Lake Potrerillos, a one hour drive from Mendoza, is ideal for outdoor adventure sports.
Mendoza is a semi-arid mountainous environment, furrowed with rivers that carry melted snow water from the Andes into an extensive system of irrigation canals that have turned the area into a productive oasis specifically fit for vine growing and Eco-tourism. This system of rivers and irrigation canals also support the life of over 100,000 trees that provides a canopy over most of Mendoza city. These sources of water have also been used to create several artificial lakes such as the one found in Mendoza’s San Martin Park which is host to a variety of nautical competitions like sculling and jet ski races, as well as, Lake Portrerillos that features pristine water for kayaking, fishing, rafting and swimming. For the purposes of eco-tourism the province of Mendoza can be divided into four areas which are the northern oasis, southern oasis, central oasis and southern border oasis. All the photos in this essay are made in the northern oasis which stretches from the capital city of Mendoza to the northern border of Chile.
Another view of Lake Poterrillos in the fall
This is the hill of seven colores about 4 miles from Uspallata, The colors are attributable to different types of rock that came together over a long period of time.
As the road leaves the oasis of Uspallata it enters a desert environment much like this until it reaches the hill of 7 colores.
Along the road to the hill of 7 colors there are many interesting geological shapes and figures of different colors.
The oasis of Uspallata, a small village at an altitude of 6000 feet offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities and 2 distinct eco-systems.
a yoga instructor from Buenos Aires practices her art forms with the hill of 7 colores in the background
During the fall season, Uspallata is a good place for mountain biking and scenic landscapes.
In the foothills of Mendoza there are the Cachueta hot water springs about an hour’s drive from Mendoza.Here, you will find both an upper level of pools as well as the lower level in this photo.
This is the upper level of pools at the Cachueta Hot springs and the water temperature of each pool varies.
The Rio Mendoza runs through the Cachueta Hot springs just below the thermal pools. There is also a trail here for hiking
This is the Puente del Inca in the Andes mountains, a natural bridge crossing the Las Cuevas river at about 8,000 ft above sea level. The building used to be a hotel and the rocks are colored by iron thermal -mineral sediments
The Rio Pichueta In the Andes along with this bridge is a historical site where General San Martin’s armies crossed the border into Chile and launched an invasion to liberate the country from Spanish rulers. This river is also a good place for trout fishing.
The lake in San Martin Park is host to a variety of nautical events like sculling. It is one of several man made lakes in Mendoza.
Located in the southern zone of Chile, Pucon is one of the most popular eco-tourist destinations in the country. The main attractions include volcanos, caves, lakes, rivers, national parks, natural hot springs, waterfalls, beaches, stable climate, and pristine natural enviroment. A few of the related recreational activities consist of trekking, mountain biking, white water rafting, kayaking, fishing, sailing, horseback riding, zip line canopy tours, guided accents of the Villiarica Volcano, snow skiing in winter, water skiing in summer and bird watching,. If that’s not enough, Pucon has arguably the best small town infrastructure in South America. This means quality accommodations and good restaurants offering a variety of international cuisine. If your the type that would rather prepare your own meals, there are at also 3 large supermarkets in this village of 20,000 people that you normally do not see in cities with less than 500,000 people. Last but not least, if you prefer greenbacks instead of trees, there is also a casino with 488 gaming machines and 44 table games. All things considered, there are few eco-tourist destinations that have this much variety to offer their guest.
Lake Villarica and Woody Woodpecker
a view along the lakes trail in park Huerquehue
Lake Verde with an ancient Araucaria tree in the foreground of the Huerquehue National Park
a cafe in the village of Pucon
xmas tree in Pucon
Lake Toro in park Huerquehue
A view of Lake Villarica and a few boat rentals from the village of Villarica
one of several waterfalls in Huerquehue National Park
foot bridge and river in Huerquehue Park
a Pudu, the world’s smallest deer and protected species in parque Huerquehue
one of many tour guides
Lake Villiarica Volcano from the promenade in Pucan
Rose Garden Promenade and Lake in Parque San Martin
Mendoza is a city in western Argentina in the foothills of the Andes and Cuyo desert region. It is both an emerging ecotourism destination and the largest wine producing area in Latin America for which it is world-renowned. Although it is has an arid and desert like climate, , Mendoza has used a simple flood irrigation technique for centuries that has only required a few extensions and minor modifications over the years to provide enough water for the growth of over 100,000 trees that line every street, a variety of urban green spaces, as well as the growth of grapes used to make its wines. This system consists of irrigation channels in all the streets with flood gates to control the distribution of water diverted from the surrounding rivers and mountains as needed.
Starting with bike wine tasting tours to local vineyards, there are quite a variety of outdoor activities for eco-tourist to enjoy in Mendoza. When in the city itself, perhaps the best place to visit would be the 971 acre Parque General San Martin. It consist of tree-lined hiking and biking trails, gardens, a lake with regatta’s for sculling boats, fields with outdoor exercise equipment, a zoological park, soccer (football) stadium, playgrounds, equestrian center, tennis club and an amphitheater where the international wine festival is held annually. A few of the other natural attractions to visit in the Mendoza area include tours to Mount Aconcagua the highest peak in the western at 22,000 feet, Atuel Canyon where there is an oasis that is over 100 feet deep, the hot springs of Cacheuta. and Luna valley ( moon valley) where there are many mystic geological formations. At these and other locations nearby you will find many outdoor adventure activities such as white water rafting, mountain biking, trekking, horseback riding, rock climbing, canopy zip lines, hang gliding and kayaking.
Pedestrian only street that leads to Plaza Independencia
Due to its natural beauty, spring like climate year around and many outdoor adventure sports; Banos is one of Ecuadors most popular tourist attractions. At 5,900 feet in the Andes mountains this small village has international appeal and is surrounded by 60 waterfalls, deep river gorges, steep bluffs, lush green mountains, expansive plateaus, and hot springs heated by the nearby Tungurahua Volcano.The list of outdoor adventure activities includes white water rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping, mountain biking, horseback riding, amazon jungle tours, waterfall tours, zip lines, atv trails, cable car rides, canopy tours, trout fishing, rock climbing, mountain climbing, trekking and most anything else you could want at an eco-tourist resort.
In addition to these outdoor adventure activities, Banos also has many festivals, special events and parades. So the mood in town is usually festive and upbeat. There are also quite a few good restaurants with international cuisine from around the world at very reasonable prices. I recall seeing German, Italian, Danish, Chinese, Mexican, Uruguayan, and Japanese restaurants, as well as a variety of pizzeria’s. If restaurants are not what your looking for at the end of the day, you can also find a bar zone with a variety of nightclubs.
The Tungurahua Volcano stands at 16000 feet and overlooks the village of Banos
Casa de Arbol and Swing at the end of the world. This swing sails out over a steep cliff just below the Tungurahua Volcano
the Rio Pastaza borders the north side of Banos
One of many tour operators
Manto de la Novia waterfalls
Flora at the Jardine de Chamana eco-resort hotel
the virgin waterfalls at the edge of town with thermal baths next door.
One of two main streets through the center of Banos
Zip line over the manto de la novia waterfalls. Its your choice of head first or feet first.
One of 2 town squares in the center of Banos
The restaurant and rest area at the foot of Pailon del Diablo
street performers from argentina demonstrating folk dances of their homeland.
Over 100 feet tall, the Pailon del Diablo waterfall also has one of the worlds scariest staircases. This photo shows the bottom half.
Another view of Banos
The Chamana waterfalls
Bungee jumping from the San Franciso bridge in Banos
Vilcabamba is a small mountain village with a population of about 7,000 people that now includes quite a few ex-pats from the USA. Located in the Andes at an altitutde of 5000 ft and 30 miles from the city of Loja, it is famous for its pristine natural environment, where there is little if any air pollution, water pollution, chemtrails or electro magnetic pollution. Concomitant with a great climate, stress free lifestyle and plenty of homegrown organic produce, Vilcabamba has a reputation for being the valley of longevity where life expectancy of the local population exceeds the average of most other people in the world.
The main attracttions here for the eco-tourist or nature enthusiast includes Podocarpus National Park, the Rumi-Wilco eco-lodge and nature reserve that is less than a 10 minute walk from the center of town, a mountain called Mandango the sleeping Inca, bike trails and riverwalks. Podocarpus is considered to be the botanical garden of america and is 1462 sq. km. with 4 distinct high and low mountain ecosystems. There are over 4000 species of plants, 68 species of mammals including 560 species of birds, and a complex system of over 100 lagoons called Lagunas del Compadre, as well as waterfalls and rivers. The park has 3 main entrances in different sectors, the closest to Vilcabamba is el refugio del plato. From here vistors can access parts of the lagoon system, hike, camp, bird watch and enjoy the forest scenery.
A short walk from the center of town is the Rumi-Wilco nature reserve offering guided nature trails, camping, swimming holes in the river Chamba and cabin rentals. Another favorite outdoor activity in Vilcabamba is the trail to the top of Mandango which has a rock formation resembling a temple that according to folklore, is where the Inca God sleeps. Many tourist ride horseback or hike to the top of this peek for a closer look at the temple and the panoramic views from the mountains peak. If your not a nature enthusiast you might want to try prospecting for gold in the eastern sector of Podocarpus not far from the Bombuscaro entrance to the park.
Mandango, the temple of the sleeping inca
the river Yambala in Vilcabamba
humingbird in Podocarpus National Park
the nature reserves upper trail
humingbird in Podocarpus National Park
Humingbird in Podocarpus National Park
Vilcabamba’s town square
the river Chambala in the nature reserve of Vilacabamba
Paraisio eco resort hotel
a stand of bamboo on the nature reserve’s lower trail besides the river
This lake is just below the visitors center and main trailhead
The Cajas National Park is located about 45 minutes away from Cuenca, Ecuador by car or bus at an altitude that ranges from 10,000 feet to over 12000 feet. At the entrance to the park there is a restaurant, trail maps, lake, restaurant and exhibits. The main trail from the vistors center is about 4 km in length with moderate to steep elevation gains along the way. It can take approximately 4 to 5 hours to finish hiking this trail depending on weather and individual hiking capabilities. This trail includes several different lakes, rivers, lagoons, fishing opportunities, bird watching, inca ruins, camping, and a variety of flora. All the photos seen in this gallery are part of the main trail which starts at the park entrance.
Mexico is one of the top 5 countries in the world in terms of ecological diversity and is home to the Paricutin Volcano that is also one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. This is the result of Mexico’s topography which varies significantly and its geographic situation which places it between distinct eco-zones. There are many ways to enjoy these natural wonders found in Mexico including white water rafting, scuba diving, sailing, trekking, mountain climbing, bird watching, biking and a variety of other eco-activities. Naturally, there is some disagreement about which of mexico’s natural wonders are the best, so researchers have conducted surveys to determine which of these is most popular. Copper canyon was determined to be the most popular followed by Sumidero Canyon, the butterfly reserves and the meso american barrier reef..
El Requeson beach is found in the bay of concepcion and is part of the sea of cortez. Great location for camping, kayaking and snorkeling.
Pena Bernal the worlds 2nd largest monliths in the village of Bernal
Grutas del Mamut, one of the great natural treasures of mexico is the extensive network of caves to explore
Sumidero Canon is one of the most popular natural wonders in mexico and was carved out by the Grijala River seen here. In some places the ealls are as high as 1000 ft and its 13 kilometers long. There are thirteen rapids, 5 waterfalls, 3 beaches and 2 freshwater springs.
Playa Ensenada Grande, Espirito Santo,a unesco world heritage site
Blue Agave plants in the State of Jalisco. A cultivated eco-system and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
El Rosario Butterfly Reserve, Michoacan where most all the monarch’s butterflies of north american migrate annually. It is also a unesco world heritage site
There are over 7000 cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula. Tourist and locals alike enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving in the pools of water created by underground rivers
Isla Cozumel one of the best scuba diving locations in the world found in the midst of the meso american reef system.If your not into scuba diving than try this glass bottom boat
Akumel, Maya Riviera, the meso american reef system is a short swim for this lagoon.
One of two volcanos found in Colima of Jalisco. This one seen in the distant background is called El Fuego and is the most active volcano in Mexico
Cooper Canyon has 6 distinct canyons in the Sierra Madres. It is larger and deeper than the grand canyon of Arizona.
Sea Lion Colony found near isla Espirito Santo, Sea of Cortez
The Sierra Laguna’s is a Unesco Global Biosphere Reserve found in Baja California Sur
Sian Ka’an, entrance to the primary mangrove chanel leading into one of the worlds unesco natural heritage sites.
There are 5 cascading waterfalls with on each side of the river that climbs to the top El Chiflon wateralls
a look downstream the from 250 drop from the Velo de Novia falls.
Tapalpa is a rustic mountain village surrounded by pine forest at an altitude of approximately 6800 feet and it is a popular weekend resort for nature lovers in the Guadalaja area. It is also one of Mexico’s pueblo magico’s and offers the eco-tourist a variety of outdoor activities. What attracts eco tourist to this village are several extreme outdoor adventure parks including the Bosque La Mexicana, Eko Park, Parque Natural Los Frailes and Parque Aventuras la Ceja and Monte Real Adventura. These parks feature zip line canopy tours, rappelling, rock climbing, atv trails, mountain biking, hang gliding, trekking and obstacle courses. One of the favorite attractions for the extreme adventure lover is the Canopy Tour at Eko-Park. This is a circuit consisting of 9 zip lines more than 25 meters off the ground where the longest is 300 meters and you can reach speeds of 50 kilometers per hour.For the less adventurous, there are scenic hiking trails to both springs and waterfalls such as Salto del Nogal which is the highest waterfall in the state of Jalisco at just over 100 feet. In keeping with the spirit of outdoor living, you will also find many good restaurants around the village that specialize in outdoor grilling of fresh meats. Bon appetite..
While trekking in the Tapalpa area you can come across many scenic landscapes
Waiting for the wind to lift off
Hang gliding at park la ceja
This is a cabana and pot belly stove for rent at parque la ceja
swing bridge to the obstacle course at eko park
Here’s one of the obstacles to cross on the course at Eko Park
Here’s an example of a zip line adventure
a look at the rustic centro area of Tapalpa
Here are two of Tapalpa’s landmarks. On the right is the old Templo San Antonio, now a musuem of religious art and the new templo San Antonio in the background.
The ecological site off Grutas del Mamut or Mammoth caves is about 7 km from the central historic area of San Cristobal. The main attraction here are the caves but the park also includes palapas with picnic tables, a pavilion for special events, snack bars, a soccer field, a river with canoe rentals, and a mountain top vista. The caves have several dimly lit rooms with some impressive stalactites and stalagmites. The stalactites are the formations that hang from the ceilings of caves while the stalgmites look like they emerge from the ground. Both are collectively referred to as drip-stones because they are formed through deposition of calcium carbonate and other minerals, which is precipitated from mineralized water solutions.The color of these drip-stones is determined by what minerals are dissolved in the formation process. The images below include both kinds of dripstones and other photo’s of this ecological site.
stalactites also called icicles
Both stalactites and stalagmites.
This swing bridge leads to the soccer field
a combination of dripstones
A river for canoeing and palapa’s with picnic tables
The El Chiflon waterfalls are located about 45 km. from the city of Comitan in the state of Chiapas and is a community run cooperative of great natural beauty. The falls are surrounded by a reed valley, mountains and tropical jungle with rich and dense flora. There is a chain of 5 five waterfalls in this park ranging from approximately 25 feet to over 250 feet that can be observed by hiking a guided trail about 1 mile long. The first part of the trial is fairly level and swimming is allowed in areas where the water is still relatively calm and shallow. The second half of the trail becomes very steep and the water alongside very rapid as you approach the 250 ft.bridal veil falls (Velo de Novia). The last 800 meters is the most difficult to climb and takes you to Quinceanera falls at the top of the chain but it’s worth the effort if you have the time and energy to go the whole nine yards. More information is available in the photo essay below.
The Park Trail Map
a foot bridge near the begining of the trial
There are trails on both sides of the falls with palapa’s, bathrooms and refreshment stands
One of the first falls on the trail called the Suspiro
The next waterfall is called the Ala de Angel
a look downstream the from 250 drop from the Velo de Novia falls.
There are zip lines on both sides of the trails at the base of Velo de Novia falls enabling a round trip view of the surroundings
Another look at the lower half of the Velo de Novia considered the most spectacular of the group
This is the Arco Iris falls a few hundred meters uphill from the Velo de Novia
At the end of the trail and last in the chain of falls is the Quinceanera Falls about 800 meters uphill from Velo de Novia
The Fogotico river runs through the park and down to the village of San Cristobal
Folklore has it that years ago a French soldier named Jean D’Arcotete committed suicide in this park when he was rejected by a local woman that he fell in love while living in San Cristobal de Las Casas and the park is named after this legend. It is one of 7 ecological sites surrounding San Cristobal and is typical of the natural beauty which still exists all throughout the state of Chiapas, Mexico. The park is most well known for a large stone arch that crosses the river Fogotico. It also has interior cavities with stalactites and twisted rock formations that can be explored by visitors. Besides the arch and river that winds through the park there are trails with an abundance of vegation, oak, pine and cypress trees for those who like to hike. Other outdoor recreational activities include zip lines, rappelling, camping or floating down the river on the parks rental boat. There are also palapa’s, a snack bar, cafe and pavillion if needed. For a better idea of what this park is like, take the photo tour below.
A view from the road on the way into the park
A pasture at the entrance to the park
A hillside palapa on the way to the swing bridge
Into the forest, next stop is the swing bridge
Here’s the swing bridge that goes to the arch and river
The fogotico river winding its way the arches
The river and arches
a look at the caves inside the arches
An wider opening on the other end of arch
If your tired of hiking at the end day you can always take the take the zip line to the parking lot and be there in 30 seconds
Instead of the zip line you can take the trail back to the parking lot and mingle with the sheep who have also had a rough day of foraging for food in the woodlands
One of the parks trials which has been paved in some areas
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 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
The Sierra Laguna mountain range is located in the cape region of Baja California Sur and as a bioshpere reserve this area is a protected environment which prohibits development. At higher elevations, the sierra laguna´s also qualify as a cloud forest during the summer months when the peaks are consistently shrouded in mist or rain. This type of climate supports a mix of desert, tropical and sub-alpine flora which are unique in North America. Likewise, a variety of fauna such as deer, coyote, tree frogs and mountain lions can also be found in this area. As a result, the Sierra Laguna´s are a popular destination for hikers and backpackers who come to enjoy the impressive scenery which surrounds the numerous mountain trails of this reserve.
San Pedro Martir Aspens at altitude of about 9.000 ft.
Located in Baja California about 3 hrs drive southeast of Ensenada is the Parque National Sierra San Pedro Martir which was founded in 1947. It is about 170,000 acres and has a variety of flora and fauna similar to the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the USA. As visitors start the ascent to this national park off the main highway from Ensenada the terrain changes rapidly from arid coastal plains, to high chaparral and once above 1500 meters it becomes thickly forested glens with many trails and campsites for hikers and backpackers. In addition to a recreational area, the Mexican government selected this site for its national observatory and largest telescope because of its exceptionally clean air.