Eco-Tourism in Mendoza, Argentina

portrerillos

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.