If you plan to visit Costa Rica because you are an eco-tourist and have heard about the lush tropical rain forest, exotic birds, spectacular waterfalls, butterflies, hummingbirds, flowing white water rivers, felines and monkeys, your guaranteed to see … Continue reading →
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
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
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 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
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.
LCS Garden pond has a variety of Lily pad flowers
A Garden Pathway
Another part of the Garden Pathways
The entrance to the Lake Chapala Society facilities
The LCS cafe
Another type of lily pad in the LCS garden pond
a bird of paradise in the LCS gardens
The LCS Woodstock 45th anniversary celebration on August 16th.
Contestants for the best hippie costumes at the Woodstock anniversary celebration featuring wavy gravy with the microphone
a ceramic frog placed along the LCS garden pathway
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
Comitan’s main plaza is the heart of the city and is noted for these flat top trees.
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.
One of several metal sculptures around the main plaza
The plaza’s gazebo
Most resort area’s in Mexico have tourist police who offer a variety of services to visitors . Here is one of Comitan’s finest, Senor Lopez, standing in front of a metal sculpture in the plaza.
There are several sidewalk cafe’s and restaurants surrounding the plaza.
Comitan was founded in 1556 by Domincan Friars and the cathedral Santo Domingo was built between the 16th and 17th centuries with a facade of neoclassical style.
This is the front entrance to the cultural center next door to the church. It is used for piano concerts, plays, and workshops such as textile designing.
Inside the cultural center, a women demonstrates how to use an antique spinning wheel. A foot powered loom is in the background.
This is Comitans city hall
The Comitan theater is also directly across from the plaza
One of the waterfalls at El Chiflon ecotourist center 45 kilometers from Comitan
Lake Tzisco is one of the 5 Montebello Lakes less than an hours drive from Comitan
Lake Pojoj is another one of the five Montebello Lakes. All of the Lakes are easily accessible from the same road.v
San Cristobal is at an altitude of 2300 meters and is surrounded by peaks, pines and oak trees
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.
local people who have no store of their own set up shop behind the main plaza to sell hand made textiles and crafts
past and present festival beauty queens at the El Gato blues concert
El Gato Blues Band rockin’ La Ensenanza Casa de la Cuidad, they were smokin’
A sidewalk art contest in the main plaza
Folk dancing on stage in the main plaza
Flora, a local artist from Korea sells her unique style of artwork on Calle Hildago, one of the pedestrian only streets in Centro during the festival
At the anniversary celebration of El Jardin de Epifitas, there was a plant contest.
Another exotic plant in the epifitas garden plant contest
a flower decorated frame was set up at all four corners around the main plaza
a marimba orchestra performing on one of two stages set up in the main plaza
a fashion show on the main stage in centro
another model wearing one of the latest spring fashion designs in Chiapas
One of the 2 day events was a National motocross competition
The winner flies over the checkered flag
Almost every event in Mexico will have a Mariachi Band as did the spring festival
There were state soccer tournaments at this field, as well as, basketball and baseball tournaments at other locations in the cities large sports park
Here is a handicapped musician who learned to master the marimba with his feet, performing on the main stage in centro
Here’s a 4 piece jazz band performing at the Casa de la Cuidad with a cover of Dave Brubecks “Take Five”
A trational orchestra on the main stage closing out the festival on the 27th of April
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.
Here’s an example of plant life on the 1700 meter trail in through the mountains
these are called air plants or technically epiphytes because they do not root in soil but grow on the branches or trunks of other plants.
part of the lagoon with an orchid nursery in the background
one of many species in the moxviquil collection
a terrestrial bromeliad
a look at the garden landscaping and amphitheater
another example of an airplant in the garden. the most common types are orchids, ferns and bromeliads.
many types of fern are growing in the nursery and garden areas
there is also a variety of trees in the garden, some have orange blossoms others have yellow and purple blossoms
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
This inlet leads snorkelers and swimmers to the carribean or the restaurant in the background
Xcaret Park was created to promote nature and mexican cultural heritage. To that end, part of the admission price is donated to developing programs for the preservation of wild flora and fauna. There are quite a variety of leisure and recreational activities in the park but all are related to this objective. In general, the main attractions include underground rivers, natural pools and inlets for snorkeling, exhibitions which include archeological zones, re-creations of ancient mayan cities along with mayan ceremonies, flora and fauna found on interpretative jungle trails, orchid and bromelaid museums, a butterfly pavilion, natural habitats for jaguars, puma’s and monkeys, aquariums, bee farms and deer shelters. The latest in their long list of natural attractions is the Sea Trek underwater adventure that offers a new technology for diving underwater without extensive training and cumbersome gear. All you need is their new hi-tech diving helmet that keeps water out while air is pumped in from a boat that hovers above the dive site. So, it is now possible for almost everyone to experience the coral reefs and tropical fish for which the Carribean is famous. Ladies will find this new helmet especially appealing because the helmet keeps hair dry and prevents make-up from washing off.
This organ grinder walks around the park and plays traditional mexican folk music
Bromeliads like these are found in the musuem and on interpretive jungle trails
another exhibition of ancient ceremonies which involves bird men that descend from the top of this pole by doing circles in the air to honor the sun god.
this is one of several performances that involve ancient maya rituals and customs
here’s where you jump in and let the current move you through the waters
spider monkey island is a natural habitat for a family of these amusing primates
one of may butterflies within this pavilion
a monarch butterfly sculpture along the trail through this pavilion
cat prowling through the parks jaguar island
inside the maya archeological zone
a natural pool for sun tanning, relaxing and bathing
the opening of a horse exhibition within the grounds of a typical 19th century hacienda compound.
Xcaret inlet meets the carribean
snorkelers at the end of a one way underground river
This edition of Cancun Highlights features golf courses, restaurants, beaches and marina’s. It’s hard to say which is the best or most popular golf course because opinions usually vary according to individual preferences and skill levels. In any case, there are several top notch 18 hole, par 72 courses within the hotel zone. The longest, at 6,800 yards, is the Iberostar Golf Club, followed by the Cancun Country Club at 6,750 yards.. However, all golfers know that yardage changes from time to time with tee placement, so anyone of the above courses could be longer than the other on a given day. For what it’s worth to all the duffers out there, the Cancun Country Club, designed by Nick Price, is recognized as the only Tournament Players course outside of the United States at this time.
Another popular public beach located in the heart of the Cancun hotel zone is Playa Tortuga. It is not an expansive stretch of beach like Playa Del Fines mentioned in a previous post because it is filled with Tiki bars, open air restaurants, beach oriented retail shops and cafes. The pier in the background of this photo has a bungee jumping tower and is also a launching point for ferries to Isla Mujeres.
Aqua World is also one of Cancun’s top attractions. It is both a marina and business with a fleet of 17 boats offering both tourist and nautical services. For example, there is a jungle tour that takes you through the Nichupte Lagoon mangroves to a secluded snorkeling paradise while another tour offers a lobster dinner cruise on the lagoon at sunset.
Last but not least is the La Habichuela Sunset restaurant. With a reputation for delicious meals, a unique sculpture garden of native flora and mayan theme shows; it has earned it’s rank as one of Cancun’s best restaurants. As the name implies, it is also one of the best places within the hotel zone to watch the sunset over the Nichupte Lagoon.
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.
The Vallarta Botanical Gardens were created in 2004, on 20 acres of what was previously half overgrazed cattle pasture and half deciduous forest. The ongoing mission of this non-profit organization is to create Mexico´s foremost Botanical Gardens for the propagation, study, discovery, conservation, and display of native mexican plants that both local residents and visitors will be able to enjoy.
As of now, the Vallarta Gardens main attractions are the orchid conservatory, mexican plant collections, butterfly gardens, tree fern grotto, jungle trails, mountain river swimming, tropical fruit trees and atv tours. In addition,the Hacienda de Oro inside the Visitors Center is one of Vallarta´s most famous destination restaurants famous for brick-oven pizza and fine mexican cuisine.