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.
Lake Potrerillos, a one hour drive from Mendoza, is ideal for outdoor adventure sports.
Mendoza is a semi-arid mountainous environment, furrowed with rivers that carry melted snow water from the Andes into an extensive system of irrigation canals that have turned the area into a productive oasis specifically fit for vine growing and Eco-tourism. This system of rivers and irrigation canals also support the life of over 100,000 trees that provides a canopy over most of Mendoza city. These sources of water have also been used to create several artificial lakes such as the one found in Mendoza’s San Martin Park which is host to a variety of nautical competitions like sculling and jet ski races, as well as, Lake Portrerillos that features pristine water for kayaking, fishing, rafting and swimming. For the purposes of eco-tourism the province of Mendoza can be divided into four areas which are the northern oasis, southern oasis, central oasis and southern border oasis. All the photos in this essay are made in the northern oasis which stretches from the capital city of Mendoza to the northern border of Chile.
Another view of Lake Poterrillos in the fall
This is the hill of seven colores about 4 miles from Uspallata, The colors are attributable to different types of rock that came together over a long period of time.
As the road leaves the oasis of Uspallata it enters a desert environment much like this until it reaches the hill of 7 colores.
Along the road to the hill of 7 colors there are many interesting geological shapes and figures of different colors.
The oasis of Uspallata, a small village at an altitude of 6000 feet offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities and 2 distinct eco-systems.
a yoga instructor from Buenos Aires practices her art forms with the hill of 7 colores in the background
During the fall season, Uspallata is a good place for mountain biking and scenic landscapes.
In the foothills of Mendoza there are the Cachueta hot water springs about an hour’s drive from Mendoza.Here, you will find both an upper level of pools as well as the lower level in this photo.
This is the upper level of pools at the Cachueta Hot springs and the water temperature of each pool varies.
The Rio Mendoza runs through the Cachueta Hot springs just below the thermal pools. There is also a trail here for hiking
This is the Puente del Inca in the Andes mountains, a natural bridge crossing the Las Cuevas river at about 8,000 ft above sea level. The building used to be a hotel and the rocks are colored by iron thermal -mineral sediments
The Rio Pichueta In the Andes along with this bridge is a historical site where General San Martin’s armies crossed the border into Chile and launched an invasion to liberate the country from Spanish rulers. This river is also a good place for trout fishing.
The lake in San Martin Park is host to a variety of nautical events like sculling. It is one of several man made lakes in Mendoza.
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
Located in the southern zone of Chile, Pucon is one of the most popular eco-tourist destinations in the country. The main attractions include volcanos, caves, lakes, rivers, national parks, natural hot springs, waterfalls, beaches, stable climate, and pristine natural enviroment. A few of the related recreational activities consist of trekking, mountain biking, white water rafting, kayaking, fishing, sailing, horseback riding, zip line canopy tours, guided accents of the Villiarica Volcano, snow skiing in winter, water skiing in summer and bird watching,. If that’s not enough, Pucon has arguably the best small town infrastructure in South America. This means quality accommodations and good restaurants offering a variety of international cuisine. If your the type that would rather prepare your own meals, there are at also 3 large supermarkets in this village of 20,000 people that you normally do not see in cities with less than 500,000 people. Last but not least, if you prefer greenbacks instead of trees, there is also a casino with 488 gaming machines and 44 table games. All things considered, there are few eco-tourist destinations that have this much variety to offer their guest.
Lake Villarica and Woody Woodpecker
a view along the lakes trail in park Huerquehue
Lake Verde with an ancient Araucaria tree in the foreground of the Huerquehue National Park
a cafe in the village of Pucon
xmas tree in Pucon
Lake Toro in park Huerquehue
A view of Lake Villarica and a few boat rentals from the village of Villarica
one of several waterfalls in Huerquehue National Park
foot bridge and river in Huerquehue Park
a Pudu, the world’s smallest deer and protected species in parque Huerquehue
one of many tour guides
Lake Villiarica Volcano from the promenade in Pucan
Rose Garden Promenade and Lake in Parque San Martin
Mendoza is a city in western Argentina in the foothills of the Andes and Cuyo desert region. It is both an emerging ecotourism destination and the largest wine producing area in Latin America for which it is world-renowned. Although it is has an arid and desert like climate, , Mendoza has used a simple flood irrigation technique for centuries that has only required a few extensions and minor modifications over the years to provide enough water for the growth of over 100,000 trees that line every street, a variety of urban green spaces, as well as the growth of grapes used to make its wines. This system consists of irrigation channels in all the streets with flood gates to control the distribution of water diverted from the surrounding rivers and mountains as needed.
Starting with bike wine tasting tours to local vineyards, there are quite a variety of outdoor activities for eco-tourist to enjoy in Mendoza. When in the city itself, perhaps the best place to visit would be the 971 acre Parque General San Martin. It consist of tree-lined hiking and biking trails, gardens, a lake with regatta’s for sculling boats, fields with outdoor exercise equipment, a zoological park, soccer (football) stadium, playgrounds, equestrian center, tennis club and an amphitheater where the international wine festival is held annually. A few of the other natural attractions to visit in the Mendoza area include tours to Mount Aconcagua the highest peak in the western at 22,000 feet, Atuel Canyon where there is an oasis that is over 100 feet deep, the hot springs of Cacheuta. and Luna valley ( moon valley) where there are many mystic geological formations. At these and other locations nearby you will find many outdoor adventure activities such as white water rafting, mountain biking, trekking, horseback riding, rock climbing, canopy zip lines, hang gliding and kayaking.
Pedestrian only street that leads to Plaza Independencia
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.
A view of the malecon looking towards the commercial area
a childrens pool in the historical civic plaza area
a pathway in the gardens
One of the foot bridges in the gardens
native garden flora
The front of the art museum at the end of the malecon with cerro santo ana hill in the background
Due to its natural beauty, spring like climate year around and many outdoor adventure sports; Banos is one of Ecuadors most popular tourist attractions. At 5,900 feet in the Andes mountains this small village has international appeal and is surrounded by 60 waterfalls, deep river gorges, steep bluffs, lush green mountains, expansive plateaus, and hot springs heated by the nearby Tungurahua Volcano.The list of outdoor adventure activities includes white water rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping, mountain biking, horseback riding, amazon jungle tours, waterfall tours, zip lines, atv trails, cable car rides, canopy tours, trout fishing, rock climbing, mountain climbing, trekking and most anything else you could want at an eco-tourist resort.
In addition to these outdoor adventure activities, Banos also has many festivals, special events and parades. So the mood in town is usually festive and upbeat. There are also quite a few good restaurants with international cuisine from around the world at very reasonable prices. I recall seeing German, Italian, Danish, Chinese, Mexican, Uruguayan, and Japanese restaurants, as well as a variety of pizzeria’s. If restaurants are not what your looking for at the end of the day, you can also find a bar zone with a variety of nightclubs.
The Tungurahua Volcano stands at 16000 feet and overlooks the village of Banos
Casa de Arbol and Swing at the end of the world. This swing sails out over a steep cliff just below the Tungurahua Volcano
the Rio Pastaza borders the north side of Banos
One of many tour operators
Manto de la Novia waterfalls
Flora at the Jardine de Chamana eco-resort hotel
the virgin waterfalls at the edge of town with thermal baths next door.
One of two main streets through the center of Banos
Zip line over the manto de la novia waterfalls. Its your choice of head first or feet first.
One of 2 town squares in the center of Banos
The restaurant and rest area at the foot of Pailon del Diablo
street performers from argentina demonstrating folk dances of their homeland.
Over 100 feet tall, the Pailon del Diablo waterfall also has one of the worlds scariest staircases. This photo shows the bottom half.
Another view of Banos
The Chamana waterfalls
Bungee jumping from the San Franciso bridge in Banos
Vilcabamba is a small mountain village with a population of about 7,000 people that now includes quite a few ex-pats from the USA. Located in the Andes at an altitutde of 5000 ft and 30 miles from the city of Loja, it is famous for its pristine natural environment, where there is little if any air pollution, water pollution, chemtrails or electro magnetic pollution. Concomitant with a great climate, stress free lifestyle and plenty of homegrown organic produce, Vilcabamba has a reputation for being the valley of longevity where life expectancy of the local population exceeds the average of most other people in the world.
The main attracttions here for the eco-tourist or nature enthusiast includes Podocarpus National Park, the Rumi-Wilco eco-lodge and nature reserve that is less than a 10 minute walk from the center of town, a mountain called Mandango the sleeping Inca, bike trails and riverwalks. Podocarpus is considered to be the botanical garden of america and is 1462 sq. km. with 4 distinct high and low mountain ecosystems. There are over 4000 species of plants, 68 species of mammals including 560 species of birds, and a complex system of over 100 lagoons called Lagunas del Compadre, as well as waterfalls and rivers. The park has 3 main entrances in different sectors, the closest to Vilcabamba is el refugio del plato. From here vistors can access parts of the lagoon system, hike, camp, bird watch and enjoy the forest scenery.
A short walk from the center of town is the Rumi-Wilco nature reserve offering guided nature trails, camping, swimming holes in the river Chamba and cabin rentals. Another favorite outdoor activity in Vilcabamba is the trail to the top of Mandango which has a rock formation resembling a temple that according to folklore, is where the Inca God sleeps. Many tourist ride horseback or hike to the top of this peek for a closer look at the temple and the panoramic views from the mountains peak. If your not a nature enthusiast you might want to try prospecting for gold in the eastern sector of Podocarpus not far from the Bombuscaro entrance to the park.
Mandango, the temple of the sleeping inca
the river Yambala in Vilcabamba
humingbird in Podocarpus National Park
the nature reserves upper trail
humingbird in Podocarpus National Park
Humingbird in Podocarpus National Park
Vilcabamba’s town square
the river Chambala in the nature reserve of Vilacabamba
Paraisio eco resort hotel
a stand of bamboo on the nature reserve’s lower trail besides the river
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
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.