Both the valley and the city of La Orotava are blessed with the ability to grow apparently anything. Walking through town, we marveled at the variety of plants, flowers and trees sprouting from every garden, yard, or crack in the ground. But two parks adjacent to one another bear special mention: the Jardines del Marquesado de la Quinta Roja, and the Hijuela del Botánico.
We started in the Jardines del Marquesado de la Quinta Roja (the Gardens of the Marquis of the Red Mansion). The “Red Mansion” is a massive residence built in the 18th century for the town’s most powerful family. After the tragic death of the family’s prodigal son, the Catholic church refused to bury him in the religious cemetery, because of his involvement with the Freemasons. In response, his mother ordered these gardens built, with the mausoleum for her son as a centerpiece.
It’s hard to believe that even a very powerful family could have ordered the construction of such a large park, so close to the center of town, but the result is remarkable. Using the natural slope of the city, these terraced gardens do away with any view-blocking buildings, and are a wonderful place to relax and soak in the sun.
Right next door is the Hijuela del Botánico (Botanic Garden Branch). Since 1606, this area had been used as dwellings for the Clarisa nuns of San José. The lot was reclaimed by the city in the 1860s as part of the “Spanish confiscation” (or disentailment) laws, which aimed to redistribute the considerable lands held by mainly Catholic orders.
Sorry nuns, but the creation of this botanic garden was undeniably the better decision for Orotava. Even though the area is small, no bigger than a city block, it’s packed with plants and trees from around Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. We spent a much longer time than expected walking around its paths, and even encountered a colony of butterflies — including a bunch of caterpillars entering into their cocoon stage.