El Drago Milenario & The Guanches

We all know that Tenerife is one of the favourite hot spots for a holiday destination and why not, it offers so much with regards to all year round sun, plenty of bars, restaurants, excursions and brilliant hotels for a comfortable stay.

This time, my journey took me north of the Island where I wanted to see what visitors could find in the way of history or famous landmarks. Love a bit of exploring! so off I went on my travels to take a look at El Drago which is a world-famous tree, based in the North West of Tenerife.

Driving into Icod de Los Vinos, it was a quiet little town and typically Canarian.

At first, finding the location was a little difficult as the park was closing so entrance into the tree area was not possible. Ermm! how can we get around this as I have this on my list to explore so I really need to see what all the fuss is about, ‘a tree’?

Travelling from the south of the Island was approximately 50 minutes to about an hour (depending on how well you know the roads and traffic conditions) and therefore I really did not want to miss this opportunity. Even though I was staying 2 nights in the north, I didn’t want to backtrack on my travels so I had to find a way of seeing this ancient and famous ‘Dragon Tree’.

Bingo!! as we say in the UK, found a nice little spot overlooking the tree, situated in the town where other tourists were taking photographs. The handful of people were drawn in by the sheer visual impact of this tree. The ancient and twisted bark gives it such depth, art like features. The trunk of the tree looking so fragile yet the umbrella canopy of the tree looks fresh, alive and strong. Strange combination and something I have never seen before.

Age of El Drago?

Well, this is also a bit of a mystery as there are a few different ages disclosed in researching El Drago. What I can tell you is that this tree is the oldest living plant of this species and also the largest Dragon tree in existence, right here in Tenerife.

What makes it difficult to put an age to this tree is that it does not display any growth rings on an annual basis and therefore the calculation of the age is by the number of branching points before the canopy or umbrella starts to grow.

Experts believe the tree is around 800 – 1,000 years old (but don’t quote me on that as I didn’t get to count the branch points).

What are the features of El Drago Milenario?

The tree is a native of the Canary Islands and a subtropical tree-like plant. Research shows it is placed in the same category or family of the asparagus, being a monocot (flowering plant/tree). The strange features of the tree’s growth are quite different as it starts to grow and the stem will stop growing between 10 – 15 years. Then the tree will produce a first flower which is white and a lily type perfume flower, followed by coral berries.

Each branch grows for 10 – 15 years and re-branches, allowing the tree to develop a mature and umbrella-like top half look. The tree is a slow grower and it will take around 10 years to reach about 1.2 metres high (4ft).

Museo de Malvasia is a wonderful little building and shop where you can see the delicious local wines and cheeses on sale or for tasting. It has a seating area at the rear and garden where you can enjoy some nice scenery and chill out with a nice glass or two, experience simply some of the best wines on offer both in Tenerife and a world contender.

Parque del Drago is where you can get closer to the tree but there is an entrance fee attached to the facility to do this. As it was closing when we arrived, I didn’t get to see inside but on reading up on this, you can expect to find a park which includes caves, palms, ferns and plants. There is a small, quiet courtyard which offers coffee and cakes, a shop and a tourist attraction to pass about an hour or two of your time.

Outside this area, you can find a local shop selling souvenirs and items which is worth a little peak! For me, the impressive shop structure and balcony was pretty and a homely little feature. My thoughts were at the time that this balcony could offer some nice views for a camera.

What you will learn if you go into the park is some history about the remarkable Guanches who are the ancient kings or leaders back in days of old. Each area had their own nominated Guanche leader and Pelicar or sometimes written Belicar was King of menceyato of Icod.

When visiting the caves in the park, you will get to read about how the Guanches placed their dead in the caves, far off the beaten tracks; normally in cliffs. Their body would be buried with personal possessions such as clay jewellery and cups which they believed would be taken with them to another life.

Mummification would only be for those who died and belonged to a very high social status. This ritual which only took place in Egypt and the Canaries confirms that the Guanche’s people were not as primitive as many people may think.

Icod de Los Vinos is a quaint little town and I was so taken back to catch a moment’s glimpse of the famous Mount Tiede in the background of the Plaza de Lorenzo Cáceres. Probably the most well-known tourist excursion on Tenerife and one I have only briefly visited many years ago, I was happy to stand back and see this volcanic mountain in another light. Yes, the time of day in which I visited Icod, it allowed me to view Teide in one of the finest moments, blazing in an array of orange bursts of colour and magnificently showing ownership of Tenerife. Still silently in the background but dominating the space.

As I said good-bye to this pretty little village, quiet and calmly situated in a lovely part of Tenerife, I walked back towards the car thinking of El Drago and the history it must have witnessed whilst slowly growing and finding it’s roots.

One more look and a chance to take my last photo of a pretty little shop decorated outside, offering tourists a chance to buy some memorabilia. El Drago is not an exciting journey for those who like nightlife and thrills but what it does offer, is an opportunity to learn more about this amazing Island and the history of the courageous Guanches who battled to save Tenerife from the invasion of Spain.

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