Having been laid low all over Christmas and New Year by some mysterious flu bug contracted on a flying visit to the UK at the beginning of December, our plans for getting some serious festive hiking under our belts sank without trace. So when we finally began to feel better, we decided to tackle a couple of little jobs that have been sitting on the ‘to do’ list for about two years, to compile town & city walking routes for La Orotava and La Laguna.
We’re regular visitors to La Orotava. For one thing it’s only about a three minute drive from our home but more than that, it’s a town that takes a great deal of exploring, and we often discover new tapas bars or shops or places we haven’t been, and this time was no exception.
As it was still the Christmas period, we took the opportunity to explore the town’s belén route and play ‘spot el caganer‘, the character who, ahem, fertilises the ground in traditional nativity scenes. He’s often hidden behind a palm tree or at the back of a building and occasionally he’s in an outside toilet whose door swings intermittently open. Trying to spot him is an annual game we never miss an opportunity to play.
Stopping to admire the view from the bridge opposite Plaza de la Constitución, we headed down to the 17th century, former Dominican Convent to take a look at the Iberoamerican Art Museum. Exhibits labelled in Spanish, English and German fill room after room set around a tranquil, cloistered courtyard garden.
It’s a beautiful building and worthy of a visit in its own right but the collections of musical instruments, including some made from armadillo shells and goat jawbones; the beautiful ceramics and the fascinating artefacts add cherries to the cake. There’s also a shop where you can buy some pretty unique souvenirs and gifts.
The pavement tables and chairs of the little La Duquesa restaurant were buzzing with people enjoying the warm December sun over a beer or a plate of tapas but the lovely courtyard of Casa Lercaro called. In the many years we have been visiting Casa Lercaro, it’s courtyard garden with expansive views across the entire La Orotava Valley has seen some changes. When we first visited, the whole garden was open to wander around, the old water wheel was still working, peacocks strutted the lawns and there were surreal sculptures like a tin man and a Friesian cow dotted about the place. Nowadays the garden is a wedding and private party venue with a luxurious marquee but the gorgeous courtyard is the setting for a small tasca and a café where we enjoyed a coffee while listening to the song of a caged canary who clearly thought he was a nightingale.
Suitably refreshed, it was onwards and upwards (literally) to the Casas de Los Balcones, looking splendid with their crimson geraniums and poinsettas dazzling in the sunshine, and into the Museo de Alfombristas. The magnificent building is packed to its Mudejar style rafters with images, information and a short film show about the history, tradition and construction of the town’s famous Corpus Christi flower carpets. There’s even a large section of sand tapestry that you can inspect at closer quarter than you ever get to the real thing and which reveals the intricate detail and skill which goes into these incredible, transient works of art.
A short detour to see the newly refurbished lavaderos, or town laundry, and to enjoy the roses in the little Plaza de San Francisco before heading back via the exuberant botanical gardens and the tranquil Victoria Gardens, to Plaza de la Constitución for a well-earned rest and a beer while we agonised over which of the great food venues we’d visited to go back to for lunch.
The La Orotava Town Guide is now available to buy online and costs just €3.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+