What to do in El Valle de Antón

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

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The petroglyphs of El Valle de Anton

I recently had the opportunity to join an EcoCircuitos day tour to El Valle de Anton. El Valle, as the locals simply call it, lies in the crater of a former volcano (while it is officially classified as “dormant” it has not been active for several thousand years), and enjoys the wonderful combination of a refreshing climate and incredibly fertile soil. The valley is indeed a green paradise, full of flowers, trees and flourishing gardens. The picturesque little town is a place where children ride bicycles along the roads and little restaurants offer shady patios overgrown with vines. The famous town market, which nowadays sells souvenirs as well as the original selection of colorful fruit and vegetables, is the place to admire the area’s agricultural bounty.

But we had come for something else; we were headed for a hill right behind the town, to get a glimpse of an ancient mystery: The petroglyphs of the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the valley.

At the beginning of the path we met with a local guide, sixteen year old Tony, who told us he had been guiding visitors to the painted rocks since he was eight, and claimed to know the story of the stones better than anyone else in the village.

It was just a short climb until we saw the overhanging rock looming up before us, carved with intricate lines and symbols. It appears that scientists nowadays do not know enough about the people who made these carvings to be sure what they meant to say, but it is generally accepted that this particular rock displays a map of the area, which was created around the time the first Spanish explorers arrived on the shores of Panama.

Anthony turned out to know this map as well as he had claimed to: whith perfect confidence, he picked out various mountains in the area, waterfalls, and explained a number of the other symbols on the rock. Some were astonishingly clear, one was a very clear picture of a person holding a spear or arrow, some others appeared more mysterious. “Some of these are keys,” explained Anthony, “they open the secret caves of the Indians, but nobody knows where they are anymore.”

The last thing he showed us was one feature of the map that represented a second painted stone, further up the mountain. We left Anthony to turn back then, and continued up the mountain, through the forest, in search of the second rock, the “stone of the toads”.

It was a nice hike, the incline was rather steep, the path rocky, but the breeze was cool and the forest full of birds and flowers. We passed a waterfall, startled a few butterflies, and then, around a bend, we found it: A flat rock on the ground just above a deep gorge, carved with intricate designs. Now without our petroglyph expert, we could only wonder what this rock was trying to tell us, but we could easily enough pick out some animal images: Lizards, or maybe frogs, so clear it was hard to imagine that they had been there for over 500 years…

We continued up the mountain then, speculating about who might have been the people who carved these rocks, enjoying the climb and the lush nature around us and got rewarded with a sweeping view of the valley and its surrounding mountains.

 

By Meret Schueschke

If you would like to visit El Valle and the Petroglyphs, find more information on our homepage or email us at info@ecocircuitos.com

A must for bird lovers: The great Panama birding tour

Are you a bird watcher? Do you want to see the very best of Panama’s almost 1000 bird species? Then make the most of it with this amazing new bird watching tour:

When you arrive to Panama City you will be comfortably housed at the Country Inn and Suites Amador out on the Causeway, where more than 40 shore birds are waiting to be spotted by you as soon as you have checked in and dropped your bags.
And yet, you are still in Panama City! Take a day to explore the Causeway and its feathered inhabitants, while looking out over the Pacific towards the Skyline of Panama City. The next days will be busy:

You start off on your third day in Panama with a visit to Metropolitan National Park.
Situated only 15 minutes from downtown Panama City, it is the most accessible rainforest in the region and the only tropical forest in Latin America located inside a major urban center. The Park is characterized by the increasingly rare dry lowland pacific forest and is home of the Two- and Three-toed Sloth as well as over 200 bird species. Take your time spotting and identifying them with your specialist guide, who will accompany you for the expedition.

To give your spotter’s guide no rest, you will spend your next nights at Canopy Tower Lodge in the rainforest of Soberania Park. With bedrooms at treetop level and a viewing platform atop the tower, you cannot possibly miss sighting a variety of birds, among them Blue Cotingas and Green Shrike-Vireos, while you are still having your morning coffee.
soberania national park
Continue the next day to Panama’s Pipeline Road, where the Audubon Society once spotted 300 species of birds in a single day – one of the best birding spots in the world. Located in the Panama Canal watershed, this former US military access road takes you into old growth secondary forest, ideal for the observation of flora and fauna from the Pacific and Caribbean slopes. The tour begins with a preparatory talk about the geography and animal life of the Panama Canal areas by your expert guide. Soon you will be enjoying an easy walk under the forest canopy into a veritable bird sanctuary. Keep your binoculars at the ready!

For day five, get ready to explore Plantation Road in Soberania National Park. This road was the first paved road that went into the interior of the country during the time of the cocoa plantations. Thie trail is approximately 4.8 kilometers long and connects with the famous Camino de las Cruces Trail that was used to transport riches from South America. Some of the typical birds that may be observed are Tinamous, leaftossers, Golden-crowned Spadebills, White-breasted Wood-Wrens, Spotted, Bicolored and Ocellated Antbirds, Gray-headed Tanagers, and Plain-brown, Northern Barred and Ruddy Woodcreepers, and Hook-billed Kite.

As you have now thoroughly explored Soberania national park, the following day it is time to visit San Lorenzo, on the Atlantic side of Panama, taking one of the most scenic drives in central Panama. From the road you will be able to see remnants of the old sea level French Canal, drive through wooded hills and will be able to reach the Gatun Locks. The woodland along the road is noted for Trogons, Motmots and numerous other forest and woodland birds. Then head to Achiote Road and hike the CEASPA new trail for other species such as White-headed and Stripe-breasted Wrens and Montezuma Oropendolas among others. Return in the evening for your last night’s stay in Canopy tower.
Rise early the next day for your journey to El Valle, where you get comfortably accommodated at Canopy Lodge, Canopy Tower’s sister Lodge in the mountains.
Here, each day is pleasantly cool early and late, and pleasantly warm mid-day. The habitats are varied, the birds diverse and numerous, the accommodations extremely comfortable and tastefully appointed, and the food tasty and creative. The Lodge serves as a splendid base for birding and makes for a perfect tour for spouses who might be “lite” birders.
Still missing Tody Motmot or Rosy Thrush-Tanager on your spotting list? Or how about Black-crowned Antpitta or Rufous-browed Tyrannulet? Your chances are good to find them here as you explore with your guide around the Lodge.

Canopy-Lodge-(12)-Panama-29

Sleep in the next morning, then stroll on your own to bird a waterfall area behind the Lodge known as Chorro de Macho. With some luck, you may find a roosting Mottled Owl to make today’s top spotted bird.

A short distance from the Lodge, the Cerro Gaital Trail begins at the main road in La Mesa. This area is protected as part of Cerro Gaital Natural Monument. So rise early on day 10 to make sure you get to see it all: Leading through prime cloud forest habitat, the trail starts out flat and wide. This first portion of the trail is often very birdy, with foraging flocks of tanagers and other species. Flowering trees along the trail attract Green-crowned Brilliant and the occasional Green Thorntail among the more common hummingbird species. The next portion of trail ascends more steeply and deeper into the cloud forest. Purplish-backed Quail-Doves are often heard calling and it is also where the first Common Bush-Tanagers are often spotted. Higher up, the trail levels out again and weaves through excellent cloud forest habitat. Here we will be watching for Black Guan, White-ruffed Manakin, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, and even Blue Seedeater in addition to other species. Rarities here include Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, and Black-headed Antthrush. Managing to see just a couple of these would be a real feat. This area can be good for Barred Hawk and Red-shouldered Parrotlet.
In the late afternoon you will return to Panama City.

Your final visit on this tour will be to Birders View, a famous birding spot with imposing views of the Chagres National Park. The gardens and feeders attract a variety of colorful tanagers, such as Bay-headed Tanager, Emerald Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager and Speckled Tanager. Hummingbirds include: Bronzed-Tailed Plummeteer (A hummer with pink feet), Violet-capped Hummingbird and the sought after Rufous-crested Coquette.
Spend your last night at the Country Inn and Suites on the Causeway again, before being transferred to the airport the next day for your flight home.

Birds of Panama, check list.  click here

Interested? Click here for more info or to ask questions