Our day out this week took us to the northwest of the island to Icod de los Vinos, famed for its thousand-year-old dragon tree. In the past, I have never been totally convinced that this is an attraction worth putting myself out for. At the end of the day, it is a tree that is so common it can be found in gardens, beside roads or on wasteland all over the island. However, the Icod Dragon Tree is considered the oldest specimen in the Canary Islands and at 16 metres tall and 20 metres round it is one of the cultural and historic symbols of the Islands, so with this in mind we set off.
Icod de los Vinos is one of the oldest inhabited towns on the island but only a fraction of it is historically interesting; fortunately, the cobbled alleyways 16th century houses and ornate wooden balconies is right beside the Parque del Drago.
El Drago stands above the main road next to two squares, Plaza de la Pila and Plaza de Lorenzo Cáceres in a garden visited by thousands of tourists each year. The brochure told me the park has a collection of wild flowers, herbs and indigenous shrubs, as well as a section that shows how the Guanche people used to live. There is a small admission charge made for this.
I am not sure whether I was just being miserable or miserly but on this occasion, I thought I would do the same as many visitors and look at the tree from the square next to the lglesia de San Marcos for free. The church is worth visiting for its interior, Canarian pine ceiling and Mexican silver cross. If, unlike me, you wish to visit the park it is open from 9:30am – 6:30pm and if, like many people, you wish to take home a memento of the tree you can buy a miniature from the neighbouring shops. There is a second Dragon Tree in town that not many people know about which is of course free and to my mind just as good and worth seeing.
Leaving the famous tree, signposts point the way to the Mariposario Del Drago butterfly centre. The glass-roofed tropical garden is full of exotic flowering plants, bushes, creepers and water features and some 2,000 butterflies from all over the world as well as tiny birds fly freely among the visitors. The main purpose of the centre is to see each phase of the metamorphosis of the butterfly from eggs to caterpillar to butterfly. There are cages full of caterpillars all munching away and strange chrysalises getting ready to hatch. There is also an exhibition hall, a cinema, pools with Koi carp and terrapins spread about the gardens. Mariposario del Drago is open 9.00 – 18.00 Monday to Saturdays and accessible for wheelchair users.
Being a bit of a woos I don´t do underground even though I have been told that no visit to Icod is complete without visiting Cueva del Viento. There are many caving sites, but with around 17 kilometres of galleries, this is one of the largest volcanic tubes in the world. The website advises wearing hiking boots and as I don´t even possess a pair of trainers, this was my excuse, I couldn´t wander around caves in flip-flops, also reservations are required so phew, got out of that one. http://www.cuevadelviento.net/
Before setting off home a stop at the Carmen restaurant for a coffee, this is close to the square in a large old house that has been restored, the coffee was good and the cafe popular with locals.
Was the day a success? not really. Would I go again? Probably not, it is a long drive to see a tree even if it is reputedly 1000 years old.