Icod de los Vinos

Icod de los Vinos

General view of Icod de los Vinos, with the bell tower of the San Marcos church and the famous dragon tree on the left. Photo by Marc Ryckaert

Icod de los Vinos is a municipality in the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, located in the northwest part of the island. Inhabitants of Icod are known in Spanish as “icodenses”.
Icod de los Vinos is located on a continuous smooth slope that stretches from the extensive forests of Canary Island Pine down to the sea, and has almost 10 km of shoreline. The city is surrounded by a very fertile valley, and its streets and corners offer impressive views of the volcanic mountain Teide, as well as dense pine forests which descend like hanging gardens from its summit to Icod’s higher-altitude districts. Its banana plantations, orchards and vineyards give rise to a lively commerce.
The community is bypassed to the north with the highway linking Santiago del Teide and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and west of the TF2, superhighway as well as north of TF38 and TF1 superhighway. Icod de los Vinos is located about 80 km W of the capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, north of Los Cristianos and Playa de las Américas, NW of the Reina Sofia Airport.

Iglesia de San Marcos, Icod de los Vinos

Iglesia de San Marcos. Photo by jtoledo

Founded in 1501, the city is a collection of seigniorial houses, ancient palaces, churches and convents.
The name comes from the former menceyato of Icoden, together with a reference to the product for which the area has historically been best known: the local wine (vino in Spanish), which has recently regained its ancient prestige. The Spanish conquerors were quick to colonize this fertile and well-watered region, and introduced the cultivation of sugarcane and grapevines; the latter came to predominate.

Icod de los Vinos has schools, a few lyceums, a gymnasium, churches, a post office and a few squares plazas.

Monuments and places of interest
In the Plaza de Lorenzo Cáceres stands the monument to General José Antonio Páez, founder of Venezuela’s independence, whose great-grandfather came from Icod. The town’s neighborhoods are sprinkled with innumerable hermitages and other buildings that give Icod great symbolic and artistic value, which can be appreciated at the Museo de Arte Sacro in the church of San Marcos.

Ancient Dragon Tree

In Icod stands a famous dragon tree (Dracaena draco), said to be thousands of years old. In fact, no study seems to have confirmed such longevity for the tree, which is more likely to have an age in the hundreds of years. In any case, it is a tree that never goes unnoticed, and it has always been the symbol of Icod. No one speaks of the city without mentioning the dragon tree. It would perhaps be exaggerated to say that Icod owes its progress to the tree, since its valley is a fertile and agriculturally rich comarca, as shown by the town’s full name, Icod de los Vinos (Icod of the Wines).

A very old Dragon Tree, Icod de los Vinos, Tenerife

A very old Dragon Tree. Photo by Diego Delso

Iglesia de San Marcos

The Church of San Marcos (St. Mark) is located on the Plaza de Lorenzo Cáceres, the spot where, according to tradition, the Guanches already venerated the saint’s icon – una pequeña talla gótica-flamenca – before the conquest. Near the plaza is the Drago de Icod, the dragon tree, symbol of the town, which is probably more than 500 years old.

Plaza de La Pila

The Plaza de La Pila, near the Parque del Drago, is bordered by grand old homes, among which the Casa de los Cáceres (house of the Cáceres family), now a museum, is distinctive. The Plaza itself, with its small botanic garden, is considered the most beautiful plaza in the Canary Islands.

Plaza de la Pila, Icod de los Vinos

Plaza de la Pila. Photo by jtoledo

Plaza de Lorenzo Cáceres

The Plaza de Lorenzo Cáceres with its varied vegetation is located in the environment of the Parque del Drago. This is also the location of the parish church of San Marcos, a Canary-Islands-style church built in the first half of the 16th century. The church has five naves, three of them separated by columns, and two of them having side chapels. Worth seeing on the church’s exterior are the stone bell tower and facade. In the interior are kept important images, as well as valuable sculptures; among those that stand out are the statues of St. Mark the Evangelist and Our Lady of the Kings, in late Gothic style, and interesting paintings, including one of the Annunciation.

Playa de San Marcos

This sheltered bay on the north coast of Tenerife takes its name from the image of St. Mark the Evangelist venerated in the parish church of Icod which bears his name. This is the same image which appeared in a cave near the seashore during the conquest of the island. Several historians, including Licentiate Juan Nuñez de la Peña, mention its strange and mysterious discovery.
The safety provided by this harbor, protected against almost all winds, sheltered by its high encircling cliffs, having good anchorages and a very beautiful beach, has led navigators ever since the conquest of Tenerife to choose it as a refuge in stormy weather. These advantageous conditions, and the proximity of the rich pine woods which Icod then had in much greater abundance than today, promoted the timber trade and the fabrication of ships. Many galleons and frigates were built in its shipyards for the service of the King of Spain.

Playa de San Marcos, Icod de los Vinos

Playa de San Marcos. Photo by jtoledo

Cueva del Viento

Thought to be the largest volcanic cave in the world, the Cueva del Viento (Cave of the Wind) has a known length of over 14 kilometers. It consists of a complex lava tube with several entrances. It presents great internal complexity, a wide variety of geomorphological structures, and a unique fauna, both living and fossilized. Other caves, also very extensive, are found in other nooks of the town: these include San Marcos, Punto Blanco, El Rey, and Felipe Reventón.

Casa de Los Cáceres

This was formerly the residence of Lorenzo Cáceres, a colonel of engineers. Its three-story neoclassical facade presents traditional quartered windows; a high arched central gate with a stone frame, cornice, and balustrade; this gate between large flowerpots; and a pretty hidden balcony sporting turned balusters in the main window.

Icod Public Library

The Icod Public Library has returned to its original venue. The new installations in which it is housed now can—and should—transform it into one of the best bibliographic and cultural centers of reference on the Islands. Today, the library has three branches.
* The Central Library is still situated in the Casa de los Cáceres, and already contains close to 13,200 volumes.
* The Library of the Institute of Lucas Martín Espino (11,000 volumes)
* The Santa Barbara Library (2,500 volumes, specialized in children’s literature)
The hours of operation of the library are the same in all three branches: Monday to Friday, 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. Use of the library is free, and visiting or consulting its contents does not require any kind of membership.

Fiestas de San Juan, Icod de los Vinos

Fiestas de San Juan, Playa de San Marcos. Photo by jtoledo

Icod Cuisine

The gastronomy of Icod de los Vinos is unique; some dishes can only be made locally, as they require indigenous ingredients that can only be found in the Canary Islands. In fact, Canarian cuisine is eclectic, due to the Islands having been a port of call for centuries. Its most characteristic features include los mojos, or sauces (mojo verde, made from cilantro, and mojo picón, a spicy sauce, are the most common) that serve as the preferred accompaniment to fish of great texture and flavor, such as bogas, samas, salemas, chernes, and the famous vieja (“old woman”). Papas arrugadas (“wrinkled potatoes”), potatoes cooked in salted water and served in their skins: Of all their varieties, the “black” is considered to be best. Icod is also home to a varied assortment of confections; bienmesabe , arroz a la miel (honeyed rice), piononos (stuffed fried plantains), leche asada (“roasted milk”), quesadillas and truchas (fried, filled sweet potato pastries; lit. “trout”) are some of Icod’s most prized desserts.