It takes some finding, but the Botanic Garden on Gran Canaria, more formally the Jardin Botanico, Viera y Clavijo, is well worth a visit if you are interested in the flora of this and the other Canary Islands or if you want a quiet place to visit; a breather after the frenetic pace of life in the Capital or the southern resorts.
A few words of warning if you are thinking or visiting though! Firstly, it is tricky to find and has two entrances. The garden is not far from Las Palmas, the Capital, and is in Tafira and there are signs but they seem to take you to the lower entrance where there is little parking, about ten spaces on the road. There are signs to the botanic garden restaurant and these would (I think) take you to the top entrance which has a big car park and is close to the restaurant. Does this matter? Well yes, because of the topography of the garden.
The garden is in two parts: a lower, relatively flat (note the word ‘relatively’) part that is where the majority of the botanical interest is, and the cliff face that is criss-crossed with narrow and steep paths that take you up to the top car park and the restaurant. There is supposed to be a cafe/bar at the lower part but I didn’t see it.
The garden was created by Eric Sventenius, a swede who dedicated his life to studying the flora of the Canaries and was opened in 1952. This makes it very different to most Botanic Gardens that were created by the State, often for commercial or scientific reasons. He searched for a place where the greatest variety of native plants would thrive and so this elevated location, that incorporates a steep cliff, proved ideal. The lower garden is divided into various parts including a display garden of natives, a fantastic cactus garden, a palm garden, a conifer forest and a sample of laurel forest.
Note that is this a botanic garden and not a display garden so there are not masses of flower beds. Also note that the paths up the cliff are narrow and there are no handrails and they are quite scary! I made two visits because on the first it started raining and the clouds came down and I didn’t see much! In fact, we headed up the cliff for the warmth and dryness of the restaurant but, dressed in shorts and soaked to the skin, we found that this is not a cafe but a restaurant! But we were too cold and wet to be put off and were allowed in! In theory there are views of the garden from some tables here but in reality the views where just white fog! I must say though that the food is wonderful and the fried cheese with tomato jam was one of the best things I have eaten in ages – but maybe that was because we were cold and had just navigated the cliff paths!
Admission to the gardens are free and you should allow a couple of hours to get round it and allow much more time if you are interested in plants.