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.
The submarine, Lake Valle Grande
One of the many unique geo shapes in Canon Atuel. The redish color in these rocks is due to the presence of iron oxide.
Much of the Rio Atuel is surrounded by colorful, jagged and layered rock walls as seen in this photo.
Another one of the unique shapes called the Rivadavia Armchair
Here is one of several lava fields in the canyon
lush foliage can be see all along the banks of the Rio Atuel
The Rio Atuel in fall when many tree leaves display a variety of colors
There are 2 dams in Valle Grande that control the flow of water into and out of the Rio Atuel in this area. At the time of my visit the level of water was low in most places. There is also a hydro-electric plant on this river that generates electricity for the surrounding area.
Good example of the surreal landscapes of Canon Atuel. Besides the reddish shade of colors, the yellow shades are cause by the presence of sulfur oxides and the green shades by copper oxides.
a closer look of this wall shows one of the geo-shapes called the skull.
Santiago is supposed to have some 1500 green spaces but the largest and most popular with locals and tourist alike is Parque Metropolitano de Santiago. The city planners have devoted 40 percent of its green areas to this park and it’s also the largest urban park in South America.that includes a forest of 400 hectares as well as the developed area’s. If you want to see all the park’s amenities there are a few hills to climb, one of which rises 880 ft from the park’s entrance. lf you don’t feel like walking or riding a bike on the trails that wind around this hill to the top, you can ride in a cable car for only one dollar. Once you reach the top you will be greeted with a full panoramic view of the city, snack bars souvenir kiosks, a church and large statue of the virgin mary that overlooks the city. Other features of the park include the national zoo, a variety of botanical gardens, hiking trails in the forest, bike paths, a cultural center, picnic zones, swimming pool, and wine museum. As indicated, there are many other parks in the city of Santiago and most offer a similar natural environment for relaxing along with the same kind of amenities, such as outdoor exercise equipment, bike paths, skateboarding courses, refreshment stands,etc.. In addition to the metropolitan park , a few of the largest and most popular parks are included in the photo gallery below; they are Bustamante Park, Forestal Park, Araucano Park , and Park Hurtado.
panoramic view of Santiago from on of the metropolitan park trails, the building in the background is tallest in South America and is the Costenero Center
one of several botanical gardens in the metropolitan park
a green meadow in the metropolitan park
a suricat at the metropolitan park zoo
a french architect designed the Florestal Park and this building is a french restaurant inside the park.
Florestal Park is a favorite gathering place for local muscians who provide entertainment and pass the hat for tips.
one of the paths for walking or biking through Florestal Park
Arauco Park is surrounded by modern architecture and the cities most important shopping mall
another plant scupture in Araucano Park. There is also a skateboard park, amphitheater, restaurants, museum, and paths for biking, hiking and jogging.
One of several garden scupltures in Araucano Park,
the entrance to Bustamonte Park which leads to a cafe and library. The park also has outdoor exercise equipment.
Park Hurtado offers horseback riding for children, outdoor excersize equipment, picnic areas, open fields for sports, a small lake, and trails for walking or joggings
Vilcabamba is a small mountain village with a population of about 7,000 people that now includes quite a few ex-pats from the USA. Located in the Andes at an altitutde of 5000 ft and 30 miles from the city of Loja, it is famous for its pristine natural environment, where there is little if any air pollution, water pollution, chemtrails or electro magnetic pollution. Concomitant with a great climate, stress free lifestyle and plenty of homegrown organic produce, Vilcabamba has a reputation for being the valley of longevity where life expectancy of the local population exceeds the average of most other people in the world.
The main attracttions here for the eco-tourist or nature enthusiast includes Podocarpus National Park, the Rumi-Wilco eco-lodge and nature reserve that is less than a 10 minute walk from the center of town, a mountain called Mandango the sleeping Inca, bike trails and riverwalks. Podocarpus is considered to be the botanical garden of america and is 1462 sq. km. with 4 distinct high and low mountain ecosystems. There are over 4000 species of plants, 68 species of mammals including 560 species of birds, and a complex system of over 100 lagoons called Lagunas del Compadre, as well as waterfalls and rivers. The park has 3 main entrances in different sectors, the closest to Vilcabamba is el refugio del plato. From here vistors can access parts of the lagoon system, hike, camp, bird watch and enjoy the forest scenery.
A short walk from the center of town is the Rumi-Wilco nature reserve offering guided nature trails, camping, swimming holes in the river Chamba and cabin rentals. Another favorite outdoor activity in Vilcabamba is the trail to the top of Mandango which has a rock formation resembling a temple that according to folklore, is where the Inca God sleeps. Many tourist ride horseback or hike to the top of this peek for a closer look at the temple and the panoramic views from the mountains peak. If your not a nature enthusiast you might want to try prospecting for gold in the eastern sector of Podocarpus not far from the Bombuscaro entrance to the park.
Mandango, the temple of the sleeping inca
the river Yambala in Vilcabamba
humingbird in Podocarpus National Park
the nature reserves upper trail
humingbird in Podocarpus National Park
Humingbird in Podocarpus National Park
Vilcabamba’s town square
the river Chambala in the nature reserve of Vilacabamba
Paraisio eco resort hotel
a stand of bamboo on the nature reserve’s lower trail besides the river
If you happen to be planing a vacation to Medellin in Columbia and are interested in eco-tourism or outdoor recreational activities in and around this city of approximately 2.5 million people, here are a few parks, gardens and nature reservses that you might want to visit. First and foremost on my list are Parque Arvi and Piedra Blancas both of which are located in the mountains surrounding the city and easily accessed by the metro cable car systems. The cable car takes you as far as Parque Arvi and a short bus ride of about 5 minutes will take you to Pierda Blancas eco-resort where you will find campgrounds, nature trails, butterfly pavillion, lake, boat rentals, hotel, restaurant and more. Another favorite getaway for tourist is Guatape approximately one hour away from the city by bus. It features a lake with islands, windsurfing, boat tours and a large monolith with a unique observation deck that is reached by climbing a built in staircase of 750 steps. Perhaps the most often visited location in central Medellin for tourist and locals alike is Cerro Nutibarra, a nature reserve in the mountains overlooking the city and reached by a city tour bus. It offers guided nature trails, art nature trails, bird watching, outdoor amphitheater for concerts, musuem, restaurants and a replica of what mountain villages around Medellin where like in the past.. The Uribe Botanical garden is another popular attraction for the eco-tourist. It features a variety of gardens, trails, lagoon, restaurant and is next door to parque explora as well as the city planetarium. Other photos included in this gallery are barefoot park behind the convention center, El Castillo Musuem and Gardens, as well as an example of floral arrangements seen at the annual festival of flowers.
The lake of Pierdra Blancas
butterfly pavillion at pierdra blanca
A Lagoon at Uribe Botanical Garden
Uribe Botanical Gardens
At the Festival of Flowers in Medellin
Hills and mountains surround Medellin, known as the city of flowers
El Castillo Museo and Gardens
El Castillo Gardens
Village of Cerro Nutibarra
art nature trail at cerro nutibarra
Barefoot park behind the Plaza Mayor Convention Center is a green space for rest and relaxtion
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
San Cristobal is at an altitude of 2300 meters and is surrounded by peaks, pines and oak trees
This annual week long celebration of spring involves quite a variety of events and runs concurrent with the Semana Santa holiday in Mexico. There seems to be something for everyone including art exhibits, sports, concerts, parades, cultural events, rodeo’s, bull fights, fireworks and more. Best of all, most events are free of charge and in San Cristobal de las Casas the weather is spring like almost year around. For more information and a few photos of event activities, see the gallery below.
local people who have no store of their own set up shop behind the main plaza to sell hand made textiles and crafts
past and present festival beauty queens at the El Gato blues concert
El Gato Blues Band rockin’ La Ensenanza Casa de la Cuidad, they were smokin’
A sidewalk art contest in the main plaza
Folk dancing on stage in the main plaza
Flora, a local artist from Korea sells her unique style of artwork on Calle Hildago, one of the pedestrian only streets in Centro during the festival
At the anniversary celebration of El Jardin de Epifitas, there was a plant contest.
Another exotic plant in the epifitas garden plant contest
a flower decorated frame was set up at all four corners around the main plaza
a marimba orchestra performing on one of two stages set up in the main plaza
a fashion show on the main stage in centro
another model wearing one of the latest spring fashion designs in Chiapas
One of the 2 day events was a National motocross competition
The winner flies over the checkered flag
Almost every event in Mexico will have a Mariachi Band as did the spring festival
There were state soccer tournaments at this field, as well as, basketball and baseball tournaments at other locations in the cities large sports park
Here is a handicapped musician who learned to master the marimba with his feet, performing on the main stage in centro
Here’s a 4 piece jazz band performing at the Casa de la Cuidad with a cover of Dave Brubecks “Take Five”
A trational orchestra on the main stage closing out the festival on the 27th of April
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 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
Mexico loves it monuments and that’s why one of its most important cities, Oueretaro, was inscribed as a historic monument U.N.E.S.C.O. world heritage zone in 1996. A tourist in Mexico can learn much about the history of this country by simply visiting these monuments which can be found in most every large city and resort area. There are several kinds of monuments such as statutes built as a lasting tribute to a person, a group of people or an event. Other kinds of monuments that are most common can be either a place, building site or structure that is preserved because of its historic culture and/or aesthetic importance. In addition to Queretaro; most of the national monuments are found in Mexico city, Gaunajuato, and Guadalajara but there are many other significant monuments to be found in a variety of locations nationwide.The photo essay below shows a variety of these monuments including some of the most important and popular in Mexico.
A monument in Puerto Vallarta dedicated to mexican culture
El Caballito a monument in Puerto Vallarta dedicated to the sea
monument to Father Hildago, the spiritual leader of Mexico’s revolutionary war
the fishermans monument is dedicated to the importance of commercial and recreational fishing in Mazatlan
Monument to Mazatlan which translated means land of deer
a monument to Danzante and the Otomi indian culture in that existed in Queretaro before the Spanish conquest
Ruins of La Pintura building which housed works of art in the ancient city of Tulum
a monument about the Mayan people in playa del carmen on the caribbean sea
mermaid and dolphin monument in La Paz
The ninos hero’s monument dedicated to 6 cadets age 13 to 20 who lost their lives after they volunteered to defend a fortress against overwhelming odds.
a monument to the Pacifico brewery founded in Mazatland
a monument statute of aesthetic beauty in Puerto Vallarta
A chapel monument located on the hill in Queretaro where the Mexican army defeated Maximillian to win freedom from Austria.
This 150 acre botanical garden also know as Ya’ax Che is the last patch of conserved forest between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Established in 1982, the main objectives of the park are to preserve and propagate endangered plant species as well as inform and educate visitors about how the mayans used the natural resources of this area. To this end, there is an interpretive trail of about 4 km with a variety of exhibits set in a natural forest environment representative of the complete eco-system existing in the Yucatan Peninsula. The distinct exhibits consist of cactus, orchids, ferns, ornamentals, palms and medicinal plants, Additionally, there are maya ruins, a recreated traditional mayan home and “chicle camp” where sap from chicle trees was used to make the chewing gum which bears its name. Wild fauna such as spider monkeys, lizards and a variety of birds can also be seen along the trails. For more information and images about this park, see the photo essay below.
A guide to the exhibits found on the 4km interpretive trail
This is a Tradescania Pallida plant native to the Yucatan used for ornamental purposes
There are 20 different kinds of palmae in the yucatan peninsula and 15 of them are part of this parks collecton that includes this Corozo palm
The palmae exhibit includes this Kuka which is native to the yucatan and now considered an endangered species
dedicated to Dr. Ingrid Olmsted who was a pioneer in promoting biodiversity around the yucatan peninsula
The palms on the right are the sabel mexicana native to the yucatan and used in the construction of palpa thatched roofs
This solar home is part of a Ethnographic Exhibition which also includes an apiary, vegetable garden and medicinal plants that were used to supplement the family economy.
part of the maya ethnography exhibit, this Liliaceae plant was used as a traditional medicine for resporatory ailments
a variety of ferns and a reading center are found in this exhibit
a fern native to the yucatan and florida considered to be a threatened species
Maya ruins in the park called the Altar
recreation of a chiclero camp production facility where sap from the chicle tree was boiled down and cast into blocks that formed a base for chewing gum later called chiclets
on the way to the swing bridge, this trail is an representative of a medium height deciduous forest
This bridge crosses a valley which floods in the raining season and leads to an observation tower with a birds eye view
the ever present Iguana turns up almost everywhere in the maya riviera
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.
This tower is located at the entrance to Coba’s ruins and has a zip over the lagoon
Found at the park’s entrance, this gallery has a unique roof garden
one of several shops around the entrance of Coba
across from the observation tower and park entrance
Located in the Coba group of structures, it is 24 meters high and is the place where rituals were carried out
a jungle canopy covers coba’s roads which were built over a 1000 years ago. here 2 visitors are exploring the ruins on rented bikes
chofer driven tricycles are a good way to get around Coba’s ruins
One of the more well perserved structures found just before arriving at the refreshment stand
just across from the Nohock Mul Pyramid, sells cold beverages and snacks which you will appreciate after climbing 138 feet in the heat
a view up the stairs from the base, there is a rope in the center for assistance when needed
a view of the surrounding environment from the top of Nohoch Pyramid
guest riding the zip line from the observation tower over the coba lagoon
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.
if you need directions on the way to the beach, look for this roadside stand
your basic and economical beach cabana
an upscale beach cabana
Volleyball game at La Luna beach club
a private 3 bedroom, 3 bath home for rent but if you have to ask the price you probably can’t afford it
there are several beach clubs in town and here’s a look at Ziggy’s swing bar
a 2 story beach side hotel on tulum road, There are new luxury hotels in towm but no high rises allowed. The limit is around 2 or 3 stories.
a jungle side open air restaurant considered one of the best in town owned and operated by Eric Werner who learned his craft at the vinegar hill house in Brooklyn and the Peasant in Manhattan restaurants
a jungle side open air restaurant on tulum beach road
a beach side stand with brick oven made pizza and bread
On the jungle side of Tulum Road is this popular restaurant serving mexican food with a mediterrian twist
If you don’t like tulum the sign says 700 miles to cuba and if you want to just help youself to the dingy
a newer upscale beach side restaurant
an arts and crafts store on the jungle side of Tulum beach road
there is a kiteboarding school on the beach here and lot’s of wind
a mexican sombrero and a look down tulum beach road going south
a beach restaurant and bar featuring Italian cusine
Tulum Beaches, Maya Riviera, U.S. News and Travel rates Tulum beaches as the best in Mexico
Puerto Morales is a small seaside fishing village about halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. It was not built for tourist and commercial development has been kept to a minimum, so it is still more like a residential community where prices for most everything are lower and the pace much slower than the typical “touristy” resorts. The Great Meso American reef lies just 500 meters off the shores of Puerto Morales and offers a variety of marine life as well as one of the most beautiful reefs in the world. So it should not come as a surprise to say that the main attractions here are fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling. The largest annual fishing tournament is held in May and offers $80,000 pesos to the winner while scuba diving features coral reef formations, wrecks and schools of colorful fish. Other nearby attractions include the Dr. Alfredo Barrera botanical garden and Crococun Zoo, in addition, the photo gallery below provides a look at some of the sites around the center of town.
one of many boats available for fishing trips
The old lighthouse in front was nearly knocked over by a hurricane years ago but still stands today
a local modeling posing on the boardwalk
A beachfront restaurant in the center of town
This pier is directly in front of the pelican restaurant and is used as a diving and boarding platform
a good place to relax and enjoy the scenery, this boardwalk park is part of the town plaza (zocala) in the center of town between the main pier and pelican’s pier where people relax, enjoy the view and special events
This cafe is just a block from the beach and across from the zocala (town center)
new and used books for sale in both english and spanish languages. Located right next to the cafe
The RV lifestyle in Puerto Morales. Looks like an old school bus conversion in the a psychedelic style of the 60’s
unique architectual design across from the cultural center, It is used a local musuem
it’s a dog day afternoon on the shores of Puerto Morales
Restaurant/Bar with Mexican Cuisine, notice the absence of doors, walls and windows. This traditional style of building is the norm on La Quinta Ave.,
The pedestrian promenade of La Qunita or Fifth Avenue attracts an international mix of travelers and is the place to see and be seen while in Playa. A party atmosphere, created by the nightclubs, bars and restaurants on La Qunita; keeps the grown up good time crowd around until the wee hours of the morning. On another level, La Qunita attracts people for it’s down to earth lifestyles and egalitarian spirit characterized by the very casual style of dress seen everywhere, the variety of businesses that offer both low end and high end merchandise or services and the friendly attitudes of most people around town. The photo gallery of this edition and the prior edition illustrates what has made La Qunita Ave one of Playa’s main attractions.
One of several starbuck’s in Playa, looks like if you drink to much coffee the police will give you a ticket for being under the influence of caffeine.
If it has doors and windows you cannot negotiate prices
Be careful of what you put in these pipes
CD’s and miscellaneous items for sale
leather, bags, mask and miscellaneous items for sale, has no doors so the prices are negotiable
specializes in mexican cusine, has no doors, walls or windows
This plaza currently marks the north end of La Quinta, It offers restaurants, cafes, music and bars
At the north end of La Quinta across from Plaza Luna
Right in front of Plaza Luna. Makes fresh juices for your health
A pavilion hotel lobby with bar and front desk around 34th street and la quinta
Offers speciality merchandise, cuban cigars, a restaurant with cuban food and music
100 percent natural fruit juices freshly squeezed
japanese cuisine and sushi
hats, bags, souvenir’s and local color
The south end of La Qunita during semana santa week (easter)
A bar and grill with sports betting on La Quinta as well as St. Patricks Day decorations.
La Qunita or Fifth Avenue is the entertainment and shopping center of Playa del Carmen. It is a pedestrian only street parallel to the beach and is somewhat like a boardwalk except that the beach is a block away. What is unique about this street is that the majority of restaurants, cafes, nightclubs and even retailers feature an open air or sidewalk atmosphere. At this time, La Quinta is over 30 blocks in length and still expanding, so you need good walking shoes if you plan to see it all in one night. Here you will find a huge variety of restaurants, nightclubs, cafes, local bars, specialty retailers, services, hotels, hostels, kiosk’s and art galleries to visit on this strip. While some of the vendors on this street have a reputation for being very aggressive, keep in mind that these are mostly small business owned shops not corporations with advertising dollars to spend. That said, the photo gallery below is just a small sample of what you can expect to find on La Quinta Avenue.
One of several galleries on La Qunita with original art work
Karen’s found on La Quinta specializes in steak and seafood, there is also live entertainment’ here during the afternoon’s and evening’s.
Hand make textiles from the state of Chipas on La Quinta
Tattoo’s and Body piercing art on La Quinta
a pizza stand with slices or whole pies
at the intersection of la quinta and calle corazon
Tequila for sale along with a history lesson
a popular open air restaurant with natural organic foods
One of several alley’s found along la quinta ave. this one is home to the popular casa mediterrain restaurant a several boutique retail shops
This vine covered hotel is one of the first on La Quinta and is also one of the most affordable
The original Katrina image was created in 1910 by artist Jose Posada to symbolize the death of indigenous mexican culture but today the original meaning has been obscured and Catrina is now associated with the day of the dead rituals.
a custom design clothing shop
Enjoy italian ice cream on La Quinta
open air bar on La Quinta
There are several shops that feature Ceramic art work and talavera pottery on La Quinta
This inlet leads snorkelers and swimmers to the carribean or the restaurant in the background
Xcaret Park was created to promote nature and mexican cultural heritage. To that end, part of the admission price is donated to developing programs for the preservation of wild flora and fauna. There are quite a variety of leisure and recreational activities in the park but all are related to this objective. In general, the main attractions include underground rivers, natural pools and inlets for snorkeling, exhibitions which include archeological zones, re-creations of ancient mayan cities along with mayan ceremonies, flora and fauna found on interpretative jungle trails, orchid and bromelaid museums, a butterfly pavilion, natural habitats for jaguars, puma’s and monkeys, aquariums, bee farms and deer shelters. The latest in their long list of natural attractions is the Sea Trek underwater adventure that offers a new technology for diving underwater without extensive training and cumbersome gear. All you need is their new hi-tech diving helmet that keeps water out while air is pumped in from a boat that hovers above the dive site. So, it is now possible for almost everyone to experience the coral reefs and tropical fish for which the Carribean is famous. Ladies will find this new helmet especially appealing because the helmet keeps hair dry and prevents make-up from washing off.
This organ grinder walks around the park and plays traditional mexican folk music
Bromeliads like these are found in the musuem and on interpretive jungle trails
another exhibition of ancient ceremonies which involves bird men that descend from the top of this pole by doing circles in the air to honor the sun god.
this is one of several performances that involve ancient maya rituals and customs
here’s where you jump in and let the current move you through the waters
spider monkey island is a natural habitat for a family of these amusing primates
one of may butterflies within this pavilion
a monarch butterfly sculpture along the trail through this pavilion
cat prowling through the parks jaguar island
inside the maya archeological zone
a natural pool for sun tanning, relaxing and bathing
the opening of a horse exhibition within the grounds of a typical 19th century hacienda compound.
Xcaret inlet meets the carribean
snorkelers at the end of a one way underground river
In Playa del Carmen on the Maya Riviera, life is a beach and so it is called Playa by most everyone familiar with this area. Up until a few years ago, the main attraction to Playa was the ferry to Isla Cozumel but there has been a dramatic transformation in the past 10 years from portal to what is now one of Mexico’s most popular resorts. Some of this success can be attributed to nearby attractions such as Cancun or Ecaret theme park but Playa’s newly developed amenities and attractions make this resort an appealing destination on its own..
As far as attractions and activities are concerned, the sun, sea and beaches are the most important to consider. There’s plenty of sunshine to go around, the ocean temps are comfortable all year long, and the beaches stretch from one end of town to another. Playa Caribe is one of the main public beaches at the south end of town next to the maritime terminal where ferries to and from Isla Cozumel are located. Amenities at this beach include volleyball nets, several tiki bars, showers and massage tables. On the other side of this terminal you will find Senor Frogs beach which offers similar amenities as detailed by photo on the left, as well as there restaurant and bar.
Other conveniently located attractions include a variety of retail stores, restaurants and bars. The retailer’s directly behind Playa Caribe are for the most part independently owned and operated. Wheras, the retailers directly behind Senor Frog’s are corporate owned speciality stores that are part of the upscale La Fiesta Plaza. As you might expect, there is a considerable difference in the merchandise available at these shops and in the way they operate their business. Suffice to say, that if you are looking for a bargain on products made in Mexico, shop at the independently owned stores as seen in the photo to the right. If you want expensive name brand imports, shop at the Plaza La Fiesta. In addition to the different types of merchandise for sale, it is also interesting to compare the old world approach to retailing practiced by the independent shops versus the contemporary style of retailing at the Plaza La Fiesta.
Likewise, the choice of where to eat includes traditional mexican food served at stands or restaurants just behind Playa Caribe or restaurants like Subway, Haagen Das and Starbucks in the food court at the La Fiesta Plaza. When it’s time for happy hour, however, the choices are easy because all the bars seem to serve the same brands of mexican beer and after a few hours in the sun, they all taste good. Cheers!
One of Cancun’s most overlooked amenities is the cyclopista or bike path that spans about 18 kilometers from one end of the hotel zone to the other. It’s a great way to see all the attractions within the zone and get some exercise at the same time. Some hotels even offer there guest the use of bicycles without charge. As seen above, the bike path is safe, well groomed and level most of the way, so it’s not too strenuous for the average person to ride while sightseeing. This may be the road less traveled but it has some advantages over the alternatives. If it’s a sunny day, you may even get a sun tan while your burning up calories from all the margarita’s you had the night before.
One of the attractions you might check out while cruising around on a bicycle is the Playboy Casino. Although there are several other’s in the Cancun area, the Playboy Club is the only one within this zone. It features electronic gaming machines but also has a few table games, poker room and sports betting. A small membership fee of about $20 dollars is required for admission. One of the other attractions worth considering for a bike ride is the Wet and Wild theme park and the public beach right next door which is considered to be the best location in Cancun for kiteboarding. Here, the water is warm year around and the bay offers smooth riding conditions. Best time of the year for kiteboarding is said to be November to May.
. While the Plaza del Toros is not found along the bike path, it is still on the perimeter of the hotel zone. Every Wednesday night they host a Mexican folkloric show and bullfight. At other times they host both musical and sporting events. Other attractions nearby are the Cancun malecon on the Nichupte Lagoon and Plaza Las Americas which is the largest shopping mall in town.
This edition of Cancun Highlights features golf courses, restaurants, beaches and marina’s. It’s hard to say which is the best or most popular golf course because opinions usually vary according to individual preferences and skill levels. In any case, there are several top notch 18 hole, par 72 courses within the hotel zone. The longest, at 6,800 yards, is the Iberostar Golf Club, followed by the Cancun Country Club at 6,750 yards.. However, all golfers know that yardage changes from time to time with tee placement, so anyone of the above courses could be longer than the other on a given day. For what it’s worth to all the duffers out there, the Cancun Country Club, designed by Nick Price, is recognized as the only Tournament Players course outside of the United States at this time.
Another popular public beach located in the heart of the Cancun hotel zone is Playa Tortuga. It is not an expansive stretch of beach like Playa Del Fines mentioned in a previous post because it is filled with Tiki bars, open air restaurants, beach oriented retail shops and cafes. The pier in the background of this photo has a bungee jumping tower and is also a launching point for ferries to Isla Mujeres.
Aqua World is also one of Cancun’s top attractions. It is both a marina and business with a fleet of 17 boats offering both tourist and nautical services. For example, there is a jungle tour that takes you through the Nichupte Lagoon mangroves to a secluded snorkeling paradise while another tour offers a lobster dinner cruise on the lagoon at sunset.
Last but not least is the La Habichuela Sunset restaurant. With a reputation for delicious meals, a unique sculpture garden of native flora and mayan theme shows; it has earned it’s rank as one of Cancun’s best restaurants. As the name implies, it is also one of the best places within the hotel zone to watch the sunset over the Nichupte Lagoon.
In this second post with more Cancun highlights, there are photos of the El Rey archeological site, the new Maya museum, the Forum Mall, and the Fiesta Americana Luxury Hotel which are all located within the hotel zone. The above photo shows the remains of an ancient observatory at the El Rey site which dates back to 1200 a.d. The architectural style found here is similar to that of other structures built in the southeastern region of mexico during the time period from 1200 a.d. to 1500 a.d. San Miguelito, another archeological site in the Cancun Hotel Zone, can be found within the grounds of the new Maya museum which opened last December. Inside the museum there is a lot of information about Mayan history along with exhibits and artifacts. The archeological site at this location features an interpretative trial through Maya ruins that are surrounded by a jungle ecosystem much like the one that existed when these structures were built.
Other photos featured in this post include the Fiesta Americana Resort and the Forum Mall both found in the heart of the hotel zone. The Fiesta is a family resort that has won the presitigous 5 diamond award numerous times and is considered to be located on the finest stretch of private beach in Cancun, It also features a 40,000 square foot spa and an awesome swimming pool that spans the length of the 602 room hotel. Only a short walk from here brings us to the Forum Mall which offers a unique blend of retail shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. The anchor tenants here are not walmart or costco, however, but super clubs such as the Hard Rock Cafe and Coco Bongo which ranks as one of trip advisor’s top attractions in Cancun.
The dictionary defines an embarcadero as a landing place on a waterway. In Cancun, the embarcadero is more than just a landing place. Here the meaning includes authentic pirate ship cruises, helicopter tours, the cancun theater, retail shops, restaurants, catamaran party boats, and a 293 foot observation tower with the best view in town.
One of the photos in this post shows the Captain Hook Pirate ships that are 93 foot replicas of 18th century spanish galleons. Despite their authenticity, these ships are equipped with all the necessary modern facilities to augment the on board entertainment. The 3 hour cruise event offers entertaining pirate shows with sword fights, music, open bar, and buffet.
Other photos show the observation tower, helicopter, ultra mar ferry and the Dancer Catamaran. The ferry is inexpensive and makes frequent trips to Isla Mujeres during the day. It takes less than 1 hour to reach the island from the embarcadero. In addition, the Dancer Catamaran is known as the best daytime party boat in Cancun. It features guided tours of Cancun’s maya ruins, special events such as the upcoming New Year’s Celebration Cruise and great snorkeling opportunities. A continential breakfeast is also included with the cruises, as well as an open bar.
Vallarta is located on the pacific coast of Mexico at the foot of the Sierra Madre mountains. It is an alluring blend of modern sophistication and old world character with many luxury resorts fronted by beaches and the warm waters of Bandaras Bay. Despite the presence of luxury hotels and condominiums, Puerto Vallarta remains a very casual resort where shorts and t-shirts are standard attire.
Although Vallarta started attracting tourist in the 1940´s, it was the filming of ¨The Night of the Iguana¨, starring Richard Burton in 1963 that eventually put Puerto Vallarta on the international tourist map to stay. With the development of the Marina Vallarta Complex in the mid 90´s, the city has also become a major port of call for cruise lines. As a result, American discount chains such as Walmart and Costco have set up shop to accommodate the growing population of ex-pats and tourist that come by land or sea.
Since Banderas Bay is protected by its shape and surrounding geography, the water remains calm and clear most of the time. So, conditions are ideal for many water sports such as boating, deep sea fishing, snorkeling and parasailing. Other popular recreational opportunities in the area include golf, tennis and a variety of eco-tours into the Sierra Madre mountains for the more adventurous.