Going up the road on the edge of the volcanic crater of El Valle de Anton offers spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the coast line of Panama province. Following the windy steep mountain road surrounded by beautiful nature will eventually take you into the region of Posada La Vieja, with conic peaks rising up from lush forests. The Villa Tavida Lodge is located in the middle of those mountains in a private nature reserve, surrounded by beautiful gardens and a spectacular waterfall. You clearly entered a private little paradise here in this charming boutique hotel surrounded by beautiful gardens and spectacular views. Don’t miss out to try the delicious home-made dishes and organic products made out of a delicious local blueberry!
Recently we had the visit from a wonderful group of 13 students from Saint Andrews College located in Texas. The group explored Panama in a comprehensive itinerary that took them to different areas of the country to learn about the history, geology, ecology and the culture of Panama. They visited Guna Yala, Darien National Park, Coclé Province, Chiriqui Highlands and Panama City with our team of guides.
Fabio Trujillo, our senior guide and tour leader for this group mentioned that it was a wonderful experience and life changing for most of the participants that were truly touched by the different communities visited during their trip to Panama.
At only 120 Km from Panama City and very close from the Pacific beaches in Cocle province is located the quaint town of el Valle. This beautiful town is nestled in the caldera -crater- of the second largest inhabited volcano in the world. This crater with a radius of 6 km was formed about 1.1-1.3 million years ago. Today the crater forms the ground for the small town El Valle de Anton with its 6200 inhabitants.
El Valle, lying 600 m above sea level, owns an all-season mild springtime climate. Year-round average high temperature is 28° C, and the average nighttime minimum is 20° C, with little variation between summer and rainy season. The dry season starts in the middle of December and lasts until the the beginning of May. During the rainy season the town turns greener and nature is at is best. This time is ideal for hiking and longer treks.
WHAT TO DO IN EL VALLE
Local Artisan and Vegetable Market
On Sundays is full of people. Here you can buy tropical fruits, plants, flowers and beautiful orchids. Also you different artisans show their local art and handicrafts. Including: ceramics, bateas (wooden trays), woven baskets, hats, carved and painted totumas (cups made from squash) and trinkets made from acorn.
Bird Watching – El Valle is one of the best places in Panama for birders. More than 339 birds species has been registered.
Butterfly Haven (El Mariposario) – Experience the wonder and tranquility of being immersed in hundreds of living, jewel colored butterflies in a tropical rain forest setting. Hours: Everyday from 9 am to 3:30 pm, closed on Wednesday. Closed October and November
Zip Lining or Canopy Adventure – The Canopy Tour and the “Chorro El Macho” waterfall share the same entrance. Here, from platforms 100 feet in the air, you are given a spectacular insight and view of the cloud forrest´s fauna and flora.
On this tour you soar above the waterfall twice. The tour lasts aprox. one and a half hours and costs around 55 US$ per person. More information can be found here.
Chorro El Macho Waterfall – This waterfall is the largest in the región with a drop of 70m. It is just a 30 minutes walk from the towncenter in the direction of La Mesa. Since the beginning of 2009 it is not posible anymore to see it close-by or take a bath in the natural pool. Open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Chorro Las Mosas Waterfalls, along Rio Anton – To reach these rapids it is a1/2 hour walk. From here follow the right side of the river for 30 minutes to reach a natural swimming pool. Here the local youth venture very dangerous jumps into the pond. In the Green Season you hardly can see the path to the pool. It is more or less a climbing at the slippy rockface to reach it. There is danger to slip, fall on the rocks hidden under the water or end up in one of the caves below.
Hiking – A path behind the Hotel Campestre will lead you to the Cloud Forest Reserve of the Cerro Gaital Natural Monument. Here the cloud forrest offers its unique flora and fauna. Serious walkers and birdwatchers will be pleased.
To scale the peak of Cerro Gaital there is another entrance after the village of La Mesa (which is also a great place for bird watching). The village can be reached by car or local buses.
There are two tours from La Mesa: For the large one to the top you should ask the locals for advice, start early in the morning and bring some climbing experiences with you. Up and down it will take about 5-6 hours.
The Sleeping Indian or La India Dormida is a hill chain with the silhouette of a sleeping Indian woman in the west of El Valle. The name has it´s origin in a local legend.
Another interesting tour is to Rio Indio, one hour away from El Valle (by car) in the cloud forrest. You can reach the place with the public pickups that leave in the center of the town a few times a day.
Biking – The valley offers excellent roads with great scenic views and little traffic. Bikes can be rented in many hotels.
Horse Back Riding – Another way to discover the valley is by horse. The spot were you can rent them is near the Hotel Campestre. The fee is $5.00 per hour. A guide can be engaged on request
Orchids Center (Aprovaca Orquídeas) – The nonprofit organisation APROVACA (Asociación de Productores de Orquídeas El Valle y Cabuya) deicates itself to the task of cultivating and conserving endangered local and regional orchids. At the moment 147 different kinds of orchids can be seen. Open every day from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Petroglyphs: La Piedra Pintada – This pre-Columbian pertroglyph (more a rock face) couldn´t be decoded yet. Some locals say it has been a map for traders, other say it is a map of caves connecting the mountain range.
Pozos termales (Hot Springs) – There are two cement pools under the jungle canopy. They are filled with hot mineral water (38 degree Centigrade), coming directly out of the volcanic ground from a depth of 1200 m. Another atraction here is the mineral clay you can use for a face mask or a full body cover. There is also a picknick area and a playground.
Open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Discover what truly makes Panama so special, its people, land, history and culture. The Panamanian culture is translated through its art. The mola that carefully handcrafted by is Guna (Kuna indians) is a reflection of how unique this culture truly is. During this program you will travel, learn and experience the true Panama, learning in person from the people who call this land bridge their home. You will journey to six of Panama’s provinces to learn from local artisans, while they work on their masterpieces that will be used in local celebrations or could be flown halfway around the globe. This program includes visits to Guna Yala – San Blas Archipelago (molas), Chagres National Park to visit the Embera people (Cocobolo and Tagua –vegetable ivory carvings), Cocle (sombrero pintado – woven hat) and Herrera (ceramics and diablo sucio masks). This is a complete and fun itinerary that is ideal for those who love Latin American art. Contact us for a detailed itinerary.
By Yarelis Campines
Almost finishing the high season Cubitá tours invited us to a Fam-Trip to Azuero Peninsula. I was excited just by reading the itinerary. My family is from Azuero, so I’m passionate of our folklore and culture.
Azuero Peninsula is located in the southern of Panama and provides the best cultural experience. The Carnivals and many festivals are celebrated in Azuero that is conformed for Herrera, Los Santos and Veraguas. The best part is that you have everything close, the historic towns, cultural activities and beaches with crystalline water.
We started our trip departing from Multiplaza, Panama City to Azuero. Fabian our guide was so nice giving us some introduction about all the activities we were going to do. Our first stop was at El Caño Archeological Site which is located in El Caño in the province of Coclé. In El Caño was discovered the most important graves in the last 70 years with many pieces of gold and precious stones. It was called by its discoverer ‘El Dorado de Panamá’.
We were so lucky because we could see this grave with some archaeologists working on it. Nobody can’t take photos but we will have these memories forever.
Then we went to visit two of the oldest churches of America continent with more than 150 years of foundation in Natá and today is stil using. These town are very quiet with a lot of history. Just seeing the houses you almost feel in the 1558 when it was founded the town. At noon Fabian said, the next place was Fonda El Ciruelo to have a typical Panamanian lunch. I definitely have to come back to that Fonda to taste again the best tamales, lechona and biñuelos.
With a great lunch, we departed to Guararé to know some local women who make with their hands the beautiful typical dress of Panamá, ‘La Pollera’. We had a nice moment trying to learn with them and appreciating their arts. Continue visiting the towns, we stopped in the house of Mr. José who with his family work creating some diablicos mask. These masks are used by the local people for festivals. After that we went to La Arena de Chitré where a family prepares the best bread of Azuero Peninsula made in a traditional oven.
After the last stop we depart to know the hotel. Cubitá boutique hotel with a friendly atmosphere and highlighting the typical Panamanian environment.
On Sunday early in the morning we started the day with a good breakfast for then continue our trip to La Hacienda San Isidro located in Pesé in Herrera province to know how two of the Panamanian products are prepared (Ron Abuelo and Seco Herrerano).
Just arriving at the farm we stop being transferred by a traditional wagon with cows that was fascinating!
We learned a lot about these products and enjoy some cocktails prepared with Ron Abuelo.
After this fam-trip we are very glad to help you to organize your trip to the cultural heart of Panama, Azuero Peninsula! For more information about this tour and others, you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Franzisca Beyer
Just at the end of my internship I was invited to a great trip to Azuero and for sure I was more than happy to go on this last trip with Panama Al Natural who organized the whole trip.
Our trip started with visiting the archaeological park el Cano (province of Cocle), where remains of bodies, weapons, tools and pieces of gold, whose antiquity dates between 700 and 1,000 years were found. The excavations in el Caño started in 2006 in an area of about 5,000 square meters, but the first archaeological finds of bodies and parts were found between 2008 and 2009, when the first discoveries were reported. Visiting this place was a very nice start to our trip.
Later that day we arrived to Parita a small town near Chitre, where we visited a man who produces traditional masks. We were invited to his home, he explained and showed us how to fabricate these masks. It was heartwarming to see him working with so much passion.
Having arrived in Pedasi, we got picked up by our guide for the next hours. I already had been to Pedasi, but I had not heard before about Isla Cañas, which is about an one hour ride from Pedasi. This island is the most important place in Panama where turtles come to spawn and whales on their migration path can be observe.
After delicious fried fish with patacones we took a long walk at the beach, hoping to meet a turtle. It was deep dark..I was listening to the sounds of the ocean and trying to keep this amazing atmosphere in mind.
And it was our lucky day because just when we started our way back to the hotel we saw a big and beautiful turtle spawning. It was one of the best days in my life…we all sat down and observed her patiently. The turtle finished spawning and started to cover the eggs carefully, after assuring herself that all eggs were well protected she started her long way back to the ocean. Impressed of this wonder of nature we also got back to the hotel.
The next day after having lovely prepared and delicious pancakes at Hostal Doña Maria we continued our trip to a small town called San José, where we had traditional lunch and got an introduction about the pollera, the typical dress of Panama which was quite interesting. It is incredible how enthusiastic these women produce the polleras and how successful they are. We finished the day with a tasty diner at hotel Mykonos in Santiago.
Early in the morning we started our last day with a boat trip to an island in the bay of Montijo. Our boat was accompanied by dolphins, the sun was shining and the island was just stunning beautiful with a white-sand beach and pristine water. While eating my picnic lunch at the beach, I watched pelicans catching fish and I was thinking about how lucky I am to experience Panama with EcoCircuitos.
Now I am back in the office writing my last report and I would like to thank EcoCircuitos for my internship here in Panama. This last trip and the Panama Canal Transit are definitely experiences that I will remember a life time.
By Antoine Oudot – French Intern
It is a little bit hard to describe my Panamenian internship with Ecocircuitos. This is a amazing country, small, but with the richest flora and fauna I have ever seen.
When I arrived there I did not know anything about Central America and this country. As so many French people, I only knew the famous Panama canal. Moreover, my Spanish was not so good. When I arrived there I was of course stressed. But Panamenians were pleased to welcome me. They have a very good sense of hospitality. Then, my adaptation into the company was easy. Annie was glad to welcome me in EcoCircuitos and the staff shows me everything.
A week later, I started to discover the magical country. My first trip was to the Azuero Peninsula. I fell in love with the area. I have visited Chitré, Las Tablas famous for the Carnival, and finally Isla Iguana (for me it’s my paradise on earth).
I had the opportunity to visit, and discover Panama. I explore to the highlands on the western side of Panama and the beautiful and picturesque town of Boquete . The town of Boquete is very famous for the quality of life and I can say: Of course life there, is sweet!
I have visited Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean side and taste the gastronomy of this side of the country… spicy. I have hike the Soberania national Park, f the jungle between the Caribbean and the Pacific side.
Thanks to my internship, I have met beautiful local communities that has showed me their way of life, I have learn a lot about their connection with nature and why is important to preserve the tropical forests. I learn about the biodiversity of Panama and the efforts for preserving the land and cultures as the Kuna people.
During my internship I lived in Panama for more than 4 months in the city of Panama. The city, shows us the evolution of the country by the different neigbourhoods: From the Casco Viejo, with the colonial area, to the new CDB. Finally I was suprised to discover that the capital is a melting pot,where you’ll meet people coming from all over the world and that’s what it makes the capital so attractive, in an enthusiastic atmosphere!
But what would be Panama without the famous canal. It was very interesting to discover all the engineering, and the process, to build this waterway.
What I will remember all my life are the mammals, especially the monkeys and the toucans. I’ve never seen them before in own environment!
Thanks to EcoCircuitos & their team I won’t forget this unique experience in this great country: Panama!