“…but having traversed the banks of the Orinoco, the Cordilleras of Peru, and the most beautiful valleys of Mexico, I own that I have never beheld a prospect more varied, more attractive, more harmonious in the distribution of the masses of verdure and rocks, than the western coast of Teneriffe.”
Alexander von Humboldt
It was in the summer of 1799 whilst en route to climb Mount Teide, that the German naturalist and explorer formed that opinion. Today, Humboldt has been immortalised in bronze in the very spot where he stood above the La Orotava Valley.
In 1799 when Humboldt made his journey to the peak, it took him a total of six days to travel from his berth in Santa Cruz, to the summit of Mount Teide and back to his ship for onward travel to the Americas. In the glorious sunshine and vivid blue skies of a spring morning, a five minute drive from Puerto de la Cruz took us to the long awaited viewpoint which has been named in his honour, The Humboldt Mirador.
212 years after Humboldt’s visit and 11 years after the project began, the Mirador finally opened to the public in December 2010. Perched above the La Orotava Valley with awesome views over the mountain and the emerald carpet that lies at its feet, this stunning viewing platform has been well worth the wait.
An elegant open air terrace juts out in a circular platform furnished with the spring green parasols and chairs of a stylish cafe bar. Set into the exposed brick and smoked glass frontage of the two storey building, a small shop selling local crafts, wines bearing the La Orotava Valley denomination label and a comprehensive collection of books chronicling the exploration of Tenerife sits alongside the cafe. Below, a small pond and banana plant garden are establishing themselves in front of the glass fronted space in which a Humboldt exhibition is planned.
But the real star of the mirador show is the wide screen vista that moved its eponymous hero to wax so lyrically. Although developments over the intervening years have produced a very different landscape from the one the young naturalist beheld, nevertheless the imposing presence of Mount Teide above the emerald forested Tigaiga Mountains on the horizon has remained a constant and is still perfectly capable on a clear day of stealing the breath from your lungs.
From his vantage point, Humboldt observed the way the vegetation changed as it climbed its way from palm grove covered coast to pine forested cumbre and his studies led to the birth of a new natural science, biogeography. Today the terraces that sweep down from the island’s spine are a patchwork quilt of cultivated fields, banana plantations and vineyards punctuated by whitewashed fincas with red tiled roofs and bordered by the motorway, busy with its Dinky toy-sized cars. On the coast, sandwiched by swathes of banana plantations, the developments of Puerto de la Cruz spill into the glittering Atlantic Ocean.
With the sun on our faces and front row seats to Tenerife’s most spectacular show we order coffees from the overwhelming choice of 30 teas and coffees on offer, along with some enticing sounding bocadillos for our sunshine lunch with a view.
When our order arrives it has all the style and good taste of the venue, the clientele and the surroundings amongst which it is being served. No wonder Humboldt’s bronze is now looking inwards instead of out over the view. He clearly approves of what he sees, and so do I.
Mirador de Humboldt; Carretera Pinito s/n, La Orotava; 922 335 823; open every day 8am-11pm.