boasts many pretty houses, including Casa del Plátano, an old hacienda that really brings to life the story of the Canary Islands’ bananas. A visit here provides insights into the many varieties, the history of banana cultivation on the islands, and even explains the reasons behind the name of London’s Canary Wharf.
After a wonderful day of sightseeing, we return to our hotel in La Laguna.
This evening, we take a short drive to the Tenerife House of Wine, set in a russet-coloured farmhouse so typical of the Canarian haciendas of the past. We gather in the tasting room to taste some excellent local wines, which go particularly well with the complimentary cheese – all produced in Tenerife, of course. Then it’s a delicious dinner of traditional Canarian fare at the restaurant, whose terrace offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic.