Photo Essay : Italy

This May 11-24 I’ll be leading a travel photography tour through Italy with G Adventures. We will be traveling from Venice to Rome visiting many of the highlights of Italy along the way: Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Sienna, Vatican City, Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. I’ve previously visited most of the locations on the tour and have had the pleasure to photograph them already. Here is a taste of some of the photos you will be able to come back with if you join me on the tour.

I selected Italy for the 2013 tour because it is a travel photography gold mine. Almost every village and train station has some photogenic quality about it. Not only will you walk away with great image, but I’ll also be working with you one-on-one to help improve your technique.

Sales pitch over. Enjoy the photos!
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The Fearful Traveler

Street food is great and should not be feared
Over the course of the last six years I’ve met many travelers and and communicated with many more who have expressed fears and concerns about traveling.

If the fears were just concerns which kept people on their toes while on the road it wouldn’t be so bad. However, most people let their fears prevent them from traveling and exploring the world.

The list of fears which people have about traveling is almost endless. They include:
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UNESCO World Heritage Site #192: Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park

UNESCO World Heritage Site #192: Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park
UNESCO World Heritage Site #192: Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park

From the World Heritage inscription:

The park lies in the foothills and mountains of Cordillera de Talamanca between the mountain ranges of Las Vueltas, Cartago and Echandi on the Panamanian/Costa Rican border.

The Cordillera de Talamanca is the highest and wildest non-volcanic mountain range in Central America. It was formed by the folding of the Earth’s crust and uplifting activity that created the land dividing the Pacific from the Caribbean. A long period of marine deposition in the shallow surrounding seas up until the Middle Miocene was followed by a period of marine volcanism, which included the uplifting of the whole area to some 4,000 m above sea level. Subsequent erosion due to heavy rainfall has created a rugged topography. During the Quaternary period, glaciers carved cirque lakes and steep valleys on the slopes of Chirripo National Park, the only area in Central America to show signs of glaciation.

Tropical rainforests have covered most of the area since at least the last glaciations, about 25,000 years ago. The park includes lowland tropical rainforest and cloudforest, as well as four communities not found elsewhere in Central America: subalpine paramo forests, pure oak stands, lakes of glacial origin and high-altitude bogs. The area also contains all five altitudinal zones found in the tropics. Most of the main crest lies within montane rainforest, characterized by mixed oak forest. Below 2,500 m lower montane rainforest occurs and the forest is generally more mixed. The Talamanca Mountains contain the largest tracts of virgin forest in Costa Rica. On high points along the ridge, at elevations above 2,900-3,100 m, frequent stands of paramo, swamps, cold marshes occur. The paramo located on Mount Kamuk contains the richest and most varied vegetation (after Chirripo) in the entire Talamanca Range and is the only one in Costa Rica that shows no signs of human intervention. Species diversity is perhaps unequalled in any other reserve of equivalent size in the world, due to the convergence of the floras of North and South America and varied climatic and edaphic (soil-related) factors.

This World Heritage Site comprises an enormous part of Costa Rica and comprises many separate national parks, preserves and forests:

  • La Amistad International Peace Park
  • Tapantí-Macizo de la Muerte National Park
  • Chirripó National Park
  • Barbilla National Park
  • Hitoy-Cerere Wildlife Refuge
  • Las Tablas Conservation Area
  • Río Macho Forest Preserve

Despite its size, finding a way to visit one of the parks was far more difficult than I thought it would be. The Amistad Park is all wilderness and the only way in is to backpack several days. The other parks are also not really designed for large scale tourism.

I found easiest way to visit the site was via Tapanti National Park in the Orosi Valley, which is only an hour outside of San Jose. From there you can easily arrange day trips into the park or dive there if you have a car. While the park is accessible, there are only a small number of hiking trails available.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #191: Area de Conservación Guanacaste

UNESCO World Heritage Site #191: Area de Conservación Guanacaste
UNESCO World Heritage Site #191: Area de Conservación Guanacaste

From the World Heritage inscription:

Guanacaste is located in north-western Costa Rica. It stretches 105 km from the Pacific, across the Pacific coastal lowlands, over three tall volcanoes and down into the Atlantic coastal lowlands. It includes the Guanacaste Cordillera and surrounding flatlands and coastal areas. The most notable volcano is Rincon de la Vieja, which has three craters and one lagoon. Its last eruption was observed in the 1970s, but some fumarole activity still occurs in one of the craters. At the base of the volcano are several minor craters.

At least 32 rivers and 16 intermittent streams originate in the vicinity of the volcano, and flow into the Tempisque, a river of enormous importance for irrigation of agricultural land in the Guanacaste Province. The marine area includes various near shore islands and islets (mostly uninhabited), open ocean marine zones, beaches, rocky coasts, and approximately 20 km of sea turtle nesting beaches and a high diversity of wetland ecosystems (37 wetlands). The wetland forests are considered to be among the most pristine in Central America and worldwide.

The Guanacaste Conservation Area comprises three national parks in the Northwest of Costa Rica:

  • Rincón de la Vieja Volcano NP
  • Guanacaste NP
  • Santa Rosa-Bolaños Island NP

There are also other, smaller protected areas as well which are included in the World Heritage Site.

My visit was to Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park, which is the most popular of the group and the easiest to visit. The major city in the region is Liberia and there are daily tours to the park which can be arranged at most hotels/hostels.

The park does take some dirt road driving to get to and you can easily spend a full day there walking the trails. In addition to volcanic hot spots, there are waterfalls and ample wildlife. During my day I saw wild monkeys, tropical birds, snakes and a tapir.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

OnTravel Radio Interview: Costa Rica

Here is my lastest interview from Costa Rica for the OnTravel radio show on the American Forces Radio Network. I am a regular contributor to the program, calling in every few weeks from different locations around the world. This week we talked about my time in Costa Rica and how I got bed bugs.