Punta Del Este, Uruguay

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This gallery contains 10 photos.

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

Canyon Atuel, Valle Grande, Argentina

Lago Valle Grande, Argentina

Lago 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

portrerillos

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.

 

 

 

Urban Parks of Santiago, Chile

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japanese garden in the metropolitan park

japanese garden in the metropolitan park

 

 

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

 

 

Lake Tingquilco and Villarica Volcano

Lake Tingquilco and Villarica Volcano

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, Argentina

 

Rose Garden Promenade

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.

 

 

Malecon 2000, Guayaquill, Ecuador

Malecon Gardens

Malecon Gardens

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

 

Banos, Ecuador

Banos, Ecuador

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.

Vilcabamba, Ecuador

Vilacabamba, the valley of longevity

Vilcabamba, the valley of longevity

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.

The Green Around Medellin, Columbia

Guatape Lake and Islands

Guatape Lake and Islands

 

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

This lake is just below the vistors center and main trailhead

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.

Natural Wonders of Mexico

Sailors and the Sea of Cortez

Sea of Cortez, the worlds aquarium

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..

Tapalpa, An Eco-Resort in Mexico

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The entrance to the Eko-Park in Tapalpa

 

 

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

While trekking in the Tapalpa area you can come across many scenic landscapes

Guadalajara’s Historic Landmarks, Mexico

Templo Expiatorio

The Templo Expiatorio

 

 

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.

Lake Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico

 

Lake Patzcuaro

Lake Patzcuaro

 

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.

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

 

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At sunset, a boat returns to the pier with its passengers.

 

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

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A tribute to revolutionary hero’s Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata

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.

Taxco, the Worlds Silver Capital

 

The Santa Prisca Cathedral was built in the 18th century with funds provided by the by the silver tycoon Jose de la Borda

The Santa Prisca Cathedral was built in the 18th century with funds provided by the silver tycoon J0se de la Borda

Founded in 1529 by one of Hernan Cortes captains, Taxco remained an unkown village outside of Mexico until the discovery of a silver mother lode in the 18th century fueled the cities development. Sometime in the 1920’s as the silver mines were being played out, an American silversmith by the name of William Spratling came along and began teaching local people the art and science of  silversmithing in his own workshop. The result was that the crafting of silver started a creative and economic boom that still exists today. Taxco now has over 300 silver shops including open air markets, metal workshops, and high end boutiques where buyers from around the world come to stock their retail stores with a variety of earrings, necklaces, rings and other creations .of silver finery. Besides the silver shops Taxco has other tourist attractions such as that old world ambiance of Spain with its winding cobblestone streets and small plazas, an  aerial tram, good restaurants, some impressive architecture, Los Pozas Azules and several silver museums including the William Spratling museum dedicated to his contributions. For additional details, see the photo gallery below.

 

The Lake Chapala Society, Ajijic, Mexico

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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

An historic  Chapel across form the Ajijic plaza

An historic Chapel across from the Ajijic plaza

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.

The Botanical Garden of Lake Atitlan

Botanical garden flora

Botanical garden flora

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.

 

Lake Atitlan National Park, Guatemala

 

Lake Atitlan, volcano's and botanical garden

Lake Atitlan, volcano’s and botanical garden

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.

 

 

Grutas del Mamut, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

 

figura del Mamut

Figura del Mamut

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.

 

El Chiflon Waterfalls Ecotourism Center, Chiapas, Mexico

 

 

The bottom and pool created by the 250 foot Velo de Novia falls

Here’s the bottom and a turquoise blue pool of water created by the Velo de Novia falls which rises about 250 feet above this level.

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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.

Chiapa de Corzo, A Mexican Magic Town

 

La Pila

The La Pila Fountain landmark was constructed in1592 with a diamond shaped Moorish design made of brick.

Chiapa de Corzo was once the capital of the state and is now one of Mexico’s  Pueblo Magico’s  due to it’s historical significance. It is located between San Cristobal de Las Casas and Tuxtla Gutierrez on the banks of the Grijalua river. The main tourist attractions here include some impressive church architecture, sumidero canyon and ecological park, waterfront restaurants on the river and the waterfalls of Chorreadero Park. Touring  Sumidero Canyon requires an inexpensive 2 hour boat ride that cruises down the Grijalua river through steep vertical walls that rise up as high as 1000 meters in some places while the park offers hiking, cycling, rappelling, rock climbing and kayaking recreational activities. The  Chorreadero waterfalls and ecological park is only a 15 minute ride by taxi or car  from Chiapa or the waterfront. The main attraction here is  a stream that emerges from a cave which is the end of an underground river and plunges like a waterfall from a height of about 25 meters to form a series of cascading pools for swimmers to enjoy. The caves and underground river can also be explored by arranging a guided tour. Take the guided photo tour for more information about these attractions.

 

Rancho Nuevo Ecological Park, San Cristobal, MX

A Woodlands Trail in the Park

A view of the parks forest and one of the hiking trails

 

Rancho Neuvo Caves

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.

El Arcotete Eco Tourist Park, Mexico

 

It runs through the park and surrounds the village of San Cristobal

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.

 

Moxviquil Ecological Reserve, San Cristobal, Mexico

bromeliad

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

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This 16th century building with solid adobe walls is located in the center of town and is an important symbol of San Cristobal

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

Commonly refered to as the palace, this structure was actually  a residential and administrative complex.

Commonly refered to as the palace, this structure was actually a watchtower,  residential and administrative complex combined into one.

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

House of the Dear

House of the Deer and one of 2 wet bars on the first floor of this house

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

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The Cathedral of San Servacio

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.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Temple of Kukulcan or El Castillo

Temple of Kukulcan or El Castillo

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

Bike Trail out of the jungle to the beach

Bike Trail out of the jungle to the beach

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

Earth, Wind and Fire

Earth, Wind and Fire

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

Baked Bread samples

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.