Canyon Atuel, Valle Grande, Argentina

Lago Valle Grande, Argentina

Lago Valle Grande, Argentina

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.

 

 

Urban Parks of Santiago, Chile

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japanese garden in the metropolitan park

japanese garden in the metropolitan park

 

 

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.

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.

The Green Around Medellin, Columbia

Guatape Lake and Islands

Guatape Lake and Islands

 

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.

Guadalajara’s Historic Landmarks, Mexico

Templo Expiatorio

The Templo Expiatorio

 

 

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.

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 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.

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.

 

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.