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