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Category Archives: Living
Canyon Atuel, Valle Grande, Argentina
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.
Eco-Tourism in Mendoza, Argentina
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.
Urban Parks of Santiago, Chile
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.
Pucon, Eco-Tourist Resort in Chile
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.
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.
Malecon 2000, Guayaquill, Ecuador
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.
Banos, an Eco-Tourist Paradise
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 Green Around Medellin, Columbia
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.
Cajas National Park, Ecuador
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.
Tapalpa, An Eco-Resort in Mexico
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..
Guadalajara’s Historic Landmarks, Mexico
Guadalajara is Mexico’s second largest city and the cultural center of Western Mexico. Its status as a city was granted by the Spanish King Charles the sixth in 1550 along with a coat of arms that the city has today. The Central Historic district is the oldest section of the city where it was founded and where the oldest buildings are located. They include a combination of religious and civil colonial buildings which are noted for their architectural and historic significance. While the colonial buildings are the most common style of architecture found in the historic district, one can also find examples of Gothic, Baroque, Neo-Classical, Viceregal and Art Deco designs. One of the buildings, the Instituto de Cultural Cabana, is a world heritage site.
From an architectural standpoint, the Templo Expiatory is perhaps the most interesting building in the historic district and its neoclassical style was designed by Manuel Tolsa. Although the cornerstone was laid in 1897, the church is made of stone, carved as it was done in the middle ages.The three tympana on the church’s facade are accented with Italian mosaic’s created in the Vaticans mosaic factory. Also seen on the facade is a church clock imported from Germany and installed by German technicians along with a carillon of 25 bells which play 25 religious pieces such as Ave Maria. Whenever a musical piece is played, minature statutes of the 12 apostle’s rotate in and out of the campanile. Of course a church would not be the same without stained glass and this one has huge stained glass windows created by Jacques and Gerard Degussecau of France. In addition to the musuems and galleries in the historic area, the sites shown in this gallery are the most popular attractions for cultural tourism in Guadalajara.
A Japanese Garden in Guadalajara, Mexico
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.
Lake Chapala Promenade, Jalisco, MX
Lake Chapalpa is the largest freshwater lake in Mexico and the village of Chapala has been a popular weekend and holiday destination for both Guadalajara residents and international tourist since the 1920’s. The lakefront promenade or malecon has 2 scenic piers, boat rides, restaurants, hotels, playgrounds, skateboard park, mariachi’s, retail vendors and yacht club. One of the malecon’s landmarks, seen below, is the old Victorian style mansion built in 1906. It is now a restaurant called Cazadores but was formerly owned by the Braniff family of airline fame and fortune, In addition to tourist, ,many local people come to the malecon on a regular basis for picnic’s, see the sunsets or watch the birds who migrate here in the fall.
Day of the Dead, Lake Chapala, Mexico
The day of the dead is a long standing tradition in Mexico similar to Halloween or all saints day in other parts of the world and was inscribed into the intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO in 2008. In Mexico, it is also a national holiday celebrated on November 2nd. On this day Mexicans pay homage to deceased family members, friends, national hero’s, luminaries and even world leaders with personalized altars that offer gifts to the departed. These offerings usually include flowers, favorite foods, beverages and possessions of the dead. Alternately, family members will visit the grave site of departed souls and leave similar offerings.
Today , Katrina’s are the most highly recognized symbol associated with the Day of the Dead. Years ago, however, a Katrina referred to an elegant and well dressed woman of class and privilege until a mexican artist created an illustration of a well dressed skeleton during revolutionary times that was supposed to symbolized the death of mexico’s ruling class of privileged aristocrats. Eventually, the Katrina figure came to represent the joy of life in the face of its end.
The Lake Chapala Society, Ajijic, Mexico
Located in the heart of Ajijic, the Lake Chapala Society was founded in 1955 by a group of 21 expatriates and today has over 3,000 members.The mission of LCS is to contribute to the social enrichment of its members and the Lakeside community through a variety of services and programs designed to facilitate the integration of expatriates into the Lakeside community and foster interchange between ex pats and mexicans to name a few. More details about LCS are available at http://www.lakechapalasociety.org and in the photo gallery there are images of the LCS facilities, garden and the recent Woodstock 45th anniversary party.
Ajijic, Lake Chapala, Mexico
Ajijic is located on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest freshwater lake, less than an hour’s drive away from Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. It’s a small village with a population of approximately 10,000 and over half of these people are either retired Americans or Canadians who relocate here for a variety of reasons including attractive scenery, tempered climate, lower cost of living, english is spoken, and a variety of recreational activities tailor made for the cultural background of North Americans to name a few. So relocating to this part of Mexico also means less cultural shock then would be experienced in many other parts of Mexico or Central America and this is why Ajijic and Lake Chapala has been the top choice for most expatriates seeking retirement outside of the states since the 1940’s. The photo gallery below focuses on the plaza in the heart of Ajijic.
Lake Atitlan National Park, Guatemala
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.
The magic village of Comitan, Chiapas, Mexico
A Pueblo Magico since 2012, this artsy colonial village is located about 60 miles southeast of San Cristobal de Las Casas and is close to the border of Guatemala. It has some good restaurants and hotels, a few interesting musuems and is less than an hours drive away from El Chiflon Waterfalls, the lakes of Montebello, and El Chintuchek archeological site. Comitan also has one of the most impressive zocola’s in Mexico. These town plaza’s are an important part of the Mexican culture and the heart of almost every city both large and small. They serve as a place for people to socialize, find taco stands or restaurants, see special events and hear Mariachi music. More often than not, most zocola’s are centrally located across from the cities main cathedral, they usually have a large gazebo where local musician’s perform, lots of park benches and beautiful landscaping. With it’s distinctive flat topped trees, fountain and unique metal scupltures, Comitan’s zocola is one of the most impressive in Mexico. There are a few photos with additional information in the gallery below.
A Spring Festival, San Cristobal, Mexico
This annual week long celebration of spring involves quite a variety of events and runs concurrent with the Semana Santa holiday in Mexico. There seems to be something for everyone including art exhibits, sports, concerts, parades, cultural events, rodeo’s, bull fights, fireworks and more. Best of all, most events are free of charge and in San Cristobal de las Casas the weather is spring like almost year around. For more information and a few photos of event activities, see the gallery below.
Rancho Nuevo Ecological Park, San Cristobal, MX
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.
Moxviquil Ecological Reserve, San Cristobal, Mexico
This botanical garden is only 3km from the center of town and should be on everyone’s to do list when visiting San Cristobal. It consist of a 1700 meter guided nature trail, an orchid greenhouse with another currently under construction, a botanical garden with a variety of flora native to the state of Chiapas, a spring fed lagoon, small amphtteather, as well as guided tours with educational activities. In general, the mission of Moviquil is to rescue, maintain and preserve a variety of flora native to the state of Chiapas for the benefit of future generations. So far, the Moxviquil group has rescued over 3,000 plants representing over 418 species of the 700 recorded for the state of Chiapas. For more information, check out the Moxviquil website at http://www.orchidsmexico.com and the photo gallery below.
San Cristobal de Las Casas, A Mexican Magic Town
The department of tourism in Mexico defines a Pueblo Magico as a place of natural beauty, cultural riches or historical revelance. In 1987 San Cristobal de las Casas was selected as a magic town and is considered to be the Pueblo Magico of Pueblo Magico’s. It is centrally located in the state of Chiapas at 2300 meters above sea level and lies in fertile valley surrounded by mountains and pine forest.. It is also a place where old traditions and customs coexist with modern luxuries. A few of the cities highlights include 12 musuems, 2 theaters, 15 temples, 4 cultural centers, 6 ecological sites and 3 pedestrian only streets lined with a variety of cafes, restaurants, bars and retail stores. San Cristobal is also an ideal location to start exploring the natural wonders in the state of Chiapas such as Montebello Lakes, Agua Azul waterfalls, Rancho Nuevo Caves, Sumidero Canyon, Palenque National Park and many other ecological attractions not far away. The photo gallery below shows a few of the cities many highlights.
Palenque National Park, Mexico
Palenque is not only an archeological site but a world heritage site and national park as well. There are approximately 65,000 species of flora and fauna within the park that can be seen by hiking the jungle trails surrounding the ruins. In addition, there is an orchid nursery, waterfalls, and creeks where visitors can swim if desired.. Excavation and renovation of the ruins began over 100 years ago and continues today as only a small portion of the original cities estimated 1400 buildings have been excavated. Never the less, Palenque was inscribed as a world heritage site in 1987 because its “residential areas, buildings with political and administrative functions, as well as those whose function was ritual are conserved in their original setting, turning the site with its exceptional artistic and architectural features into a living museum.” Of all the Maya archeological sites, this is arguably the most impressive.
House of the Deer, Valladolid, Mexico
Translated, the house of the deer is Casa de los Venados in Spanish. This is a privately owned collection of mexican folk and contemporary art in a home which is over 18,000 square feet and has more than 3000 pieces of museum quality art on display. Most of this art work has been acquired directly from the original artists over a 35 year period. The owners, John and Dorianne Venator, are originally from the United States where they have lived in both Chicago and Portland as well as their new museum/home in Valladolid.The Venators generously open their musuem/home to the public for tours at 10 a.m. everyday and it is free of charge. So, if you are ever visiting the maya riviera don’t miss the chance to tour this impressive, one of a kind display of art. The photo gallery below is just a small sample of the Venator’s art collection.
Valladolid, A Mexican Magic Town
In August of 2012, Valladolid became part of Mexico’s “Pueblo Magico” program which recognizes traditional villages that meet their specific requirements of natural beauty, cultural riches, or historic relevance to the country. It is a well preserved colonial city of Spanish arcades and 16th century spires located between the beaches of Tulum and the archeological site of Chichen Itza. A few of the main attractions include the cathedral of San Servacio, Rosado Park, Cenote Zaci, the colonial homes with great architecture on Calzdada de Los Frailes and the Siskal neighborhood temple and ex-convent of San Bernadino de Siena. Additional activities include a variety of tours such as the chocolate factory tour, the mexican folk art tour of Casa de Venado and the Tequila tours of local agave plantations and distilleries. Photos and additional information is included in the photo gallery.
Seasons Greetings, From Playa Del Carmen
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Chichen Itza, Mexico
Located in Yucatan near Valledolid, Chichen Itza has been a world heritage site since 1988 and has also been voted one of the world’s new seven wonders. The most dominant edifice at this archeological site is the Temple of Kukulcan, which happens to be the name of a maya feathered serpent deity. One of the most interesting facts about this pyramid more commonly known as El Castillo is that it is a monument of cosmological symbolism existing during this era. There are four sides containing 365 steps depicting the solar year, 52 panels for each year in the Mayan century as well each week in the solar year and 18 terraces for 18 months in the Maya religious year. Additional information about this archeological site is included in the photo gallery below.
Punta Venado Caribbean EcoPark
The Punta Venado EcoPark is about a 10 minute drive south of Playa del Carmen. Its a little over 2000 acres with 2.5 miles of beach on the Caribbean coastline. The outdoor adventure activities in this park include horseback riding, atv trails, mountain biking and water sports such as kiteboarding and snorkeling. Mountain bike trails are rated according to difficulty and cut through dense jungle where there’s a good chance of wildlife encounters with spider monkeys, deer or a variety of other small mammals as you ride. Whenever you get hot or tired and need a break from biking, you can always stop at one of the cenotes found near several of the trails and take a refreshing dip in these natural pools of underground water. Another way to relax and cool off at the end of the day is to take the trail towards the park’s beach club where you’ll find a restaurant, bar, and the caribbean ocean.
Riviera Maya Jazz Festival
The annual jazz festival in Playa del Carmen would have ended Saturday night with one of their greatest hit songs called “September” but the crowd kept chanting for an encore. This event takes place in the last week of November at Mamita’s Beach and this years concert dates were scheduled on the 28th, 29th, and 30th. All three days of music are free of charge and music fans can bring their own refreshments or buy them from vendor stands on site. Each night features 3 different musical groups that play from 7pm to 11pm depending on how many encores the fans request. The photo gallery below shows each of the different groups performing on stage along with a sample of the light shows that are also part of the entertainment.
A Taste of Playa
Playa del Carmen just finished celebrating an annual event known as a “Taste of Playa” on Sunday the 24th of November. It is a culinary event that highlights the best and most creative restaurants as well as retail food outlets that define the culture of this area.which is renowned for its diversity, international influences and culinary expertise. At the event which is open to the general public from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. guest have a chance to sample a variety of food and beverages served at the many restaurants around town for a few pesos. This is a very convenient way to discover who’s serving your favorite foods at the right price without the hassle of shopping around town for days on end.
Day of the Dead, Xcaret Park
In 2003 the Day of the Dead was declared a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage by U.N.E.S.C.O. and every year the Xcaret Park near Cancun, Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead with a 5 day event known as the ” Festival de Tradiciones de Vida y Muerta”. During this celebration visitors can enjoy traditional cuisine of the region, workshops, handcrafts, visual art exhibtions, music, dances, rituals, altars, and offerings. One of the highlights of this event is the tour of their cemetery which is both a tribute to the deeply rooted attitudes of mexicans towards death and a replica of cemeteries found throughout Mexico. This cemetery is located inside the maya village on a hill with winding spiral paths that lead to the top.The path is lined with unique and imaginative headstones, plaques and ornamental structures that display a variety of spiritually oriented designs and attitudes about the dead.The photo gallery below is a sample of what to expect in the cemetery and in other locations around the park during this event.
Architecture of Mexico
The architecture of Mexico is known for its variety that developed in several phases from different cultures. During the pre-hispanic period from 300 A.D. through the year 1581 A.D. most architecture was the product of Maya and Aztec civilizations which can be seen today at such archeological sites as Palanque, Tulum, Coba, and Chichen Itza. After Cortez and the Spanish armies conquered mexico in the year 1581, European architecture replaced Maya and Aztec building techniques with baroque, renaissance, gothic, and neoclassical architectural styles during what is known as the colonial period of Mexican history. Existing examples of this transition can be seen in several Mexican cities like Guanajuato, Morelia and San Miguel de Allende that have all been declared UNESCO world heritage sites due to the well-preserved colonial buildings in these area’s. In the year 1821, Mexico finally gained it’s independence but there where very few new developments in the field of architecture for several decades until the emperor Maximilian and the dictator Porfirio Diaz started to import French architectural designs around 1860. Perhaps, the most famous example of French influenced architecture of the day is the Palacio de Belles Artes in Mexico City commissioned by Diaz.. The next and most recent evolution in Mexican architecture came along just after the Mexican civil war ended in 1910 when modern and contemporary architecture started to replace obsolete building techniques. During this time frame architects started blending Mexican stylistic elements with expressionist and functionalist design concepts to create innovative works of modern architecture that continues to this day. A few representative examples of Mexican architecture from past to present are included in the photo essay below.
Playa del Carmen, La Quinta Street Highlights #2
The pedestrian promenade of La Qunita or Fifth Avenue attracts an international mix of travelers and is the place to see and be seen while in Playa. A party atmosphere, created by the nightclubs, bars and restaurants on La Qunita; keeps the grown up good time crowd around until the wee hours of the morning. On another level, La Qunita attracts people for it’s down to earth lifestyles and egalitarian spirit characterized by the very casual style of dress seen everywhere, the variety of businesses that offer both low end and high end merchandise or services and the friendly attitudes of most people around town. The photo gallery of this edition and the prior edition illustrates what has made La Qunita Ave one of Playa’s main attractions.
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A world heritage site since 2006, the village of Tequila is where the drink was first produced. It is also one of Mexico’s Pueblo Magico’s because of it’s history and traditions. Located about an hour’s drive to the west of … Continue reading
A Mexican Wine and Cheese Festival
The 27th annual wine and cheese festival hosted in Tequisquiapan, Mexico has been described as “Paying homage to the art of living well”. This 300 year old colonial city with cobblestone streets and rustic homes is now a popular weekend getaway for people living in Mexico City and Queretaro. In addition to it´s wineries where grape production began in the 1960´s, Tequisquiapan offers visitors an 18 hole golf course, natural water springs, spas, and water parks.
The festival features tastings, competitions, lectures, workshops and music. There are typical mexican cheeses such as Ranchero and Manchego along with locally produced versions of French and Middle Eastern
cheese. Many kinds of wine are availible at this festival from various regions in Mexico, as well as imports from other countries. The most popular grapes grown and harvested in this part of Mexico are Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Dolores Hildago, Magic Town, MX
Hildago is located in the state of Guanajuato near San Miguel de Allende and has a population of about 55,000 people. The main economic activities of Hildago are tourism, crafts, grape growing, sheep farming and ceramic factories. It is also one of 36 villages in Mexico that has earned the right to be a Pueblo Magico. Some of the criteria for this designation consist of the following;
1) a population of 20,000 or more and be within 2 hours drive of a major tourist destination
2) have ancient peoples, history and culture
3) they are protagonists of important events and legends
4) have perserved symbolic attributes along with beautiful architecture
5) its people maintain their customs and traditions
As seen in the photo gallery, Talavera is the main ceramic factory and retail outlet in the Hildago area. It is also the most outstanding brand of pottery made in Mexico because the design of pieces is highly regulated by tradition. Briefly, the pieces are all hand made with only natural clay´s as opposed to chemically treated and dried clay over a 3 to 4 month period. After the pieces have been created, they are also hand painted. In order to earn the brand name of Talavera, pieces must be made in specific locations and from workshops that have been certified by knowledgeable officials.
Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Once the capital of Baja California Sur, Loreto was also the first European settlement in the Californias over 300 years ago. After serving as the capital for 132 years, La Paz superseded Loreto as the capital of Baja Sur and for all practical purposes Loreto faded into oblivion until 1973 when the completion of the transpeninsular highway finally brought the city within reach of the average tourist.
Today, The Villages of Loreto Bay is one of the largest resort communities in North America committed to sustainable development. It is being developed by the Scottsdale, AZ based Loreto Bay Company and Citigroup Property Investors. The master plan involves a series of romantic, walkable seaside villages each of which will be pedestrian friendly, including retail, entertainment and recreational facilities. Eventually all electricity in this community will be generated by wind turbines while bicycles and electric cars will be the primary means of transportation around the villages.
Offshore fishing remains a principal tourist attraction, as well as, an international airport, world class tennis center, an 18 hole golf course and the Loreto Bay National Marine Park.
Guanajuato is the capital of the state that bears its name and is one of Mexico´s most well preserved colonial cities. Rich in both history and culture, Guanajuato became a Unesco World Heritage site in 1988 and is well known for its museums, university, colonial architecture and the hospitality of it´s people. The city also has a tradition of hosting musical, theatrical and dance events such as the Cerventino Festival. Since its inception in 1972, this festival has become the most important artistic and cultural event in both Mexico and Latin America, in addition to , one of four major events of its kind in the world.
One of the most important institutions of higher learning in Mexico is the University of Guanajuato in the city of Guanajuato. It was founded in 1792 by the society of Jesuits and authorized by King Felipe the 5th of Spain. After a series of transformations it eventually became a state university and was finally named the University of Guanajuato in 1945. Today the university has over 30,000 students and 153 academic programs; including 13 doctorates, 39 master´s programs as well as 65 Bachelor´s degrees and does more scientific research than any other institute of higher learning in the state.
Guanajuato is home to several unique museums a few of which are the former home of famous artist Diego Rivera which has been converted into a museum, a museum of mummies, the Cerventino museum and the Alhondiga Museum. During the Mexican war of Independance in 1810, the Alhondiga was converted to a fortress from what had been a warehouse for storing grain by Spanish loyalist who locked themselves inside to fight the Mexican rebels led by Father Hildago. The rebels won the battle when a miner known as El Pipilla crawled to the fortress with a large flat stone on his back for protection and burned down its wooden door. Before the war was over, however, the Spanish recaptured the Alhondiga along with 4 of its revolutionary heroes including Father Hildago, beheaded all four and mounted their heads on stakes at all four corners of the Alhondiga.
Los Cabos, Baja California, Mexico
Los Cabos is located at the southern most tip of Baja California Sur where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez. The Cabos area is anchored by San Jose Del Cabo to the east and Cabo San Lucas to the west with about 30 miles of beach, golf courses, hotels and condominiums in between. There are recreational opportunities here to plealse just about everyone including golf, big game fishing, surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, horseback riding, atv adventure tours, and kayaking, As well as, luxury spas and upscale nightclubs that stay open to dawn.
Cabo San Lucas is known to be a contemporary high end resort with a lot of vitality and a world class marina that features over 380 slips which can accommodate vessels up to 200 feet, along with high quality services and amenities only found at luxury yachting marina´s. San Jose Del Cabo, on the other hand, is more of a traditional mexican village that consist of historical sites such as the renovated Jesuit mission named Iglesia San Jose, an estuary with a variety of colorful birds and wildlife, in addition to, a botanical garden featuring desert flora called Cacti-Mundo.