Punta del Este is an upscale summer beach resort. The natural attractions here are the beaches, ocean, nature reserves and related activities such as surfing, kite boarding, sailing, fishing, whale watching and hiking trails. Needless to say, you will also … Continue reading →
Located in the province of Mendoza a short distance from the city of San Rafael is the famous Canyon del Atuel with its exotic geological formations created by nature over long periods of time. Many of the unique shapes to be seen have been given names such as the cathedral, the castle, the ghost, the submarine and the armchair to name a few. These geological formations are surrounded by canyon walls that display a variety of color combinations that are said to be created by a fault in the earth’s surface similar to that of the grand canyon in the USA, as well as. the action of wind and rain. The drive through the canyon follows a winding road along Rio Atuel and is approximately 45 km in length, Where the road hugs the river banks there is lush foliage, when it temporarily veers away from the river the environment becomes more like a desert Eco-system..In addition to the river, lakes, surreal shapes and colorfully streaked canyon walls; a number of other outdoor recreational activities such as river rafting, zip lines, fishing, rock climbing, biking, paragliding, kayaking, horseback riding and more. The photo gallery below is just a small but representative sample of the many impressive sights to be seen in Canon Atuel.
The submarine, Lake Valle Grande
One of the many unique geo shapes in Canon Atuel. The redish color in these rocks is due to the presence of iron oxide.
Much of the Rio Atuel is surrounded by colorful, jagged and layered rock walls as seen in this photo.
Another one of the unique shapes called the Rivadavia Armchair
Here is one of several lava fields in the canyon
lush foliage can be see all along the banks of the Rio Atuel
The Rio Atuel in fall when many tree leaves display a variety of colors
There are 2 dams in Valle Grande that control the flow of water into and out of the Rio Atuel in this area. At the time of my visit the level of water was low in most places. There is also a hydro-electric plant on this river that generates electricity for the surrounding area.
Good example of the surreal landscapes of Canon Atuel. Besides the reddish shade of colors, the yellow shades are cause by the presence of sulfur oxides and the green shades by copper oxides.
a closer look of this wall shows one of the geo-shapes called the skull.
Lake Potrerillos, a one hour drive from Mendoza, is ideal for outdoor adventure sports.
Mendoza is a semi-arid mountainous environment, furrowed with rivers that carry melted snow water from the Andes into an extensive system of irrigation canals that have turned the area into a productive oasis specifically fit for vine growing and Eco-tourism. This system of rivers and irrigation canals also support the life of over 100,000 trees that provides a canopy over most of Mendoza city. These sources of water have also been used to create several artificial lakes such as the one found in Mendoza’s San Martin Park which is host to a variety of nautical competitions like sculling and jet ski races, as well as, Lake Portrerillos that features pristine water for kayaking, fishing, rafting and swimming. For the purposes of eco-tourism the province of Mendoza can be divided into four areas which are the northern oasis, southern oasis, central oasis and southern border oasis. All the photos in this essay are made in the northern oasis which stretches from the capital city of Mendoza to the northern border of Chile.
Another view of Lake Poterrillos in the fall
This is the hill of seven colores about 4 miles from Uspallata, The colors are attributable to different types of rock that came together over a long period of time.
As the road leaves the oasis of Uspallata it enters a desert environment much like this until it reaches the hill of 7 colores.
Along the road to the hill of 7 colors there are many interesting geological shapes and figures of different colors.
The oasis of Uspallata, a small village at an altitude of 6000 feet offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities and 2 distinct eco-systems.
a yoga instructor from Buenos Aires practices her art forms with the hill of 7 colores in the background
During the fall season, Uspallata is a good place for mountain biking and scenic landscapes.
In the foothills of Mendoza there are the Cachueta hot water springs about an hour’s drive from Mendoza.Here, you will find both an upper level of pools as well as the lower level in this photo.
This is the upper level of pools at the Cachueta Hot springs and the water temperature of each pool varies.
The Rio Mendoza runs through the Cachueta Hot springs just below the thermal pools. There is also a trail here for hiking
This is the Puente del Inca in the Andes mountains, a natural bridge crossing the Las Cuevas river at about 8,000 ft above sea level. The building used to be a hotel and the rocks are colored by iron thermal -mineral sediments
The Rio Pichueta In the Andes along with this bridge is a historical site where General San Martin’s armies crossed the border into Chile and launched an invasion to liberate the country from Spanish rulers. This river is also a good place for trout fishing.
The lake in San Martin Park is host to a variety of nautical events like sculling. It is one of several man made lakes in Mendoza.
Santiago is supposed to have some 1500 green spaces but the largest and most popular with locals and tourist alike is Parque Metropolitano de Santiago. The city planners have devoted 40 percent of its green areas to this park and it’s also the largest urban park in South America.that includes a forest of 400 hectares as well as the developed area’s. If you want to see all the park’s amenities there are a few hills to climb, one of which rises 880 ft from the park’s entrance. lf you don’t feel like walking or riding a bike on the trails that wind around this hill to the top, you can ride in a cable car for only one dollar. Once you reach the top you will be greeted with a full panoramic view of the city, snack bars souvenir kiosks, a church and large statue of the virgin mary that overlooks the city. Other features of the park include the national zoo, a variety of botanical gardens, hiking trails in the forest, bike paths, a cultural center, picnic zones, swimming pool, and wine museum. As indicated, there are many other parks in the city of Santiago and most offer a similar natural environment for relaxing along with the same kind of amenities, such as outdoor exercise equipment, bike paths, skateboarding courses, refreshment stands,etc.. In addition to the metropolitan park , a few of the largest and most popular parks are included in the photo gallery below; they are Bustamante Park, Forestal Park, Araucano Park , and Park Hurtado.
panoramic view of Santiago from on of the metropolitan park trails, the building in the background is tallest in South America and is the Costenero Center
one of several botanical gardens in the metropolitan park
a green meadow in the metropolitan park
a suricat at the metropolitan park zoo
a french architect designed the Florestal Park and this building is a french restaurant inside the park.
Florestal Park is a favorite gathering place for local muscians who provide entertainment and pass the hat for tips.
one of the paths for walking or biking through Florestal Park
Arauco Park is surrounded by modern architecture and the cities most important shopping mall
another plant scupture in Araucano Park. There is also a skateboard park, amphitheater, restaurants, museum, and paths for biking, hiking and jogging.
One of several garden scupltures in Araucano Park,
the entrance to Bustamonte Park which leads to a cafe and library. The park also has outdoor exercise equipment.
Park Hurtado offers horseback riding for children, outdoor excersize equipment, picnic areas, open fields for sports, a small lake, and trails for walking or joggings
Located in the southern zone of Chile, Pucon is one of the most popular eco-tourist destinations in the country. The main attractions include volcanos, caves, lakes, rivers, national parks, natural hot springs, waterfalls, beaches, stable climate, and pristine natural enviroment. A few of the related recreational activities consist of trekking, mountain biking, white water rafting, kayaking, fishing, sailing, horseback riding, zip line canopy tours, guided accents of the Villiarica Volcano, snow skiing in winter, water skiing in summer and bird watching,. If that’s not enough, Pucon has arguably the best small town infrastructure in South America. This means quality accommodations and good restaurants offering a variety of international cuisine. If your the type that would rather prepare your own meals, there are at also 3 large supermarkets in this village of 20,000 people that you normally do not see in cities with less than 500,000 people. Last but not least, if you prefer greenbacks instead of trees, there is also a casino with 488 gaming machines and 44 table games. All things considered, there are few eco-tourist destinations that have this much variety to offer their guest.
Lake Villarica and Woody Woodpecker
a view along the lakes trail in park Huerquehue
Lake Verde with an ancient Araucaria tree in the foreground of the Huerquehue National Park
a cafe in the village of Pucon
xmas tree in Pucon
Lake Toro in park Huerquehue
A view of Lake Villarica and a few boat rentals from the village of Villarica
one of several waterfalls in Huerquehue National Park
foot bridge and river in Huerquehue Park
a Pudu, the world’s smallest deer and protected species in parque Huerquehue
one of many tour guides
Lake Villiarica Volcano from the promenade in Pucan
Rose Garden Promenade and Lake in Parque San Martin
Mendoza is a city in western Argentina in the foothills of the Andes and Cuyo desert region. It is both an emerging ecotourism destination and the largest wine producing area in Latin America for which it is world-renowned. Although it is has an arid and desert like climate, , Mendoza has used a simple flood irrigation technique for centuries that has only required a few extensions and minor modifications over the years to provide enough water for the growth of over 100,000 trees that line every street, a variety of urban green spaces, as well as the growth of grapes used to make its wines. This system consists of irrigation channels in all the streets with flood gates to control the distribution of water diverted from the surrounding rivers and mountains as needed.
Starting with bike wine tasting tours to local vineyards, there are quite a variety of outdoor activities for eco-tourist to enjoy in Mendoza. When in the city itself, perhaps the best place to visit would be the 971 acre Parque General San Martin. It consist of tree-lined hiking and biking trails, gardens, a lake with regatta’s for sculling boats, fields with outdoor exercise equipment, a zoological park, soccer (football) stadium, playgrounds, equestrian center, tennis club and an amphitheater where the international wine festival is held annually. A few of the other natural attractions to visit in the Mendoza area include tours to Mount Aconcagua the highest peak in the western at 22,000 feet, Atuel Canyon where there is an oasis that is over 100 feet deep, the hot springs of Cacheuta. and Luna valley ( moon valley) where there are many mystic geological formations. At these and other locations nearby you will find many outdoor adventure activities such as white water rafting, mountain biking, trekking, horseback riding, rock climbing, canopy zip lines, hang gliding and kayaking.
Pedestrian only street that leads to Plaza Independencia
Malecon 2000 is an urban renewal project that combines a commercial shopping center, an historic area, botanical gardens and museums. It was completed in year 2000 and is a 1.5 mile long promenade on the banks of the Rio Guayas that has 3 distinct sections. The commercial center has some 230 stores which are found underneath the promenade while a variety of restaurants, bars and cafes are above the retail stores overlooking the river. There are also several boarding docks in this area where embarkations offer both day and nighttime cruises up and down the river Guayas. The historic civil plaza located in the middle of the promendade has a number of monuments created in honor of important persons in Ecuador’s past, as well as some recreational areas for children. On the other side of the historic area are the malecon gardens that occupy about 22,000 sq. meters as well as several museums. In these gardens there are pedestrian pathways supplemented by a variety of native flora, ponds, lagoons, streams, fountains and bridges.. Other nearby attractions for the eco-tourist include an iguana park, the Cierra Blanco Forest Reserve and the Machalilla National Park.
A view of the malecon looking towards the commercial area
a childrens pool in the historical civic plaza area
a pathway in the gardens
One of the foot bridges in the gardens
native garden flora
The front of the art museum at the end of the malecon with cerro santo ana hill in the background
Due to its natural beauty, spring like climate year around and many outdoor adventure sports; Banos is one of Ecuadors most popular tourist attractions. At 5,900 feet in the Andes mountains this small village has international appeal and is surrounded by 60 waterfalls, deep river gorges, steep bluffs, lush green mountains, expansive plateaus, and hot springs heated by the nearby Tungurahua Volcano.The list of outdoor adventure activities includes white water rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping, mountain biking, horseback riding, amazon jungle tours, waterfall tours, zip lines, atv trails, cable car rides, canopy tours, trout fishing, rock climbing, mountain climbing, trekking and most anything else you could want at an eco-tourist resort.
In addition to these outdoor adventure activities, Banos also has many festivals, special events and parades. So the mood in town is usually festive and upbeat. There are also quite a few good restaurants with international cuisine from around the world at very reasonable prices. I recall seeing German, Italian, Danish, Chinese, Mexican, Uruguayan, and Japanese restaurants, as well as a variety of pizzeria’s. If restaurants are not what your looking for at the end of the day, you can also find a bar zone with a variety of nightclubs.
The Tungurahua Volcano stands at 16000 feet and overlooks the village of Banos
Casa de Arbol and Swing at the end of the world. This swing sails out over a steep cliff just below the Tungurahua Volcano
the Rio Pastaza borders the north side of Banos
One of many tour operators
Manto de la Novia waterfalls
Flora at the Jardine de Chamana eco-resort hotel
the virgin waterfalls at the edge of town with thermal baths next door.
One of two main streets through the center of Banos
Zip line over the manto de la novia waterfalls. Its your choice of head first or feet first.
One of 2 town squares in the center of Banos
The restaurant and rest area at the foot of Pailon del Diablo
street performers from argentina demonstrating folk dances of their homeland.
Over 100 feet tall, the Pailon del Diablo waterfall also has one of the worlds scariest staircases. This photo shows the bottom half.
Another view of Banos
The Chamana waterfalls
Bungee jumping from the San Franciso bridge in Banos
Vilcabamba is a small mountain village with a population of about 7,000 people that now includes quite a few ex-pats from the USA. Located in the Andes at an altitutde of 5000 ft and 30 miles from the city of Loja, it is famous for its pristine natural environment, where there is little if any air pollution, water pollution, chemtrails or electro magnetic pollution. Concomitant with a great climate, stress free lifestyle and plenty of homegrown organic produce, Vilcabamba has a reputation for being the valley of longevity where life expectancy of the local population exceeds the average of most other people in the world.
The main attracttions here for the eco-tourist or nature enthusiast includes Podocarpus National Park, the Rumi-Wilco eco-lodge and nature reserve that is less than a 10 minute walk from the center of town, a mountain called Mandango the sleeping Inca, bike trails and riverwalks. Podocarpus is considered to be the botanical garden of america and is 1462 sq. km. with 4 distinct high and low mountain ecosystems. There are over 4000 species of plants, 68 species of mammals including 560 species of birds, and a complex system of over 100 lagoons called Lagunas del Compadre, as well as waterfalls and rivers. The park has 3 main entrances in different sectors, the closest to Vilcabamba is el refugio del plato. From here vistors can access parts of the lagoon system, hike, camp, bird watch and enjoy the forest scenery.
A short walk from the center of town is the Rumi-Wilco nature reserve offering guided nature trails, camping, swimming holes in the river Chamba and cabin rentals. Another favorite outdoor activity in Vilcabamba is the trail to the top of Mandango which has a rock formation resembling a temple that according to folklore, is where the Inca God sleeps. Many tourist ride horseback or hike to the top of this peek for a closer look at the temple and the panoramic views from the mountains peak. If your not a nature enthusiast you might want to try prospecting for gold in the eastern sector of Podocarpus not far from the Bombuscaro entrance to the park.
Mandango, the temple of the sleeping inca
the river Yambala in Vilcabamba
humingbird in Podocarpus National Park
the nature reserves upper trail
humingbird in Podocarpus National Park
Humingbird in Podocarpus National Park
Vilcabamba’s town square
the river Chambala in the nature reserve of Vilacabamba
Paraisio eco resort hotel
a stand of bamboo on the nature reserve’s lower trail besides the river
If you happen to be planing a vacation to Medellin in Columbia and are interested in eco-tourism or outdoor recreational activities in and around this city of approximately 2.5 million people, here are a few parks, gardens and nature reservses that you might want to visit. First and foremost on my list are Parque Arvi and Piedra Blancas both of which are located in the mountains surrounding the city and easily accessed by the metro cable car systems. The cable car takes you as far as Parque Arvi and a short bus ride of about 5 minutes will take you to Pierda Blancas eco-resort where you will find campgrounds, nature trails, butterfly pavillion, lake, boat rentals, hotel, restaurant and more. Another favorite getaway for tourist is Guatape approximately one hour away from the city by bus. It features a lake with islands, windsurfing, boat tours and a large monolith with a unique observation deck that is reached by climbing a built in staircase of 750 steps. Perhaps the most often visited location in central Medellin for tourist and locals alike is Cerro Nutibarra, a nature reserve in the mountains overlooking the city and reached by a city tour bus. It offers guided nature trails, art nature trails, bird watching, outdoor amphitheater for concerts, musuem, restaurants and a replica of what mountain villages around Medellin where like in the past.. The Uribe Botanical garden is another popular attraction for the eco-tourist. It features a variety of gardens, trails, lagoon, restaurant and is next door to parque explora as well as the city planetarium. Other photos included in this gallery are barefoot park behind the convention center, El Castillo Musuem and Gardens, as well as an example of floral arrangements seen at the annual festival of flowers.
The lake of Pierdra Blancas
butterfly pavillion at pierdra blanca
A Lagoon at Uribe Botanical Garden
Uribe Botanical Gardens
At the Festival of Flowers in Medellin
Hills and mountains surround Medellin, known as the city of flowers
El Castillo Museo and Gardens
El Castillo Gardens
Village of Cerro Nutibarra
art nature trail at cerro nutibarra
Barefoot park behind the Plaza Mayor Convention Center is a green space for rest and relaxtion
This lake is just below the visitors center and main trailhead
The Cajas National Park is located about 45 minutes away from Cuenca, Ecuador by car or bus at an altitude that ranges from 10,000 feet to over 12000 feet. At the entrance to the park there is a restaurant, trail maps, lake, restaurant and exhibits. The main trail from the vistors center is about 4 km in length with moderate to steep elevation gains along the way. It can take approximately 4 to 5 hours to finish hiking this trail depending on weather and individual hiking capabilities. This trail includes several different lakes, rivers, lagoons, fishing opportunities, bird watching, inca ruins, camping, and a variety of flora. All the photos seen in this gallery are part of the main trail which starts at the park entrance.
Mexico is one of the top 5 countries in the world in terms of ecological diversity and is home to the Paricutin Volcano that is also one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. This is the result of Mexico’s topography which varies significantly and its geographic situation which places it between distinct eco-zones. There are many ways to enjoy these natural wonders found in Mexico including white water rafting, scuba diving, sailing, trekking, mountain climbing, bird watching, biking and a variety of other eco-activities. Naturally, there is some disagreement about which of mexico’s natural wonders are the best, so researchers have conducted surveys to determine which of these is most popular. Copper canyon was determined to be the most popular followed by Sumidero Canyon, the butterfly reserves and the meso american barrier reef..
El Requeson beach is found in the bay of concepcion and is part of the sea of cortez. Great location for camping, kayaking and snorkeling.
Pena Bernal the worlds 2nd largest monliths in the village of Bernal
Grutas del Mamut, one of the great natural treasures of mexico is the extensive network of caves to explore
Sumidero Canon is one of the most popular natural wonders in mexico and was carved out by the Grijala River seen here. In some places the ealls are as high as 1000 ft and its 13 kilometers long. There are thirteen rapids, 5 waterfalls, 3 beaches and 2 freshwater springs.
Playa Ensenada Grande, Espirito Santo,a unesco world heritage site
Blue Agave plants in the State of Jalisco. A cultivated eco-system and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
El Rosario Butterfly Reserve, Michoacan where most all the monarch’s butterflies of north american migrate annually. It is also a unesco world heritage site
There are over 7000 cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula. Tourist and locals alike enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving in the pools of water created by underground rivers
Isla Cozumel one of the best scuba diving locations in the world found in the midst of the meso american reef system.If your not into scuba diving than try this glass bottom boat
Akumel, Maya Riviera, the meso american reef system is a short swim for this lagoon.
One of two volcanos found in Colima of Jalisco. This one seen in the distant background is called El Fuego and is the most active volcano in Mexico
Cooper Canyon has 6 distinct canyons in the Sierra Madres. It is larger and deeper than the grand canyon of Arizona.
Sea Lion Colony found near isla Espirito Santo, Sea of Cortez
The Sierra Laguna’s is a Unesco Global Biosphere Reserve found in Baja California Sur
Sian Ka’an, entrance to the primary mangrove chanel leading into one of the worlds unesco natural heritage sites.
There are 5 cascading waterfalls with on each side of the river that climbs to the top El Chiflon wateralls
a look downstream the from 250 drop from the Velo de Novia falls.
Tapalpa is a rustic mountain village surrounded by pine forest at an altitude of approximately 6800 feet and it is a popular weekend resort for nature lovers in the Guadalaja area. It is also one of Mexico’s pueblo magico’s and offers the eco-tourist a variety of outdoor activities. What attracts eco tourist to this village are several extreme outdoor adventure parks including the Bosque La Mexicana, Eko Park, Parque Natural Los Frailes and Parque Aventuras la Ceja and Monte Real Adventura. These parks feature zip line canopy tours, rappelling, rock climbing, atv trails, mountain biking, hang gliding, trekking and obstacle courses. One of the favorite attractions for the extreme adventure lover is the Canopy Tour at Eko-Park. This is a circuit consisting of 9 zip lines more than 25 meters off the ground where the longest is 300 meters and you can reach speeds of 50 kilometers per hour.For the less adventurous, there are scenic hiking trails to both springs and waterfalls such as Salto del Nogal which is the highest waterfall in the state of Jalisco at just over 100 feet. In keeping with the spirit of outdoor living, you will also find many good restaurants around the village that specialize in outdoor grilling of fresh meats. Bon appetite..
While trekking in the Tapalpa area you can come across many scenic landscapes
Waiting for the wind to lift off
Hang gliding at park la ceja
This is a cabana and pot belly stove for rent at parque la ceja
swing bridge to the obstacle course at eko park
Here’s one of the obstacles to cross on the course at Eko Park
Here’s an example of a zip line adventure
a look at the rustic centro area of Tapalpa
Here are two of Tapalpa’s landmarks. On the right is the old Templo San Antonio, now a musuem of religious art and the new templo San Antonio in the background.
The village of Patzcuaro is found in central Mexico at 7200 ft. above sea level and is one of the countries Pueblo Magico’s because of its 16th century atmosphere. In addition to the town of Patzcuaro, the lake is surrounded with small villages, artisans. lush green landscapes, pine forest and wetlands. There are also 6 islands to explore in Lake Patzcuaro, the most popular being Janitzio. It has tourist facilities and is famous for its day of the dead festivities which begin with a candlelit boat procession from the mainland to the island and ends at the Janitzio Church graveyard with an all night candlelit graveside vigil. At the islands highest point there is also a 40 meter statute of Jose Morales, a hero of Mexico’s independance. Inside this statue, one can climb a spiral staircase to the top where there are great views of the surroundings while the interior walls of the staircase have murals depicting the life of Jose Morales.
The area of Lake Patzcuaro also offers the eco-tourist many outdoor activities such as hiking trails in the forest of El Malpais de Arocutin, birding, horseback riding, mountain biking and such nearby attractions as the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Reserve and the National Park in Uruapan. The latter is Mexico’s only national park found within the limits of a city, It is famous for the beauty of its flora and the crystal clear water of the Cupatitzio river with its cascading waterfalls as seen in the photo gallery below.
Janitzio Island and statue of Jose Morales
a launch returning to the dock after cruising to the islands with tourist
The Apupato eco tourist site in Patzcuaro
the main plaza of Patzcuaro with christmas decorations
The Basilica of Patzcuaro
a sidewalk cafe across from the main plaza
One of several waterfalls in the National Park of Uruapan
The Cupatitzio River and flora found in the National Park of Uruapan
Another one the cascading waterfalls and flora in Uruapan park
monarch butterflies at the El Rosario butterfly reserve
This Japanese garden is found inside a large metropolitan park that is called Bosque Colomos. It is one of the most popular attractions in Guadalajara for both tourist and local residents. In addition to the garden, there are miles of trails for hiking and bicycling, outdoor exercise equipment, a cultural center for children, a small lake, a bonsai pavilion, an area for riding horses and a variety of outdoor sculptures.
The traditional Japanese Garden is designed to reflect the countries culture and philosphy which involves harmony with nature, tranquility, serious contemplation and discipline. Several types of Japanese gardens exist and the most common include a rock or zen garden, a tea garden, a water garden and strolling gardens. The latter type of garden can be either a strolling garden designed for recreation and aesthetic pleasure or a strolling garden for meditative walking which will incorporate some spiritual imagery in the landscape.
bridges are a common design element
a pagoda in the garden
lush green landscaping is used to create an idealized miniature landscape
small ponds are also common elements of japanese gardens
rocks are also common elements found in most types of japanese gardens
The cultural center for children
A statue of Pepe Guizar, one of Mexico’s most famous musicians and composers. Born in Guadalajara, he is known as the musical painter of mexico
This sculpture is called “Serie Instrumento de Viento” which translates to wind instrumet series
streams with fish are also common elements in a water garden
The Gardens of Lake Atitlan are about a 3 hour drive from the border of Mexico by shuttle bus. Altogether, there are said to be over 500 species representing some 250 plant families found in the separate and distinct gardens that surround the upscale Hotel Atitlan. The antique, modern and David Austin rose gardens, for example, have over 200 varieties of roses on display. In other theme gardens there are over 50 varieties of hibiscus, arbors of vine, 25 or more colors of bougainvillas and azaleas, along with a variety of orchids to be seen. Other theme gardens include the wedding gardens, the coffee gardens, the helicona gardens, and english style knot gardens. The small sample of images in the gallery below is representative of what you can expect to see if you visit the Atitlan gardens.
If you happen to be planning a trip to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico don’t miss the chance to visit Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Tour companies offer daily shuttle bus rides to and from Atitlan for a cost of only $50 dollars round trip from San Cristobal. This lake is considered to be one of the ten most beautiful in the world and has been has been a national park since 1955. Besides the lake; the main outdoor attractions include the 3 volcanes that surround the lake and a nature reserve featuring a botanical garden, butterfly sanctuary, hiking trails and cascading waterfalls. Other recreational activities in the park include trails to the top of the volcano’s, rappelling, zip lines, hang gliding, canoeing and bass fishing. The lake also has several indigenous maya communities where it is possible to gain insight into the their culture and purchase traditional hand made arts and crafts at very reasonable prices.
Botanical garden flora
The botanical garden ferns, airplants and sculptured hedges
The ecological site off Grutas del Mamut or Mammoth caves is about 7 km from the central historic area of San Cristobal. The main attraction here are the caves but the park also includes palapas with picnic tables, a pavilion for special events, snack bars, a soccer field, a river with canoe rentals, and a mountain top vista. The caves have several dimly lit rooms with some impressive stalactites and stalagmites. The stalactites are the formations that hang from the ceilings of caves while the stalgmites look like they emerge from the ground. Both are collectively referred to as drip-stones because they are formed through deposition of calcium carbonate and other minerals, which is precipitated from mineralized water solutions.The color of these drip-stones is determined by what minerals are dissolved in the formation process. The images below include both kinds of dripstones and other photo’s of this ecological site.
stalactites also called icicles
Both stalactites and stalagmites.
This swing bridge leads to the soccer field
a combination of dripstones
A river for canoeing and palapa’s with picnic tables
The El Chiflon waterfalls are located about 45 km. from the city of Comitan in the state of Chiapas and is a community run cooperative of great natural beauty. The falls are surrounded by a reed valley, mountains and tropical jungle with rich and dense flora. There is a chain of 5 five waterfalls in this park ranging from approximately 25 feet to over 250 feet that can be observed by hiking a guided trail about 1 mile long. The first part of the trial is fairly level and swimming is allowed in areas where the water is still relatively calm and shallow. The second half of the trail becomes very steep and the water alongside very rapid as you approach the 250 ft.bridal veil falls (Velo de Novia). The last 800 meters is the most difficult to climb and takes you to Quinceanera falls at the top of the chain but it’s worth the effort if you have the time and energy to go the whole nine yards. More information is available in the photo essay below.
The Park Trail Map
a foot bridge near the begining of the trial
There are trails on both sides of the falls with palapa’s, bathrooms and refreshment stands
One of the first falls on the trail called the Suspiro
The next waterfall is called the Ala de Angel
a look downstream the from 250 drop from the Velo de Novia falls.
There are zip lines on both sides of the trails at the base of Velo de Novia falls enabling a round trip view of the surroundings
Another look at the lower half of the Velo de Novia considered the most spectacular of the group
This is the Arco Iris falls a few hundred meters uphill from the Velo de Novia
At the end of the trail and last in the chain of falls is the Quinceanera Falls about 800 meters uphill from Velo de Novia
A view of the parks forest and one of the hiking trails
Rancho Neuvo Caves
Located in a beautiful forest on the outskirts of San Cristobal de Las Casas, the Rancho Nuevo Ecological Park features an illuminated 2 kilometer walkway through spacious caves with impressive stalactites. Other outdoor recreational activities at the park include horseback riding, a giant slide, a zip line, hiking trails, skating rink and camping facilities. There are also shops selling snacks, souvenirs, a variety of art and craft work as well as a restaurant. For more information, check out the guided photo tour below.
the zip line at the top of this photo crosses over some of the shops and parking lot area.
The Fogotico river runs through the park and down to the village of San Cristobal
Folklore has it that years ago a French soldier named Jean D’Arcotete committed suicide in this park when he was rejected by a local woman that he fell in love while living in San Cristobal de Las Casas and the park is named after this legend. It is one of 7 ecological sites surrounding San Cristobal and is typical of the natural beauty which still exists all throughout the state of Chiapas, Mexico. The park is most well known for a large stone arch that crosses the river Fogotico. It also has interior cavities with stalactites and twisted rock formations that can be explored by visitors. Besides the arch and river that winds through the park there are trails with an abundance of vegation, oak, pine and cypress trees for those who like to hike. Other outdoor recreational activities include zip lines, rappelling, camping or floating down the river on the parks rental boat. There are also palapa’s, a snack bar, cafe and pavillion if needed. For a better idea of what this park is like, take the photo tour below.
A view from the road on the way into the park
A pasture at the entrance to the park
A hillside palapa on the way to the swing bridge
Into the forest, next stop is the swing bridge
Here’s the swing bridge that goes to the arch and river
The fogotico river winding its way the arches
The river and arches
a look at the caves inside the arches
An wider opening on the other end of arch
If your tired of hiking at the end day you can always take the take the zip line to the parking lot and be there in 30 seconds
Instead of the zip line you can take the trail back to the parking lot and mingle with the sheep who have also had a rough day of foraging for food in the woodlands
One of the parks trials which has been paved in some areas
Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, a top ten travelers choice beach in the Caribbean
Mexico has about 6,000 miles of coastline and over 450 beaches with a variety of physical characteristics. These range from desert to tropical environments but while it may be easy to classify beaches according to these objective characteristics, the choice of which beach resort is best for a vacation is much more subjective. A quick internet search will turn up several sites that rate beaches in Mexico by a variety of different criteria but there is only one objective system that rates beaches by strict criteria applied the world over and that site can be found at http://www.blueflag.org. Their system for evaluating beaches started in France around 1985 and is now run by the European Foundation for Environmental Education. In general, the Blue Flag criteria used to determine which beaches deserve to be awarded are water quality, safety, services, environmental management and information. As of now, there are 5 beaches that have earned the blue flag award in Mexico. Coincidently, all five of these beaches are also on the list of the best beaches in Mexico as published by websites such as Travelers Choice and magazines such as U.S News and Travel that use tourist opinions or travel writers opinions to rate beaches. So, if finding the best beach is a top priority on your next vacation, it comes down to a decision about the intangibles such as idyllic versus the tangibles such as environmental information signs. In the photo essay below there is a photo of Playa Delfines, a blue flag awarded beach, as well as several photos of beaches in Tulum which Travelers Choice rates as the best in Mexico. All other beach photos below are highly rated by one or more survey about best beaches in Mexico.
Playa Delfines, a blueflag awarded beach in Cancun
Akumal, one of traveler’s choices top 10 beach pics in mexico
Playa Akumal, a top choice for snorkeling and protected area for turtle nesting .
Balandra Beach, a protected biospheres and top ten travelers choice pic for best beach in Mexico
Tulum Beaches, Maya Riviera, U.S. News and Travel rates Tulum beaches as the best in Mexico
Another look at Tulum’s Beaches, Maya Riviera
Playa Cabo Pulmo, Baja California Sur, only coral reefs for scuba divers and snorkeling in this area
El Requeson Playa, Bahia Concepcion, Baja California, Best RV camping on the transpeninsular hwy. Baja California Sur
Gold Coast, Mazatland, U.S. News and Travel rates Mazatland beaches in Mexico’s top 10
La Ventana Beach, Baja California Sur, Best kiteboarding in mexico
Playa Los Muertos, Puerto Vallarta, One of PV’s best beaches
Las Palmas Beach, Todos Santos, Baja California, Best Secluded Beach in Todos Santos
Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Sea of Cortez, One of the top 12 beaches in the world
Mamita’s Beach, Playa del Carmen, U.S. News and Travel rates Playa del Carmen as the best apres beach town in Mexico
Los Cerritos Beach, Los Cabos, Baja California, One of cabo’s best beaches
El Corumel, La Paz, Baja, sea of cortez, best sunset beach in the area
Playa Lanchero, Isla Mujers, Another excellent beach a few miles away playa norte
The Balandra Biosphere consist of mangrove, beach and dune ecosystems
A biome is a group of ecosystems that shares similar flora, fauna, microorganisms and climate. While an ecosystem is defined as the dynamic interactions between flora, fauna, microorganisms and their environment working together as a functional unit.The main difference between the two is that a biome consist of many similar ecosystems throughout the world grouped together. One of the problems encountered in the classification system of biomes and ecosystems is the transition zones that can make it difficult to determine exactly where one system begins and another ends. In any case,, roughly 29 percent of the land in Mexico is considered to be in desert or shrubland biomes while another 30 percent of the land consist of several different forest biomes. Additionally, Mexico is said to have 51 distinct ecosystems which makes it the most biologically diverse country in Latin American. For example, some of the ecosystems in the forest biomes of this country alone include coniferous forest, oak forest, tropical semi deciduous forest, mixed forest, cloud forest, deciduous forest and evergreen forest just to mention a few of the 51 possibilities. The photo essay below depicts a few of these ecosystems and includes additional information.
a desert environment with shrubland ecosystem
a wetland ecosystem in the mountainous shrubland environment of San Miguel de Allende
estuary ecosytem in the costal environment of San Jose
a mountainous shrubland environment with desert ecosystem in baja california sur
an oasis ecosystem in the desert environment of baja california sur
Tropical semi deciduous forest in the coastal environment of Puerto Morales
These lavender fields represent a cultivated crop ecosystem within a mountainous shrubland environment
worlds 2nd tallest monolith in the shrubland environment of Queretaro
a cultivated crop ecosystem in the state of Jalisco
evegreen forest ecosystem in the mountainous environment of baja california norte
a cultivated oasis in el purisma withinin the xerbic shrubland environment of baja california sur
alpine environment with a mixed forest ecosystem. In this area the ecosystems are a function of the altitude and they change rapidly
this is a protected island ecosytem of espirito santocosystemem in the aquatic environment of the sea of cortez
a cloud forest ecosystem located in the mountainous enviroment of baja california sur
a rocky coastal ecosystem located in the desert environment of baja california sur
Akumal, or place of the turtle in Mayan, is a small americanized beach community located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. It is not only a nesting ground for sea turtles but home to Centro Ecological de Akumal which is dedicated to sea turtle protection, environmental marine research, education and sustainable tourism development. The bay of Akumal is sheltered from waves so conditions for turtles and snorkelers alike are arguably the best that can be found within the Maya riviera. ln addition to the loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles that call Akumal home; snorkelers can expect to see a variety of colorful tropical fish and coral thanks to the clear and calm waters of this bay. The Yalku lagoon, found at the north end of the Akumal, is another ideal location for snorkeling. This happens to be a unique environment where fresh waters from the yucatan’s underground system merges with the caribbean sea to form a lagoon sheltered from waves. For additional details and images, please go to the photo essay below.
located at the entrance to this seaside resort, town meetings and other local events take place here
vacation rental homes overlooking akumal bay
ceramic arts and other mayan craft work on sale just behind akumal beach
a smooth white sand beach with palm trees
group or individual snorkeling lessons are available at akumal beach
a meeting place with information for divers
Equipment rentals and ticket sales for snorkeling tours
art and craft work for sale, just off the beach
are both in the same building
north end of akumal where fresh water from the yucatan blends with the caribean
a sheltered lagoon with calm, clear water and lots of tropical fish
this park has a variety of sculptures to see as you walk along a path around the lagoon
partially hidden behind palm trees is this tiki style restaurant and bar located on half moon bay between akumal beach and Yal ku lagoon
This 150 acre botanical garden also know as Ya’ax Che is the last patch of conserved forest between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Established in 1982, the main objectives of the park are to preserve and propagate endangered plant species as well as inform and educate visitors about how the mayans used the natural resources of this area. To this end, there is an interpretive trail of about 4 km with a variety of exhibits set in a natural forest environment representative of the complete eco-system existing in the Yucatan Peninsula. The distinct exhibits consist of cactus, orchids, ferns, ornamentals, palms and medicinal plants, Additionally, there are maya ruins, a recreated traditional mayan home and “chicle camp” where sap from chicle trees was used to make the chewing gum which bears its name. Wild fauna such as spider monkeys, lizards and a variety of birds can also be seen along the trails. For more information and images about this park, see the photo essay below.
A guide to the exhibits found on the 4km interpretive trail
This is a Tradescania Pallida plant native to the Yucatan used for ornamental purposes
There are 20 different kinds of palmae in the yucatan peninsula and 15 of them are part of this parks collecton that includes this Corozo palm
The palmae exhibit includes this Kuka which is native to the yucatan and now considered an endangered species
dedicated to Dr. Ingrid Olmsted who was a pioneer in promoting biodiversity around the yucatan peninsula
The palms on the right are the sabel mexicana native to the yucatan and used in the construction of palpa thatched roofs
This solar home is part of a Ethnographic Exhibition which also includes an apiary, vegetable garden and medicinal plants that were used to supplement the family economy.
part of the maya ethnography exhibit, this Liliaceae plant was used as a traditional medicine for resporatory ailments
a variety of ferns and a reading center are found in this exhibit
a fern native to the yucatan and florida considered to be a threatened species
Maya ruins in the park called the Altar
recreation of a chiclero camp production facility where sap from the chicle tree was boiled down and cast into blocks that formed a base for chewing gum later called chiclets
on the way to the swing bridge, this trail is an representative of a medium height deciduous forest
This bridge crosses a valley which floods in the raining season and leads to an observation tower with a birds eye view
the ever present Iguana turns up almost everywhere in the maya riviera
Looking for a laid back tropical island paradise with a variety of diversions to enjoy, than look no farther than Isla Mujeres. This island is found in the Caribbean Sea only a few miles away from Cancun, one of the top destination resorts in the world. It can be reached by plane, ferry or private boat. Most visitors arrive by ferry which leaves Puerto Juarez or Cancun several times a day and takes anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes to complete the trip. The cost of the ferry is only about $3.00 per person from Puerto Juarez and cars or motorcycles can be brought along for a few dollars more. Didn’t bring a car or motorcycle with you, no sweat; there are plenty of taxis, motor scooters, and golf carts for rent at reasonable prices. Since the island is only 7 km long and 650 meters wide, a scooter or golf cart is the most popular mode of transportation.
There are a variety of hotel accommodations from budget to very expensive around the island and many restaurants. As you might expect, seafood restaurants are the most common but international cuisine featuring Italian, French, Mediterranean, Mexican and Thai cooking are also available in other restaurants. Most retail shops are found in the downtown area along Avenue Hildago. These stores sell just about everything that is needed for a short stay from suntan lotions to equipment for snorkeling or scuba diving,
an afternoon siesta in a hammock under palm trees
In addition to the islands welcoming ambiance, most people come to isla mujeres to enjoy swimming, scuba diving and snorkeling around the coral reefs to experience the vibrant colors of both the reefs and the tropical fish that live in these waters which are very clear and average 78 to 82 degrees on a year round basis. One of the most popular coral reefs here is the Manchones Reef because it can be enjoyed by all levels of divers and has an extraordinary variety of terrain, plant life and sea life.
The main attraction to Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, is the well preserved central historic district. The centerpiece of this downtown area is the landmark Main Cathedral with its twin 200 foot towers erected in 1848. It is surrounded by 4 distinct plaza’s named Plaza de Armas, Plaza Tapatia, Plaza de Liberacion and Plaza Guadalajara. All together they offer visitors a variety of shops, restaurants, cultural activities and events hard to find elsewhere in the country with the exception of Mexico city. One of the highlights located in the Plaza Tapatia is the Cabanas Cultural Institute which houses art exhibitions, a movie theater, a performing arts theater and an outdoor patio where ballet and musical events take place.
The Central Historic area of Gaudalajara is also a convenient base for exploring other surrounding attractions such as the suburb of Tlaquepaque and Tequila, a Unesco World Heritage sight where much of the countries national drink is produced. Only a few minutes away from Gaudalajara’s downtown visitors can also experience the artisan community of Tlaquepaque, that produces the greatest variety of handicrafts in Mexico. Here, in a large pedestrian tourist area there are over 200 stores, restaurants, galleries and other attractions. Another unique experience not to be missed while in Guadalajara, is the tequila express, a 90 minute train ride from the station in Central Guadalajara that passes through vast fields of blue agave, the village of Tequila and finally arrives at the Casa Herradura Distillery. This train ride features plush coaches, live Mariachi music on board, tequila tastings and dinner at the Casa Herradura, one of the oldest tequila making facilities in the country which is still 100% Hacienda made.
The Surrealistic Architectural Gardens created by Sir Edward James are also known as Los Pozas ( the pools). It is located in the village of Xilitla, Mexico, a pueblo magico since December of 2011. The gardens consist of 80 acres with natural waterfalls and cascading pools of water, as well as thirty six surreal sculptures in what is a sub-tropical rainforest environment about 2,000 feet above sea level. Its origins date back to 1947 when James bought the land which was then used as a coffee plantation. A few years later, however, most of the plants James had started cultivating were destroyed by an unprecedented frost and as a patron of the surrealistic art movement he decided to convert the coffee plantation into gardens with surreal architectural sculptures that are completely integrated into the surrounding natural environment.
Born to immense wealth and privilege, James was raised in England where his family owned a 300 room mansion on a 6,000 acre estate. Needless to say, he attended some of the most élite schools in the country and became a poet/artist who passionately supported the surrealists art movement before it became fashionable. In addition, he sponsored the work of several budding surreal artist such as Salvador Dali as well as the Montaure, a lavish surrealistic magazine published in Paris. Eventually, he abandoned the intellectual, social and artistic circles of London for the jungles of Xilitla, Mexico where he died in 1984. Sometime before his death, however, he had donated the family estate in England to a charitable trust and set up the West Dean college for the preservation of traditional arts and crafts.