The Canal and Central Panama: Places to Explore

Advertisement

El Valle de Antón

A serpentine road winds north from the town of Las Uvas, on the Carretera Interamericana between Playa Coronado and Playa Farallón, to a small, lush mountain valley and the town that is sheltered in it, both called El Valle de Antón, commonly referred to as El Valle (The Valley). That verdant valley has a refreshing climate, an abundance of trees and birds, and an array of outdoor activities. Thanks to its altitude of approximately 2,000 feet above sea level, the temperature usually hovers in the 70sF, and at night it often dips down into the 60s. El Valle has long been a popular weekend and holiday destination for Panama City's wealthier citizens, and its roads are lined with comfortable vacation homes with large lawns and gardens. In fact, one of those streets is called Calle de los Milionarios (millionaires' row).

The town's Avenida Principal belies the beauty of El Valle's remote corners, with ugly supermarkets and other uninspiring cement-block structures. The attractions for travelers are the flora and fauna of the protected forests north and west of town center, the varied hiking and horseback-riding routes, and the Sunday handicraft market. Since El Valle has long been popular with Panamanian tourists, it has developed some touted but tepid attractions that can be skipped, such as its tiny hot springs, Pozos Termales, and the "square trees," or arboles cuadrados, behind the old Hotel Campestre.

Bowl-shape El Valle was the crater of a volcano that went extinct millions of years ago. This is apparent when you view it from the mirador (lookout point) on the right as the road begins its descent into town—a worthwhile stop. The former crater's walls have eroded into a series of steep ridges that are covered with either luxuriant vegetation or the pale-green pasture that has replaced it. El Valle's volcanic soil has long made it an important vegetable-farming area, but as outsiders bought up the land on the valley's floor, the farming and ranching moved to its periphery, to the detriment of the native forests. Thankfully, tracts of wilderness have been protected in the Cerro Gaital Natural Monument and adjacent Chorro el Macho Ecological Reserve.

Advertisement