Punta Del Este, Uruguay

Gallery

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

La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico

El Corumel Aquatic Park

La Paz is a popular Eco-tourist resort on the east coast of Baja California Sur in Mexico. It is has a semi-arid climate, 300 days of sunshine annually as well as the Sea of Cortez also known as the worlds aquarium. Main attractions for Eco-Tourism in the area of La Paz include the following;

1) The Malecon, a wide sidewalk on the waterfront, with beaches, sculptures, tourist pier, marinas, hotels, restaurants and unimpeded sunsets.
2) El Coromuel Aquatic Park located just past the Malecon was awarded a Blue Flag, the worlds leading Eco-Label in 2016,
3) The Espiritu Santu island group, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is about 3 miles off the coast of La Paz that offers world class kayaking, snorkeling, diving, a variety of marine life to view such as sea lion colonies, in addition to, unique flora and fauna. It is also home to Ensenada Grande considered to be one of most beautiful beaches in the world.
4) La Ventana, another beach close to La Paz on the sea of cortez, offers world class kiteboarding, windsurfing and international tournament events.
5) The Balandra and Tecolote Beaches are about 15 miles from La Paz and are only separated by a protected area consisting of small mountains, sand dunes, mangroves and lagoons. Balandra has clear, calm and shallow water ideal for snorkeling and kayaking. It is also considered to be the best beach in La Paz. Next door, Tecolote Beach features camping, restaurants, tiki bar and beach rental gear.

 

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

,

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.

 

 

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

lake chapala258

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

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.

The Lake Chapala Society, Ajijic, Mexico

untitled-4403

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.

 

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.

http://www.rsmimaging.com/p741424407/h5EAD1CF#h5ead1cf

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

IMG_0801

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.

Beaches in Mexico

Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, a top ten travelers choice beach in the Caribbean

Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, a top ten travelers choice beach in the Caribbean

Mexico has about 6,000 miles of coastline and over 450 beaches with a variety of physical characteristics. These range from desert to tropical environments but while it may be  easy to classify beaches according to these objective characteristics, the choice of which beach resort  is best for a vacation  is much more subjective. A quick internet search will  turn up several sites that rate beaches in Mexico by  a variety of different criteria but there is only one objective system that rates beaches by strict criteria applied the world over and that site can be found at http://www.blueflag.org. Their system for evaluating beaches started in France around 1985 and is now run by the European Foundation for Environmental Education. In general, the Blue Flag criteria used to determine which beaches deserve to be awarded are water quality, safety, services, environmental management and information. As of now, there are 5 beaches that have earned the blue flag award in Mexico. Coincidently, all five of these beaches are also on the list of the best beaches in Mexico as published by websites such as Travelers Choice and magazines such as U.S News and Travel that use tourist opinions or travel writers opinions to rate beaches. So, if finding the best beach is a top priority on your next vacation, it comes down to a decision about the intangibles such as idyllic versus the tangibles such as environmental information signs. In the photo essay below there is a photo of Playa Delfines, a blue flag awarded beach, as well as several photos of beaches in Tulum which Travelers Choice rates as the best in Mexico. All other beach photos below are highly rated by one or more survey about best beaches in Mexico.

Mexican Ecosystems

the balandra biosphere

The Balandra Biosphere consist of mangrove, beach and dune ecosystems

A biome is a group of ecosystems that shares similar flora, fauna, microorganisms and climate. While an ecosystem is defined as the dynamic interactions between  flora, fauna, microorganisms and their  environment working together as a functional unit.The main difference between the two is that a biome consist of many similar ecosystems throughout the world grouped together. One of the problems  encountered in the classification system of biomes and ecosystems is the transition zones  that can make it difficult to determine  exactly where one system begins and another ends. In any case,, roughly 29 percent of the land in Mexico is considered to be in desert or shrubland biomes while another 30 percent of the land consist of several different forest biomes.  Additionally, Mexico is said to have 51 distinct ecosystems which makes it the most biologically diverse country in Latin American. For example, some of the ecosystems in the forest biomes of this country alone include coniferous forest, oak forest, tropical semi deciduous forest, mixed forest, cloud forest, deciduous forest and evergreen forest just to mention a few of the 51 possibilities. The photo essay below depicts a few of these ecosystems and includes additional information.

Akumal, Maya Riviera

Akumal BayAkumal, or place of the turtle in Mayan, is a small americanized beach community located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. It is not only a nesting ground for sea turtles but home to Centro Ecological de Akumal which is dedicated to sea turtle protection, environmental marine research, education and sustainable tourism development. The bay of Akumal is sheltered from waves so conditions for turtles and snorkelers alike are arguably the best that can be found within the Maya riviera. ln addition to the loggerhead, green and  hawksbill turtles that call Akumal home; snorkelers can expect to see a variety of colorful tropical fish and coral thanks to the clear and calm waters of this bay. The  Yalku lagoon, found at the north end of the Akumal, is another ideal location for snorkeling. This happens to be  a unique environment where  fresh waters from the yucatan’s underground system merges  with the caribbean sea  to form a lagoon  sheltered from waves. For additional details and images, please go to the photo essay below.

Eco-Sur Botanical Garden, Puerto Morales, MX

Eco-Sur, Tropical Forest

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.

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.

Isla Cozumel, Mexico

Tiki Bar

Cozumel is the largest of Mexico’s islands measuring 53 km by 14km and is found in the Caribbean Sea about 1 hour away from  Playa del Carmen on the passenger ferries which make frequent trips on a daily basis.  Although, there are a variety of things to do once you get to Cozumel the main attraction has always been snorkeling and scuba diving to experience the great meso american reef system. One travel guide book has a list of 86 attractions around Cozumel but 43 of them involve different scuba diving or snorkeling locations. Other things to do while on the island  are  related to either cultural activities,  parks or  beach clubs.

Three types of beaches can be found around this island and they will be either rocky,  smooth white sand or  hybrids. According to people in the know, rocky beaches are a indication of good snorkeling opportunities off shore and they are plentiful. The smooth white sand beaches are not as common as the rocky type but they can be found at the northern or  southern tips of the island’s  western shores such as Playa San Francisco near Punta Sur. Finally, there is the hybrid variety where sand has been brought in to build a beach on top of the limestone croppings that are the norm around Cozumel.. One such man made beach is found at the Chankannab National Park to the south of town.

At the end of the day, most people head for  San Miguel to enjoy happy hour, dinner or other cultural activites. This is the only city on the island and it has a population of over 75,000 people according to the last count. One of the main attractions here is the pedestrian only Plaza Centro where you can find restaurants, shops, street artist, cafe’s and nightlife. In the photo gallery below you will find images and more information about Plaza Centro, a few of the beaches  as well as some other highlights.

Tulum, Maya Riviera

a roadside stand on the jungle side of Tulum beach road

a roadside stand on the jungle side of Tulum beach road, would you rather be here or starbucks?

Tulum is  a  mixture of 3 separate and distinct areas which consist of  the archeological zone, Tulum Playa and Tulum Pueblo. In the past, the main reason to visit Tulum was to see the archeological site but many new additions  to both the beach zone and central zone are now attracting tourist  for a variety of others reasons.  The focus of new developments in the Tulum Playa area is overwhelmingly  on  eco-tourism and preservation of the natural environment. So, new construction projects are kept to a minimum and must also meet strict standards for sustainable development.

Tulum pueblo is  primairily a business and residential area for the locals  but it also has some restaurants and nightlife that appeals to both tourist and residents alike.  The beach area, however, is the  main attraction for most people and Tulum beach road is where it’s all happening. This is where you  find all the new ecologically designed boutique and spa hotels along with beach clubs, beach parties, stores and a decent selection of  restaurants   and nightlife. This is the only way into and out of Tulum Playa and it is surrounded by jungle on one side and the caribbean on the other. This is the same road that leads to the Sian Ka’an Reserve  and Punta Allen which is a fishing resort at the tip of the peninsula. In any case, someone once said “a picture is worth a thousand words” so, to learn more about Tulum Playa, see the photo gallery below.

Playa Del Carmen Highlights, Xcaret Park

This inlet leads to the carribean or the restaurant in the background

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.

Xaman Ha, Bird Sanctuary, Mexico


Scarlet Macaws

In the midst of a  chic residential community within the maya riveria known as  Playacar, lies both Maya ruins and the Xaman-Ha Sanctuary. Playacar was once known as Xaman-Ha by the Mayan people and today the sanctuary is a reminder of what it must have been like years ago when numerous species of tropical birds populated the jungles of the yucatan peninsula. One of those species, the scarlet macaw, is now on the endangered list because their  eco-system is  gradually being decimated by urban sprawl. In addition,  a black market  parrot trade has also contributed to the dwindling population of these macaws.

Toucan

This sanctuary is a natural habitat for over  60 species of tropical birds which are indigenous to the yucatan peninsula with paths and trails leading to the birds preferred nesting areas.There are aquatic birds, coastal fowl, macaws, parrots and linseed birds. Included in these groups are flamingo’s, toucans, scarlet macaws, egrets, pelicans and a variety of parrots. Although, Xaman-Ha is  primarily a bird sanctuary; you will definitely cross paths with a few Iguana’s while walking around this nature park.

Flamingo's

The Edward James Surreal Garden

fluer de lys, Edward James Garden

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.the gates to St. Peter and St. Paul

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.

Tropical Beaches of Puerto Vallarta

Along the  shores of Banderas Bay, there are numerous beaches that are divided into three zones; north of town, in town, and south of town. Four of the most popular beaches south of Puerto Vallarta Central include Mismaloya Beach, Boca Tomatlan, Las Animas and Quimixto. Mismaloya and Boca Tomatlan can be reached by car, bus, or taxi but Las Animas and Quimixto can only be reached by boat or by hiking thru long jungle trails from Boca Tomatlan.

Mismaloya Beach is about 6 miles from the center of town and happens to be where ¨Night of the Iguana¨ starring Richard Burton was filmed in 1963 before the condo´s and hotel´s were constructed.  More recently, much of the ¨The Predator¨starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was filmed in the jungle behind Mismaloya.  Boca Tomatlan beach is about 10 miles from the center of town and is the last of the south shore beaches which can be reached by car. This beach lies at the the mouth of the Rio Horcones, so besides salt water there are fresh water pools for swimming, restaurants for other kinds of refreshment and water taxi´s for trips to the other beaches not accessible by car.  The boat ride from here to Las Animas or Quimixto is only a short distance and relatively inexpensive. At Las Animas,  there is an adventure park with zip lines, rope bridges and climbing activities. The main attraction at Quimixto is a 30 meter high waterfall which feeds  into a natural pool of pristine mountain water about 15 meters deep and can be reached by horseback or by hiking across several hills and 2 rivers. Both of these beaches offer a variety of restaurants and shops that sell locally made merchandise.

Vallarata Botanical Gardens

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.

The Balandra Bioshpere, Baja California Sur, Mexico

The Balandra Bioshpere is a complex of beaches, hills, dunes, and mangroves on the sea of cortez. It is one of many protected environments in Baja California Sur about 20 kilometers from La Paz, Mexico. The  bay of balandra is very shallow with clear, warm water  ideal for snorkeling and kayaking. It also forms several beaches but the main beach offers palapa´s and barbeque pits, in addition to, campsites.