Has spring finally arrived? The weather outside would suggest not, but you can escape from the winter blues and enter a Colombian rainforest right in the middle of London. 6,200 bloomin’ brilliant orchids are currently displayed in the Kew Gardens princess of Wales conservatory. (Y’orchidding me?!) The orchid festival celebrates orchids from Colombia, the world’s most biodiverse country. Colombia is actually home to 4,270 species of orchids which is more than anywhere else in the world, so it seems like the perfect inspiration for this vibrant festival.
Kew Gardens is a 300 acres botanical garden in London and is the largest UNESCO world heritage site in the capital. It would be difficult to see all the gardens in one day as there are so many parts and, at the moment, you might want to spend most of your time in the orchid festival. I’ve actually only seen the Gardens in the dark so far on the Christmas trail which I like to attend each year.
Yesterday, however, I finally made it in the daylight. Each year, the historical garden hosts the orchid festival around February/March and has done so for the last 23 years. Each year is themed around a different destination; last year was Thailand and this year Colombia. For four weeks, you can walk through a trail filled with sights, smells and sounds of Colombia, but be quick because it finishes on the 10th March! I’m a little disappointed with myself that I haven’t visited the orchid festival sooner but I now know that it’s somewhere I’d like to return to every year.
As soon as I saw a photo of the colourful floral displays on social media, I knew I had to visit. There are so many negative sides of social media but the fact that it can inspire people to visit new places demonstrates the positive impact that it can have. I yearn for nature so stepping from the busy city to the peaceful, beautiful gardens was an ideal day out for me. I was hit by a sensory overload with thousands of orchids all over the conservatory.
Here’s what to expect ahead of your visit to the orchid festival:
There are different zones inside the orchid festival including dry tropics, moist tropics and tropical orchids. My favourite zone was the tropical orchids; it was filled with colour and creativity.
Some of the other zones lacked as much colour but don’t be fooled, they held some really interesting plants. For example, there were plants which looked like a group of rocks. They do so to fool predators and they really did look just like rocks. Another impressive part of the orchid festival was the area of the conservatory dedicated to Colombia’s forests with a life-sized jaguar!
A Carnival of Animals
My favourite part was the centrepiece, the carnival of animals. Colombia is well known for its diverse wildlife so this carnival of animals celebrates this. There was a swimming tortoise as well as a scarlet ibis which are known for their long spoon-shaped bills and their distinctive red colour. The hanging sloth in front of multi-coloured orchards all reflected in the water was a highlight of mine and one which I know my bessie, Lani, would love as she adores sloths.
Orchid Tunnels and Arches
Another breath-taking part of the orchid festival for me was walking underneath a tunnel of hanging orchids representing Colombia’s rainbow river, Cano Cristales.
I also loved the flower-filled archways which we wandered through. It’s hard to capture a photo with the number of people there and it seemed to get busier the longer that we were there.
As I entered the conservatories, I was welcomed by warm air and fresh smells. Don’t worry too much about the weather outside as all of the orchid festival takes place inside conservatories and it’s very humid inside.
I would advise you to arrive at to the gardens as early as possible. I arrived an hour after they opened and there was already a queue for both the entrance and to get into the orchid festival. We queued for around 30 minutes to get into just the orchid festival and the queue was a similar length when we left a few hours later. They let in a group of people at a time so the queue will go down quicker than you think.
Leave Extra Time
Leave more time than you think. We had an afternoon tea in London planned for after the gardens but we had to ring and arrange for a later time as we wanted to spend longer admiring the beautiful colours of Colombia. If we had more time I would liked to have watched the short film about the history of the Colombian orchid. Next year I will plan to spend a whole day there.
The entrance to the festival is included in the standard ticket to the gardens and costs around £19 but it’s cheaper if you book beforehand online. We actually ended up buying our tickets online when we arrived at the Gardens as the queue was so long plus it was cheaper, £16.50 each.
How to Get There
Kew Gardens is easy to reach by public transport. There is a train station called ‘Kew Gardens’ which is on both the District and the overground line. From the station, there are signs to follow to get to the Gardens. The walk takes around 5 minutes and is down one straight road.
I absolutely loved wandering through tunnels and walls or orchids and it’s certainly more than just an ‘instagrammable’ spot in London. I’d like to return each year to see the blooming brilliant displays of flowers. Where else can you walk through tunnels of flowers and see a carnival of animals including a hanging sloth, a swimming turtle and even a life-sized jaguar?
Remember, it won’t be there for long so visit as soon as you can- the festival is only open till March 10th. Find more information here.
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