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.
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
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
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.
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..
El Requeson beach is found in the bay of concepcion and is part of the sea of cortez. Great location for camping, kayaking and snorkeling.
Pena Bernal the worlds 2nd largest monliths in the village of Bernal
Grutas del Mamut, one of the great natural treasures of mexico is the extensive network of caves to explore
Sumidero Canon is one of the most popular natural wonders in mexico and was carved out by the Grijala River seen here. In some places the ealls are as high as 1000 ft and its 13 kilometers long. There are thirteen rapids, 5 waterfalls, 3 beaches and 2 freshwater springs.
Playa Ensenada Grande, Espirito Santo,a unesco world heritage site
Blue Agave plants in the State of Jalisco. A cultivated eco-system and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
El Rosario Butterfly Reserve, Michoacan where most all the monarch’s butterflies of north american migrate annually. It is also a unesco world heritage site
There are over 7000 cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula. Tourist and locals alike enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving in the pools of water created by underground rivers
Isla Cozumel one of the best scuba diving locations in the world found in the midst of the meso american reef system.If your not into scuba diving than try this glass bottom boat
Akumel, Maya Riviera, the meso american reef system is a short swim for this lagoon.
One of two volcanos found in Colima of Jalisco. This one seen in the distant background is called El Fuego and is the most active volcano in Mexico
Cooper Canyon has 6 distinct canyons in the Sierra Madres. It is larger and deeper than the grand canyon of Arizona.
Sea Lion Colony found near isla Espirito Santo, Sea of Cortez
The Sierra Laguna’s is a Unesco Global Biosphere Reserve found in Baja California Sur
Sian Ka’an, entrance to the primary mangrove chanel leading into one of the worlds unesco natural heritage sites.
There are 5 cascading waterfalls with on each side of the river that climbs to the top El Chiflon wateralls
a look downstream the from 250 drop from the Velo de Novia falls.
The ecological site off Grutas del Mamut or Mammoth caves is about 7 km from the central historic area of San Cristobal. The main attraction here are the caves but the park also includes palapas with picnic tables, a pavilion for special events, snack bars, a soccer field, a river with canoe rentals, and a mountain top vista. The caves have several dimly lit rooms with some impressive stalactites and stalagmites. The stalactites are the formations that hang from the ceilings of caves while the stalgmites look like they emerge from the ground. Both are collectively referred to as drip-stones because they are formed through deposition of calcium carbonate and other minerals, which is precipitated from mineralized water solutions.The color of these drip-stones is determined by what minerals are dissolved in the formation process. The images below include both kinds of dripstones and other photo’s of this ecological site.
stalactites also called icicles
Both stalactites and stalagmites.
This swing bridge leads to the soccer field
a combination of dripstones
A river for canoeing and palapa’s with picnic tables
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.
The Park Trail Map
a foot bridge near the begining of the trial
There are trails on both sides of the falls with palapa’s, bathrooms and refreshment stands
One of the first falls on the trail called the Suspiro
The next waterfall is called the Ala de Angel
a look downstream the from 250 drop from the Velo de Novia falls.
There are zip lines on both sides of the trails at the base of Velo de Novia falls enabling a round trip view of the surroundings
Another look at the lower half of the Velo de Novia considered the most spectacular of the group
This is the Arco Iris falls a few hundred meters uphill from the Velo de Novia
At the end of the trail and last in the chain of falls is the Quinceanera Falls about 800 meters uphill from Velo de Novia
A view of the parks forest and one of the hiking trails
Rancho Neuvo Caves
Located in a beautiful forest on the outskirts of San Cristobal de Las Casas, the Rancho Nuevo Ecological Park features an illuminated 2 kilometer walkway through spacious caves with impressive stalactites. Other outdoor recreational activities at the park include horseback riding, a giant slide, a zip line, hiking trails, skating rink and camping facilities. There are also shops selling snacks, souvenirs, a variety of art and craft work as well as a restaurant. For more information, check out the guided photo tour below.
the zip line at the top of this photo crosses over some of the shops and parking lot area.