Punta Del Este, Uruguay

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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.

 

Eco-Tourism in Mendoza, Argentina

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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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Malecon 2000, Guayaquill, Ecuador

Malecon Gardens

Malecon Gardens

Malecon 2000 is an urban renewal project that combines a commercial shopping center, an historic area,  botanical gardens and museums. It was completed in year 2000 and is a 1.5 mile long promenade on the banks of the Rio Guayas that has 3 distinct sections. The commercial center has some 230 stores which are  found underneath the promenade while a variety of restaurants, bars and cafes are above the retail stores overlooking the river. There are also several boarding docks in this area where embarkations offer both day and nighttime cruises up and down the river Guayas.   The historic civil plaza located in the middle of the promendade has a number of monuments created in honor of important persons in Ecuador’s past, as well as some recreational  areas for children. On the other side of the historic area are the malecon gardens that occupy about 22,000 sq. meters as well as several museums.  In these gardens there are pedestrian pathways supplemented by a variety of native flora, ponds, lagoons, streams, fountains and bridges.. Other nearby attractions for the eco-tourist include an iguana park, the Cierra Blanco Forest Reserve and the Machalilla National Park.

 

 

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.

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..

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.

Day of the Dead, Lake Chapala, Mexico

villa

A tribute to revolutionary hero’s Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata

The day of the dead is a long standing tradition in Mexico similar to Halloween or all saints day in other parts of the world  and was inscribed into the intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO  in 2008. In Mexico, it is also a national holiday celebrated on November 2nd. On this day Mexicans pay homage to deceased family members, friends, national hero’s, luminaries and even world leaders with  personalized altars that offer gifts to the departed. These offerings usually include flowers, favorite foods, beverages and possessions of the dead. Alternately, family members will visit the grave site of departed souls and leave similar offerings.

Today , Katrina’s are the most highly recognized symbol associated with the Day of the Dead. Years ago, however, a Katrina referred to an elegant and well dressed woman of class and privilege  until a mexican artist  created an illustration of a well dressed skeleton during  revolutionary times that was supposed to symbolized the death of mexico’s ruling  class of privileged  aristocrats. Eventually,  the Katrina figure came to represent the joy of life in the face of its end.

Taxco, the Worlds Silver Capital

 

The Santa Prisca Cathedral was built in the 18th century with funds provided by the by the silver tycoon Jose de la Borda

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 Lake Chapala Society, Ajijic, Mexico

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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.

 

Ajijic, Lake Chapala, Mexico

An historic  Chapel across form the Ajijic plaza

An historic Chapel across from the Ajijic plaza

Ajijic is located on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest freshwater lake,  less than an hour’s drive away from Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. It’s a small village with a population of approximately 10,000  and over half of these people are either retired Americans or Canadians who relocate here for a variety of reasons including attractive scenery, tempered climate, lower cost of living, english is spoken,  and a variety of recreational activities tailor made for the cultural background of North Americans to name a few. So relocating to this part of Mexico also means less cultural shock then would be experienced in many other parts of Mexico or Central America and  this is why Ajijic and Lake Chapala has  been the top choice for most expatriates seeking retirement outside of the states since the 1940’s.  The photo gallery below focuses on the plaza in the heart of Ajijic.

The magic village of Comitan, Chiapas, Mexico

Here's  the flat top trees in Comitan's main plaza

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.

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.

A Spring Festival, San Cristobal, Mexico

 

San Cristobal is at an altitude of 2300 meters and is surrounded by peaks, pines and oak trees

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.

 

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

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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.

House of the Deer, Valladolid, Mexico

House of the Dear

House of the Deer and one of 2 wet bars on the first floor of this house

Translated, the house of the deer is Casa de los Venados in Spanish. This is a privately owned  collection of mexican folk and contemporary art in a home which is over 18,000 square feet and has more than  3000 pieces of museum quality art on display. Most of this art work  has been acquired directly from the original artists over a 35 year period. The owners,  John and Dorianne Venator, are originally from the United States where they  have lived in both Chicago and Portland as well as  their new museum/home in Valladolid.The Venators generously open their musuem/home to the public for tours at 10 a.m. everyday and it is free of charge.  So, if you  are ever visiting the maya riviera don’t miss the chance to tour this impressive, one of a kind display of art. The photo gallery below is just a small sample of the Venator’s art collection.

Valladolid, A Mexican Magic Town

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The Cathedral of San Servacio

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.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Temple of Kukulcan or El Castillo

Temple of Kukulcan or El Castillo

Located in Yucatan near Valledolid,  Chichen Itza has been a world heritage site since 1988 and has also been voted one of the world’s new seven wonders. The most dominant edifice at this archeological site is the Temple of Kukulcan, which happens to be the name of a maya feathered serpent  deity. One of the most interesting facts about this pyramid more commonly known as El Castillo is that it is a monument of cosmological symbolism existing during this era. There are four sides containing 365 steps depicting the solar year, 52 panels for each year in the Mayan century as well each week in the solar year and 18 terraces for 18 months in the Maya religious year. Additional information about this archeological site is included in the photo gallery below.

Day of the Dead, Xcaret Park

a headstone made of seashells

a headstone made of seashells

In 2003 the Day of the Dead was declared a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage by U.N.E.S.C.O. and every year the Xcaret Park near Cancun, Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead with a 5 day event known as the ” Festival de Tradiciones de Vida y Muerta”. During this celebration visitors can enjoy traditional cuisine of the region, workshops, handcrafts, visual art exhibtions, music, dances,  rituals, altars, and offerings. One of the highlights of this event is the tour of their cemetery which is both a tribute to the deeply rooted attitudes of mexicans towards death and a replica of cemeteries found throughout Mexico. This cemetery is located inside the maya village on a hill with winding spiral paths that lead to the top.The path is lined with unique and imaginative headstones, plaques and ornamental structures that display  a variety of spiritually oriented designs and attitudes about the dead.The photo gallery below is a sample of what to expect in the cemetery and in other locations around the park during this event.

Mexico and Monuments

a tribute to the maya people and civilization

a tribute to the maya people and culture

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.

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.

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.

Puerto Morales, Maya Riviera

Main Beach, Puerto Morales

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.

Playa del Carmen, La Quinta Street Highlights #2

Mexican Cuisine, no doors, no walls and no windows. The traditional style of building on La Quinta.

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.

Playa del Carmen Highlights, La Qunita Street

a bar and grill with sports betting decorated for saint patrick's day

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.