Stunning Photos of Mexico’s Natural Landscapes



Stunning Photos of Mexico’s Natural Landscapes

When people think of Mexico, they usually jump to the idea of sitting on a pristine beach with a margarita in each hand. While Mexico does indeed have some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, it is by no means all that the country has to offer in terms of natural beauty. From mountains and canyons to lakes and caves, check out these stunning photos of Mexico’s natural landscapes.


Laguna de Bacalar

Photo of a beautiful blue lagoon
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Formed by a spring, these crystal-clear waters feature at least seven different shades of blue and green, which change as the day progresses. Though it is often called a lake, it is actually a lagoon with several different channels that feed into the ocean. This stunning location is located in the state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula.

These channels provided transportation for pirates and trading companies in the 18th century. So many pirates used these waters that the local government had to build a fort to protect it. The Fuerte de San Felipe was built in 1725 and is now, ironically, home to a museum dedicated to the history of pirates. For those of you who want to get a taste of the pirate life, there are tours available to take you through the routes that the buccaneers once used.

Copper Canyon

Aerial photo of vast Copper Canyon
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Located in northwestern Mexico in the state of Chihuahua, Copper Canyon, or Barrancas del Cobre, is a group of six canyons that form one amazing natural wonder. Copper Canyon gets its name due to the copper/green hue of the mountains.

The best way to see the canyon up close is by train. The Copper Canyon Train rides along 390 miles of track, hugging mountain ridges, going through 86 tunnels, and crossing 39 bridges above the canyon. The line has been in use since 1961 and is still a major freight route in addition to providing visitors unparalleled views of the rocky terrain.

Las Coloradas

Photo of a pink lake next to a white sand beach
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Located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, these pink (yes, pink) lakes make up the popular Las Coloradas. This area has been used for salt production for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Mayans. Saltwater from the ocean flows into these shallow lakes where the water evaporates, leaving the salt behind. The high salt content of the water is a haven for brine shrimp and red algae, which create the pink color.

These lakes are very shallow, most not more than a foot deep. Because it is still used for salt production, entering the water is off limits for visitors, but there are tours available that visit a different area where you can wade and float your way through the pink waters.

Nevado de Toluca

Photo of a mountain landscape with a lake
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Nevado de Toluca is one of Mexico’s highest peaks and an ancient volcano. If you’re planning on visiting, don’t worry: The volcano is extinct and hasn’t erupted since 1350 BCE. Two lagoons, the sun lagoon and the moon lagoon, sit at the top of the mountain. Snow melt accumulates in the volcano’s craters to form the beautiful, crystal-clear lakes. It’s hard to find a body of water with such a view. But don’t bother with the swimsuit. It gets pretty chilly at the top of the mountain.


Photo of people swimming in a cenote
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Cenotes are natural swimming holes that are formed when limestone collapses to reveal underground pools. There are over 3,000 cenotes located all over Mexico. The crystal-clear water and unique beauty make them a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. Most cenotes are free to visit.

Parque Nacional Grutas de Cacahuamilpa

Photo of an underground cve
Credit: Vladimir Korostyshevskiy/ Shutterstock

The park is located in southern Mexico in the state of Guerrero and is home to one of the largest and most complex cave systems in the world. Each year, the Grutas de Cacahuampila attract hundreds of thousands of visitors wanting to explore the cave’s depths and enjoy its natural beauty. It was formed by underground rivers that cut through the limestone to create the massive caverns that we see today. The Grutas de Cacahuampila is a living cave, which means that rivers are still cutting their way through the rock, forming more of the cave each year.

Mexico’s Natural Wonders

Photo of rock formations in the desert
Credit: Jon Manjeot/ Shutterstock

Beaches are only a small fraction of what Mexico has to offer. Whether you enjoy the sand, rugged mountains, or a relaxing swim in a cenote, Mexico’s natural landscapes are sure to impress even the pickiest traveler.

5 U.S. Camping Destinations With the Best Views



5 U.S. Camping Destinations With the Best Views

There’s nothing like a camping trip to disconnect from everyday life and get out into nature. Whether you’re looking for an adventurous camping trip or just a leisurely long weekend to unplug and unwind, you’ll want to take a look at these five U.S. camping destinations that have the best views.


Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, Maine

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They don’t call Maine the Pine Tree State (yes, that’s a real thing) for nothing. Step into any park inside the state and you’ll find yourself surrounded by gorgeous pine trees. Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine is no exception. Located on the Atlantic coast, you can get views of not just trees, but the Atlantic shoreline.

What’s really stunning is the view from the top of Cadillac Mountain. If you hike there at sunrise, you can enjoy the thrill of being the very first person in the country to see the sunrise, since that’s the easternmost point of land in the United States. This fact alone makes the trek worth it.

There are three campgrounds inside the park. Blackwoods is closer to the town center and is better for those of us who prefer to camp in a secluded area but enjoy knowing there’s civilization just a short drive away. If you want a more rustic camping experience, you’ll want to stay at Seawall. On the other hand, if you want to enjoy views of the water from your campsite, then you’ll want to check out Schoodic Woods. Know that you can hike anywhere you want in the park, but these are the only three designated areas where you’re allowed to set up camp.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

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When you’re standing in the middle of Washington, D.C., on a busy day, it’s nearly impossible to imagine that just 75 miles away lies an oasis that’s as serene as the D.C. metro is crowded. Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of trails. Many of them take you through several miles of quiet and peaceful wilderness, leaving you alone with your thoughts. Others take you to beautiful waterfalls or stunning viewpoints overlooking the trees and Appalachian Mountains in the distance.

The park sits on 200,000 acres of protected land. It allows backcountry camping for the truly adventurous who want to get off the beaten path and away from everyone. If you’re up for a challenge, take the eight-mile hike up Old Rag Mountain. This is the most popular route because of the stunning views at the peak. You can camp in one of four campgrounds during every season except winter. If you want to backcountry camp, you’ll need to get a permit (it’s free).

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park, Montana

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As one of the few places in the country where you can still see glaciers, Glacier National Park in Montana is open year-round to visitors. It features a shocking 1,009 campsites within 13 separate campgrounds, but they’re spread out enough that the park can be full and you’ll still feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere (which, for the record, you are). There are over 700 miles of trails, making it the perfect destination for avid hikers. You’ll traverse through forests, meadows, and mountains while seeing spectacular views of lakes and, of course, glaciers.

If you’re up for a drive through the mountains, the 50-mile stretch known as Going-to-the-Sun Road runs through the middle of the park and connects the east side to the west side. While it’s a good way to get from one end of the park to the other in a relatively short amount of time (one way takes about two hours), the view from the highest point is the real highlight. Logan Pass is the highest point on the road, and it sits at 6,646 feet. From this point, you get a panoramic view of the majesty around you, including the glaciers below. You’ll probably also run into some animals, including mountain goats and bighorn sheep. Note that portions of the road can close at any time for weather, particularly for snow in the winter.

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Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

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Deep in the heart of red rock country lies Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. While we’ve talked before about how desert vacations can be relaxing, this trip is more adventurous. The really cool thing about this park is the Waterpocket Fold, which is a geological wrinkle (officially termed a geologic monocline) on the surface of the Earth that was formed somewhere between 50 million and 70  million years ago. Capital Reef happens to sit at the most scenic part of the fold. The park extends nearly 100 miles and includes canyons, bridges, domes, and cliffs for hikers and adventurers to explore.

Backcountry camping is available with a permit. If you prefer traditional campsites, you can stay at the Fruita campground, which is a developed campground that holds 71 sites. More remote campgrounds are also available if you prefer roughing it. Cedar Mesa and Cathedral Valley don’t have water but they do have pit toilets.

The national park sits on a historic site that has been inhabited since at least 500 B.C. You can even see petroglyphs etched into stone along with some painted pictographs. These remnants of the people who used to live on the land have been preserved as much as possible.

Little Beaver Lake Campground, Michigan

Little Beaver Lake Campground, Michigan

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Michigan’s Upper Penninsula (or simply “up north” to Michigan natives) is an often overlooked place of natural beauty. Little Beaver Lake Campground is particularly noteworthy for its views of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. You’ll enjoy unbelievable lake views and can take your boat around to see the famed pictured rocks. If you’re more of a hiker, you’ll enjoy hiking through the forests surrounding the campground. Backcountry camping is available with a permit, or you can stay at one of three rustic campgrounds.

This campground is open year-round. While summer brings tourists who like to kayak, boat, or do other water sports, wintertime allows for snowmobiling, ice climbing, winter camping, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. If you’ve never seen a frozen waterfall before, consider making a trip to Little Beaver Lake Campground in the winter. Bring your climbing gear and make sure to pack your warmest clothes, and be prepared for snow. Lots of it. The area can get up to 200 inches of snow during the winter.

7 Largest Forests in the World



7 Largest Forests in the World

Forests are the lungs of the planet. As trees “breath,” they take in carbon while emitting the oxygen for us animals to inhale. In total, forests cover approximately one-third of the planet. Individually, different types of forests create their own biological zones around the globe, with unique plants and animals found only within their confines. While misuse, deforestation and development have wreaked havoc on this essential earth element, there is still plenty we can do to help regreen the groves. Reforestation, conservation efforts and better land stewardship offer hope. The following list breaks down the largest remaining contiguous stands of trees.

Daintree Forest

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Daintree is the largest contiguous forest in Australia. At around 463 square miles, it blankets the northeast corner of the country and shades the coastline of the Daintree River. Some 90 percent of butterfly and bat species can be found here. For the bats, the forest’s more than 10,000 insect species mean plenty of snacks. The namesake of this wooded track is Richard Daintree, a famous Australian photographer and geologist. Within its borders can be found a large percentage of Australia’s unique indigenous reptiles and birds.

Xishuangbanna Tropical Rainforest

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Enveloping 927 square miles in China’s southern province of Yunnan, this high-altitude tropical rainforest is one of the world’s most pristine. Its vast expanse is so diverse that it is divided into many sub-forest types comprising eight distinct biological areas, each of which contains many extremely rare specimens found only here. Upwards of 3,500 types of flora have been scientifically documented. Xishuangbanna Tropical Rainforest’s sheer biodiversity and volume of rarities make it a field day for researchers.


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Geographically split roughly 60/40 between Bangladesh and India is the 3,861 square-miles of the Sundarbans, the largest contiguous mangrove forest left on earth. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is specifically classified as a “halophytic” rainforest, meaning it is highly tolerant of excessive salt content and high water levels. Within its dense confines prowl endangered big cats. For example, in India parts of the Sunbardans are designated as National Park, Biosphere Reserve and Tiger Preserve. In neighboring Bangladesh, vast swaths of mangrove have Protected Forest status, also territory prime for protected felines.

Tongass National Forest

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Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is the largest in the United States, the world’s fourth biggest forest at 26,256 square miles in total area. Its dense stands of evergreens cover most of Southeast Alaska, including near landmarks such as the famous Inside Passage. The near pristine preserve proffers wildlife such as eagles, bears and rivers running with salmon. Park outfitters offer sled dog rides on glacier snow fields, while the more adventurous can seek out safe ursine encounters at Admiralty Island’s Pack Creek Brown Bear Viewing Area. Area culture is on display at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, with easy visitor access just a short walk from the cruise ship docks in Ketchikan.

Valdivian Temperate Rainforest

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With an area of 95,800 square miles the Valdivian Temperate Rain Forest is the third largest forest in the world. (For comparison, California clocks in at 164,000 square miles in area.)  The Valdivian takes its name from the founder of the city of Valdivia, which is the capital today of both the Los Rios Region and Valdivia Province. The forest cloaks a vast area of South America, including parts in Chile and extending into Argentina. It features unbroken stands of conifers and deciduous trees with a dense understory of lush ferns and thickets of bamboo, all of which are much needed cover for a multitude of delicate animals and ecosystems.

Congo Basin Rainforest

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At a gigantic 781,249 square miles, the Congo Basin Rainforest is larger in area than the state of Alaska. This has much to do with the sheer size of the Congo River, one of the world’s largest, and the rich growth throughout its vast, fertile watershed. Ranging from subtropical to tropical, the moist broadleaf forests of the Congo taken together form a biome that continues from the Congo’s basin to those of its tributaries in Central Africa. Diversity in this colossal, connected collection of forests is highly abundant. For example, of more than 10,000 plant species found here, around 29 percent of them are indigenous, or unique, to the Congo.

Amazon Rainforest

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Touching at least parts of PeruBrazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Surinam, Guyana and Venezuela, just the Amazon’s list of country associations is impressive. So much so, it is also hard to imagine the sheer scope of this rainforest, which is an unfathomable 2.1 million square miles in overall width and breadth. Given that, it is still smaller than it used to be, suffering from ongoing mismanagement and degradation. What’s at stake are the Amazon’s biodiversity and its ability to scrub gigatons of carbon monoxide from our atmosphere. Due to its enormous size, the Amazon Basin’s wellbeing has vast implications for our climate in the near future, making it perhaps one of the most important environmental reclamation projects humankind could undertake.

5 Best U.S. National Parks for Bird watching



5 Best U.S. National Parks for Bird watching

Even if you’re not a member of the Audubon Society, that doesn’t mean you can’t still appreciate the beautiful splendor of our feathered friends. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, more than 45 million Americans engaged in birdwatching in 2018. And if you’ve decided to go beyond your backyard to find new birds, then these five national parks are ideal havens for discovering birds in their natural habitat.

National Mall, Washington, D.C. — 260 species

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You might be surprised that a city-based park is home to so many birds. But the National Mall in the heart of the nation’s capital serves as a haven for 260 diverse species of birds, including numerous waterfowl. Its prime location next to the Potomac River attracts a variety of birds and acts as a seasonal home for migratory songbirds. While the National Mall doesn’t have the largest availability of diverse vegetation when compared to other National Parks, it does serve as a great option for spotting a large number of species in one day.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Gary, Indiana — 285 species

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Indiana Dunes National Park could serve as a two-in-one vacation. This park sits just at the southern base of Lake Michigan and is the location of numerous lakeside beaches. If you’ve had your fill of catching rays or opt to visit this national park during the off-season, birding is a very popular attraction.

In fact, this activity is so common that the park and nearby tour operators offer guided birding tours. If you time your trip to Indiana just right, you can stop by the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival in late May. This three-day event is hosted by the Indiana Audubon Society and focuses on conservation and education to preserve the area as a haven for local and migratory birds.

Death Valley National Park, California & Nevada — 375 species

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With a name like Death Valley, you probably imagine an inhospitable and barren wasteland. But the opposite is true. If you’re not familiar with this park, you might be surprised that it spans two states. Death Valley offers diverse habitats that include valleys, woodlands, and canyons. Because of this, this national park attracts a wide array of seasonal migratory and year-round bird species.

One of the most recognizable bird species is the Roadrunner. While it looks nothing like the purple and blue Looney Tunes cartoon version that outsmarts Wile E. Coyote, this bird is a year-round resident. Experts recommend that you traverse multiple habitats to increase your chances of spotting the largest variety of birds.

Gateway National Recreation Area, New York & New Jersey — 375 species

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Gateway National Recreation Area is yet another national park that straddles multiple states, this time New York and New Jersey. The park is a critical home for birds, many of which are on the threatened or endangered list like the piping plover. It is located within the Atlantic Flyway, a main north-south pathway that birds follow during seasonal migration patterns.

Gateway features three major units: Sandy Hook, Jamaica Bay, and Staten Island. Advanced birders will usually prefer Jamaica Bay because it serves as a refuge for more difficult-to-spot birds. The park even offers a special birding field guide that highlights 12 of the more popular species guests will see.

Everglades National Park, Florida — 280 species

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Most people know that the Everglades is an extremely diverse biosphere, and not just for birds. This watery reserve offers nine unique birding spots perfect for discovering feathered friends that can be divided into three main categories: wading birds, land birds, and birds of prey.

Some of the most common species include the white ibis and the wood stork, along with numerous species of egrets and herons. This park is a popular attraction for birders from around the world. Should you choose to go birdwatching at Everglades National Park, be sure to use their interactive checklist.

While bird watching is a popular pastime at pretty much every national park in the U.S., this is a great list of places to get you started. If there’s a particular bird that you have in mind and want to see in real life, be sure to use the Audubon Society’s interactive bird guide on their site for detailed information about specific species and maps of where to find them.

3 Overlooked U.S National Parks



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3 Overlooked U.S National Parks

Perhaps it’s because we’re blessed with so much protected natural landscape that some national parks fly under the radar. They aren’t the first parks that come to mind — like Yosemite or Yellowstone — when planning an adventure. Lack of name-recognition, sometimes combined with remote locations or access issues, leave some of our national treasures out of the mix. One overlooked national park in the wilds of Alaska, one in the remote mountains of Washington State and another at the very southeast tip of Florida, are all trip-worthy destinations.

North Cascades National Park, Washington

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Trails switchbacking along steep, conifer-covered mountain flanks lead trekkers deeper and deeper into the forests of North Cascades National Park. Views of snow-and-ice-covered volcanic peaks, glaciers, and blue alpine lakes appear at one jaw-dropping viewpoint after another as you encounter this vast, protected wilderness area. The North Cascades Highway itself boasts incredible vistas as it passes viewpoints and leads to trailheads like the one for challenging Thunder Creek Trail. With access through the park, boaters spy Ross Lake, while the remote community of Stehekin sits along the north shore of deep Lake Chelan.

Resident grizzly bears and gray wolves call the park home, as well as some 200 bird species. Day hikes and overnights are certainly doable on your own with proper experience and planning. For carefree exploring further into the backcountry, you can book a guided, overnight trip. Even if you aren’t an experienced backpacker, an adventure with REI outfitters will let you enjoy deep-woods adventure in relative comfort. At one stop, a backcountry campsite on Baker Lake, the primary view is of 10,781-foot Mount Baker, draped in a cape of snow. At just four miles of walking per day and only slight elevation gain, the trip is designed for inexperienced hikers.

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

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Made up of seven islands in the Gulf of Mexico, Dry Tortugas National Park sits 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. Protected coral reefs are within the park boundary, and the highlight is Garden Key, with its beaches and tours of 19th-century Fort Jefferson. The water’s-edge fortification is an  imposing stone structure, which was used as a prison during the Civil War. Interpretive guides break down the site’s history and lore, and there’s plenty more to explore.

The park’s 100-square-mile boundary comprises mostly water, and the islands are accessible only by boat and seaplane. Book your trip out of Key West, and choose what parts of the park to see. Loggerhead Key has a historic lighthouse and a thriving sea turtle population of its namesake shelled denizens. Nearby Loggerhead Reef is home to the wrecked remains of the ship Windjammer. The submerged skeleton of the 1875 ship today is a popular dive site. The Dry Tortugas are known for their diversity of marine and terrestrial wildlife, and Bush Key specifically is a favorite nesting site for seabirds, such as sooty terns.

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska

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Located in southwest Alaska some 100 miles from Anchorage, Lake Clark National Park and Preservewas proclaimed a national monument in 1978. By 1980, it was established as a national park and preserve by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. If you really want to go deep in a place this remote, a float plane tour is the way to go. Simply combine that with your not roughing-it backcountry accommodations by booking your flight through Lake Clark Air and the Farm Lodge. With a float plane and guide at your disposal for the day trip, you’ll get up close and personal with wild Alaska via bear, caribou and wildlife viewing, flightseeing, photography workshops and catch-and-release fishing. As for your Alaska digs, the Farm Lodge is in Port Alsworth, the headquarters for the national park. With rustic-luxury style, the lodge’s standard and deluxe cabins all have heat, private restrooms with running water and covered porches. Your package also includes home-cooked meals in the main lodge.

5 Reasons to See the Ivory Coast for Yourself



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5 Reasons to See the Ivory Coast for Yourself


Are you up for an off-the-beaten-path African vacation? If so then the Ivory Coast (officially Côte d’Ivoire) could be for you. This West African nation is a bona fide tropical utopia, home to miles of shimmering golden-sand beaches, unspoiled rainforests and lush green countryside. Cities thrive with African and French traditions and majestic wildlife roams freely across national parks. Having broke free from the shackles of a civil war, the Ivory Coast of today has a sanguine outlook and is witnessing modernization while clinging firm to its cultural identity. Here’s five great reasons to make it your next destination on the continent.

The World’s Largest Basilica

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Whether you are a devotee or not, you’ll be blown away by the majesty of the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro. Finished as recently as 1990, this elaborate church spreads across an area of over 300,000 square feet and according to the Guinness World Records is the world’s biggest basilica. The dome is an impressive 500-feet-tall and the interior can accommodate some 18,000 worshippers at one time. Making it more dramatic is the fact that is rises up in the middle of a desolate and dusty landscape on the outskirts of the nation’s capital city, Yamoussoukro.

The Beaches

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Pack your bathing suit because there’s a 320-mile-long coastline to explore along the shores of the Gulf of Guinea. The beach at artsy Grand Bassam is a stunning combination of white sand and swaying palm trees while easy-going Assinie is the place for swimming and surfing. Monogaga Beach boasts clean, crystalline waters, food shacks and live music. San Pédro blends low-key beach life with rainforests treks and Sassandra is a treasure trove of secluded fishing villages, decaying mansions and hippo-inhabited rivers.

The National Parks

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Burnt orange roads take you away from the cities to the country’s eight national parks, where boundless opportunities for trekking and wildlife watching await. Explore one of the last-surviving primary rainforests of west Africa, spot nut-cracker chimpanzees and see pygmy hippos in Tai National Park. The grasslands, rainforest and savannah of Comoé National Park provide a natural habitat for chimps, dwarf crocodiles and exotic bird species. Get up close with buffalos, elephants and mongoose in Marahoué National Park. Don’t miss a tour of the lagoon islands and beaches of Iles Ehotile National Park.

The Food

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Like its neighboring countries, Ivorian cuisine has its roots in grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, chicken, pig and seafood. Mouthwatering dishes to try include kedjenou (spicy slow-cooked chicken or guinea fowl stew) and attiéké (cassava ground into a couscous-like consistency). Feast on aloko (fried bananas) and fufu (boiled cassava and plantain). Be sure to stop at a maquis, which are traditional street side restaurants for quick snacks and meals. Garba is the king of street food, a combination of attiéké and tuna often served wrapped in a banana leaf.

The Festivals

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Music flows freely through the veins of Ivorians and they grasp every chance to express themselves through song and dance. November’s Fêtes des Masques tops the bill of the annual festivals and is a celebration of the Dogon culture in the villages around the city of Man. Festival goers dress up in flamboyant masks and costumes and dance to honor the spirits of the forests. Head to Bouaké in March for the week-long Bouaké Carnival. In Gomon in April, the Fête du Dipri brings the community together for drumming and parades that exorcise evil spirits.

(Nature/Poem) These Beautiful Appalachian Hills

These Beautiful Appalachian Hills


These beautiful hills of east Tennessee

The Smokey’s so beautiful, all natural

A gem of nature, for all, so pleasing to see

Can the eye see, what was, what is, what will be


Appalachia, scenic, pleasing to one’s senses

People so poor, yet so kind, southern hospitality

Raised with tobacco, coal, and dirt in our blood

Heads bowed on the Sabbath or the First

Like we know we all should, give the Lord thanks


Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia

Iron Ridge, Twin County, Carol and Grayson

Twin sisters in nature, the people are one

Our love is not money The Lord come’s first


Tread lightly on that which you love

Walk to heavily, you crush all that is good

Consider that what you see, given by Grace

God’s nature is that which you breathe


Do not let that which you love, be trashed

Treat your gifts like one that you truly love

From the Smokey’s to the Blue Ridge Mountains

A gift we are given by Grace so blessed to call home




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