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
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.
Interior architecture of the Templo Expiatorio
A Bronze sculpture of Guadalaja’s Coat of Arms which symbolizes a fighting spirit and perseverance.
The Sanctuario de Guadalajara was built in 1781. The exterior architecture is Churrigueresque while the interior is Neoclassical
This is the Teatro Dellgado named after the state’s govenor when construction of the neoclassical building was completed in 1866.
Fuente de la Inmolacion de Quetzalcoatl who was a diety in the Meso American culture. The name means feathered serpent or flying reptile.
This is the facade of the Catedral Metropolitana which is now a mixture of Gothic, Baroque, Moorish and Neoclaassical architectural styles. Construction of the original building started in 1558 but 2 earthquakes have since destroyed most of the original building. In the most recent past, new twin towers were built to replace the originals that were destroyed by one of the earthquakes in the 19th century.
Entrance to the Palacio de Gobierno (state government headquarters) is an example of the colonial style architecture which is most prevalent in the city. It was completed in 1774 and has many columns, arches and murals inside.
One of Jose Orozco’s mural’s painted on a dome ceiling inside of the state government builing which covers an area equal to 1,312 sq. ft
Rotunda de los Jaliscienses Ilusttres was designed in 1952 to honor the contributions of Jalisco’s most notable people represented by the statutes surrounding it.
Institute de Cultural Cabana built in the 19th century is a neoclassical designed building. Originally this building was a shelter for orphans and homeless people. It has 23 courtyards and 106 rooms. It has been a world heritage site since 1997 and is now a museum.
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 village of Taxco was built on a hillside and is also one of Mexico’s pueblo magico’s
The main plaza is in front ot the Santa Prisca Cathedral. There is outdorr entertainment here most every night
The Santa Prisca Hotel is conviently located only a block away from the main plaza. It is also a clean, quiet and economical place to stay in the centro area where most room rates are very pricey.
There are a many street vendors in town that sell a variety of merchandise besides silver jewlery
Los Pozas Azules is a natural spa on the outskirts of town. Several pools such as this are created by a cascading stream of water which is a crystalline blue color during the dry season but becomes muddy during the rainy season.
A side view of the Santa Prisca cathedral and surrounding buildings
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
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.
Neoclassical architecture located in the main square of San Cristobal
One of several pedestrian only streets in the center of town lined with a variety of cafes, restaurants, bars and retail vendors
surrounded by the del Carmen Church and cultural center, the arch was built in 1677
At the center of the town square, this gazebo has a restaurant inside and almost always has a live band on top during the early evening hours
Another pedestrian only street with vendors peddling their wares at very reasonable prices
A theater in the centro area with maya warrior guarding the entrance
Another pedestrian only street with a burger king on the corner. It is one of two fast food restaurants in town. Subway is the other.
An ecological reserve in San Cristobal with a hiking path, orchid greenhouse, and variety of flora such as cactus, bromeliads and ferns.
a cultural center for the arts
These pedestrian streets have lots of sidewalk cafes
playing music during a recent local festival
One of 16 temples in San Cristobal next to the ambar museum
Amber is mined in this area and the museum has video’s and exhibits about the origins, mining, and processing of amber
Sits high on top of a mountain overlooking the city.
nineteenth century neoclassical building gothic and baroque features
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.
The stairway of the building leads to sanctuary that contains a series of stone panels carved with hieroglyphic inscriptions related to Palenque’s history
This temple is named after Count Jean Waldeck of France who stayed here sometime in the 18th century and published many examples of maya and aztec sculptures.
Found in the complex of the cross and triad of Palenque
Some are considered to be sacred while the red bark of others is used for medicinal purposes.
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.
Siskal neighborhood and ex-convent of San Bernadino de Siena
Interior architecture of the temple
Siskal Barrio and La Taberna Restaurant which serves contemporary cusine with maya herbs and spices
This Mayan Home was preserved and restored because it is representative of the maya culture and building materials used in this area.
The chocolate factory in Valladolid is the only one in the state of Yucatan that still makes 100 percent chocolate candy using traditional production techniques
Friendly Manager of the chocolate factory
Take a tour of the Mayapan Agave distillery and learn about the traditional techniques used to make tequila and then taste the difference.
This tequileria features tastings of high quality boutique made tequila along with detailed information about how the local tequila is made
Parque Rosado is the main park in central Valladolid directly across from the cathedral in the center of town
San Servacio Cathedral
A sidewalk cafe next to the cathedral
Horse with bonnet and buggy offering rides around centro
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.
Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars. The balustrades of these steps represents ascending plumed serpents
This is a carving on the wall of the jaguars and serpents platform depicting both eagles and jaguars clutching a human heart indicating that human sacrifices may have been made here
Stone carvings of an eagle and jaguar clutching a human heart
The Temple de los Guerreros. This building owes its name to the rows of pillars displaying relief carvings of warriors
row of pillars surrounding the temple of Guerreros
The temple of skulls has walls with relief carvings of human skulls
Entrance to the juego de pelota which is an arena for sports
Inside the sports arena there was a playing field with hoops on each wall. Players had to throw or kick a ball through these hoops
The Platform of Venus with balustrades ending in serpents heads
In each corner of the venus platform there are glyphs associated with the planet venus
Vendors with souvenirs are conveniently located near all buildings.
A 500 year old cosmopolitan city, San Miguel de Allende became a Unesco World Heritage site in 2008. In summary, Unesco is an agency of the United Nations and its purpose is to promote world peace and international cooperation through education, science and cultural exchanges. To be included in the world heritage list, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one of ten cultural or natural criteria.
In addition to having outstanding universal value, San Miguel de Allende qualified for acceptance on 2 of the other criteria. According to Unesco, “San Miguel is an exceptional example of the integration of different architectural trends and styles on the basis of 16th century urban layout. Both religious and civil architecture exhibit the evolution of different styles well integrated into a homogenous urban landscape”.
Unesco also considered San Miguel to be qualified as an exceptional example of the interchange of human values. “Due to its location and function, the town acted as melting pot where Spaniards, Creoles, and Amerindians exchanged cultural influences; something reflected in its tangible and intangible heritage”. Additionally, the town exhibits an acceptable state of conservation while the legal system in place ensures protection of property and continuity.
Thanks to this heritage and a thriving community of international artist, San Miguel has become one of the worlds most popular tourist destinations. Visitor’s will find that studios, galleries and craft shops are ubiquitous in the central historical area. In addition, the art institute of San Miguel attracts many students with a variety of degree programs and workshops in the fine arts. However, San Miguel is not just for art lovers, there are many other diversions here as well; such as music festivals, concerts, plays, film festivals, and other special events throughout the year that appeal to a wide variety of interest.