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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

Coba, Maya Riviera

The Great Pyramid

The archaeological site of Coba  exists in a world that has changed very little in the past 1000 years or more. So, it is still surrounded by a natural environment  of jungle vegetation,  tropical hardwoods, lagoons, vines, and  wildlife as far as the eye can see. Although the cities origins date back to the year 600 A.D. it was abandoned after the Spanish conquered the Yucatan Peninsula around 1550. Evidently, Coba was located in such a remote area in those days that the Spanish never found the city which remained hidden in the jungle until 1842 when it was rediscovered by explorers.

Coba is an expansive site which is believed  to contain apporximately 6500 structures  that once supported an estimated 45,000 people. At this time, however,  only a small portion of Coba has been cleared from the jungle and restored by  archaeologists. This part consist of 6 separate areas called the Coba Group, the Nohoch Mul Group, the Pinturas Group, the Chumuc Group, the Macanxoc Group and the Uitzil Mul Group which are all connected by a system of dirt roads built over a 1000 years ago. To see the ruins in these different areas you can either walk, rent a bike or a chofer driven tricycle. If your visiting Coba in the  summer months it would be best to rent a bike or chofer driven tricycle and save your energy for climbing the Nohoch Mul pyramid, tallest in the Yucatan peninsula at 138 feet. Images of  this pyramid and some of Coba’s other attractions along with additional information can be found in the  photo gallery below.

San Pedro Martir National Park, Mexico

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.