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Spain’s Canary Islands shelter uncommon beauty


Flowers are generally at their best in the springtime, but when you book a holiday in Tenerife you’ll discover their flowers are pretty lovely at any time of year.

While most people think of suntans, sangria and beaches when Tenerife is mentioned, it is also a beautiful island and a unique garden. Due to its climate and location, the island is full of ecological jewels and has a wonderful varied landscape which continues to surprise millions of nature lovers. This creates a large universe of nature with a never-ending springtime, allowing people to enjoy it at any time of year.

I visited Tenerife in spring, eager to see the island’s spring display, dressing up in its finery and becoming dyed different colours. I was particularly keen to see Mount Teide’s National Park which, at this time of year, changes into a carpet of flowered retama, rockroses and red tajinaste. It is also a great place for hobbies such as star gazing and birdwatching. In the northern part of the island, bird watching is increasingly popular – the Blue Chaffinch, the Tenerife Kinglet, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue Tit, Wood Dove and Rock Dove are just some of the species inhabiting the island.

Tenerife forms part of the Macronesia, one of the four regions in world with the greatest natural richness, especially in terms of flowers. The geographical location and volcanic influence has created an ecosystem which still today demonstrates its own exuberance from other times. Nowadays, to make an effort to look after the diversity almost half the land is protected by the law so as not to lose its ecological values.  Tenerife possesses a surprising ecological diversity with special environmental conditions. The hilly mountains of the island change the general climate conditions to that of a place with lots of variety and micro climates. This abundance of micro climates and as a consequence natural habitats reflexes clearly the island’s vegetation formed by a wide variety of flowers (more than 1400 species of plants) amongst these are a large number of Canarian (200) and Tenerifian species (140).

I began my trip at Parque Natural del Drago (Dragon Park), home of the Dragon tree which is indigenous to Tenerife. The one in the garden, the Millennial Dragon Tree, is the only one of its kind for its age and dimensions and estimated to be between 1,000-2,000 years old. The next visit was Parque Rural de Teno, a protected natural conservation area with special plantlife, where 1,300 people live.

The Laurisilva laurel forests of the Parque Rural de Anaga and Teno Country Parks – the two most ancient areas on the island – are well worth a visit during this time of year. These sub-tropical forests are representative of those that used to cover a good part of the Mediterranean basin until the end of the Tertiary age and are now only found in the Micronesia region.

If you like plants then you must visit the Botanical Gardens in Puerto de la Cruz and Santa Cruz. In Puerto de la Cruz , the botanical garden has the most beautiful view. It was founded by Real Orden of the King Carlos the third in 1788 with the aim of cultivating species from the tropics on Spanish territory with the appropriate climate. Today the garden has a wealth of plants with diverse species which are more than 150 years old.  The highlight of my trip, however, was climbing Mount Teide. Teide is the highest mountain in Spain, standing at 3,718 metres. The Mount Teide National Park (about to be declared a World Heritage Site), is over three million years old and the home of some 21 endemic species exclusive to the park. Entering the park by bus, my group stopped halfway up the volcano to have a look around. Red, dusty and barren it was like being on the moon. Having taken the obligatory ‘one step for man…’ shots holding boulders aloft, I had a closer look at the plantlife.

On Mount Teide you can view fantastic flowers including the magnificent blue and red tajinastes plants, which grow to over 3 metres when in flower, the Teide Violet, Teide Daisy, Scrubland Grass, Flowering Moss and the Teide Wallflower. The tajinastes are particularly eye catching and when they flower the park turns into a picture of colour. This happens once a year and lasts between six and eight weeks. It is definitely worthwhile to come and enjoy it. These plants grow to up to 2 metres tall. It is quite strange, and somewhat eery, to be standing next to such towering plants in a land where everything is so barren.

Climbing back into the coach we continued to the Parador de las Canadas, a hotel located in the heart of the National Park. At 2,200 metres above sealevel the hotel offers stupendous views and is a stellar observatory. This natural planetarium has its own telescope and offers a range of thirteen walking routes through the National Park. It had a swimming pool, with stunning views of the volcano. Because we were so high up, it meant that you could swim at the highest point in Tenerife if you were in the pool. After a sumptuous dinner we had the opportunity to go star gazing, with an explanation of the various constellations from a member of staff.  So if you are after a holiday where you get to see the most vivid plants in the unlikeliest of places, try Tenerife in the springtime. It’s got ancient flowers, such as the cardonales (type of cactus), sabinares (savine groves trees) and los dragos (dragon trees), which take shelter on the most inaccessible cliffs, also housing the oldest, most well known flower mazico, 3.5 million years old.

Apart from the natural areas the spring brings out beauty in the city where the violet jacarandas compete against the flamboyant red colour. Colours and smells mix together and offer a landscape which offers quiet walks for any part of the island.

Definitely worth a visit.

Natasha Reed is a freelance writer and editor, specialising in features about travel, weddings and women’s lifestyle issues. Her website is www.reed-right.com

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