El Valle Journals

Nature Adventures in Panama's El Valle

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An August 2003 trip to El Valle by wanderluster

La India Dormida Photo, El Valle, Panama More Photos
Quote: Mother Nature must've laughed when she created El Valle from the ashes of a gigantic volcano. At her playful touch frogs turned brilliant yellow, trees became square, mud became therapeutic, and strange symbols appeared on rocks. Man added a zany zipline adventure through the rainforest and a renowned handicraft market.

Nature Adventures in Panama's El Valle

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Overview

La India Dormida Photo, El Valle, Panama
Quote:
Nature lovers, adventurers and souvenir shoppers will love the quiet mountain town of El Valle, nestled in the forested valley of the world's second largest extinct volcano. The air is cooler here in the Central Highlands, two hours west from Panama City. Toucans, waterfalls, orchids, square trees, bright yellow frogs, petrogylphs, zoo, Indian handicraft market, thermal mud baths and Spanish Colonial architecture harmoniously exist within sight of La India Dormida, the Indian maiden who reclines on the surrounding Cordillera mountaintops. Jagged peaks provide numerous opportunities for thrilling mountain biking and strenuous hiking, while the Canopy Adventure in the forested valley offers a hear...Read More

Los Capitanes

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Hotel

Los Capitanes Photo, El Valle, Panama
Quote:
Manfred Koch, the retired German sea captain owner of Los Capitanes stood near a flowering hibiscus waiting to greet us after we checked into our room. "Welcome! Today I am 65," he told us, hugging us hello. Highly energetic and accommodating, he suggested a few sights, arranged horseback riding for us and zipped us around town with his tiny dog in the backseat. "Seven years ago, I came for a visit and never left," he said. "You will love it here." He praised the beauty of the mountains, the warmth of the Panamanian people, and the stress-free existence living in a village rich with simpler pleasures and surrounded by nature. He clearly loves his new home and has a zest to share it wi...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on December 5, 2003

Los Capitanes
Calle de la Copoerativa
El Valle, Panama
(507) 983-6080

El Valle Restaurants

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Restaurant

El Valle Restaurants Photo, El Valle, Panama
Quote:
Los Capitanes The Spanish Colonial decor is lively. Inside the open air restaurant are red tables, red leather backed chairs, yellow walls, tiled ceiling, plants and wine tucked into niches on walls. Around the octagonal space open windows decorated with wrought iron scrollwork look out over the botanical gardens in the expansive valley where the only sound you're likely to hear is birds. The restaurant adjoins a small 10-room hotel and serves all three meals. Menu selections offer both German and Panamanian food. Excellent food. Donna and I voted this to be the best restaurant in El Valle. The chicken in white sauce entree was fabulous. Tender white meat and thick mushrooms in a r...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 5, 2003

El Valle Restaurants
Throughout El Valle
El Valle, Panama

Canopy (Zipline) Adventure

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Attraction

Canopy (Zipline) Adventure Photo, El Valle, Panama
Quote:
The idea of zipping through the rainforest dangling from a cable suspended high above the trees sounded mighty appealing–especially the section over the rushing 85 meter waterfall. The thrilling ride requires harnessed guests to descend from one platform to the next by braking the handheld pulley. If you brake to soon you'll be stranded in the middle of the cable and have to pull yourself across, so good upper body strength is required. Judging the distance of the approaching platforms would be my biggest challenge. I certainly didn't want to brake too late and crash into the tree, or have to pull my weight across that rope. I wondered how fast my speed would accumulate, and if the height woul...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on December 5, 2003

Canopy (Zipline) Adventure
1.8 miles west of Main Street's Handicraft Market
El Valle, Panama

Petroglyphs

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Attraction

Petroglyphs Photo, El Valle, Panama
Quote:
I like petroglyphs and search them out wherever I'm traveling, whether it's Utah, Zimbabwe or Panama. I find it intriguing to stare at mysterious markings, guess at their meaning and think about the people who primitively recorded recent events, important places or landmarks leading to an oasis, treasure or simply the way back home. The rock art in El Valle is limited to a single boulder on the NW edge of town known as La Pintada. You can take a bus from town for .15 or a taxi. The hike leading to La Pinta's petroglyphs is as worthwhile as the art. The rocky path follows a creek through an emerald green forest lush from daily rain. It climbs past ferns, shocking pink flowers and creamy...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 5, 2003

Petroglyphs
West of Town
El Valle, Panama

Horseback Riding

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Attraction

Horseback Riding Photo, El Valle, Panama
Quote:
If you enjoy horseback riding do not miss this opportunity in El Valle. Horses are gentle and well-mannered, views are outstanding and prices are, well, cheap. Just $3.50 buys you an hour-long ride. Yes, an hour for less than a Happy Meal. The guide is paid another $3.50 for his efforts. So a guided hour-long ride for two people cost $10.50. The Captain (owner of Los Capitanes) drove us to the horses. I expected a field, or stables. Instead he brought us to a fork in the road known as Kiosco Samy (.6 mile up Calle El Hato road leading to Hotel Campestre) where around fifteen horses were tied to a fence. A handful of locals were milling about, a few mothers with babies on their hips, bu...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 5, 2003

Horseback Riding
Calle El Hato
El Valle, Panama

Pozos Termales Thermal Mud Pools

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Attraction | "Thermal Mud Pools"

Pozos Termales Thermal Mud Pools Photo, El Valle, Panama
Quote:
Most tourists completely miss Pozos Termales. They're not mentioned in Lonely Planet or visible from town. What a shame to miss this secret hideaway where aches and pains can be soothed away. I'd heard about them from a Panamanian woman sweating beside me in Gamboa's sauna. She hadn't used the communal thermal pools but highly recommended the mud. So we took her advice and visited the tranquil forested setting a short drive from El Valle's main road by taxi. Our $1 admission covered everything: mineral baths, therapeutic mud, and showers. We crossed a bridge and followed a path past flowering plants leading to a sunken pool of muddy water. A man spoke to us in Spanish, but we co...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on December 6, 2003

Pozos Termales Thermal Mud Pools
.6 Km West Of Main Street's Handicraft Market
El Valle, Panama

Handicraft Market

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Attraction

Handicraft Market Photo, El Valle, Panama
Quote:
Considered Panama's best indigenous market, artesans represented include Guaymis, Kuna, Embera and Wounaan Indians. Most of them walk in from the mountains early Sunday morning and set up stalls in the semi-covered market area along the main street in the center of El Valle. Here's what you can expect to find: *batea—decorated hardwood trays * owl and frog soap stone figurines * mola embroidered children's dresses * beaded and wooden jewelry * palm baskets, woven hot pads, woven plates * Panama hats * ceramic frogs, birds, mushrooms At 7am, the market was bustling with activity as campesinos removed tarps from their stalls and prepared f...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 6, 2003

Handicraft Market
Main Street
El Valle, Panama

Hiking to the Square Trees

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Attraction

Hiking to the Square Trees Photo, El Valle, Panama
Quote:
I've seen a lot of trees but none of them square. The only place they supposedly exist is here in the mountain village of El Valle behind Hotel Campestre. Or so guidebooks claim. Out of curiosity I had to see for myself, and took a short taxi ride to the outlying hotel. Relying on gestures and limited Spanish I inquired about the trail at the front desk. A young man pointed across the grassy yard back toward the entrance's long driveway. Donna and I took off with a Canadian couple at our heels. They'd just arrived in Panama the previous night on their honeymoon. They'd not encountered anyone thus far who spoke English, and were happy to join us. We shared our recommendations ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 6, 2003

Hiking to the Square Trees
Forest near Hotel Campstre
El Valle, Panama

Bus Ride Panama City to El Valle

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Story/Tip

Albrook Bus Station Photo, El Valle, Panama
Quote:
The Albrook Bus Station in central Panama City was easy to navigate, even for non-Spanish speaking persons as ourselves. Just make sure you have a nickel to get through the stile! This particular Saturday morning only a handful of people occupied the seats. Traditional Panamanian music of guitar, accordion and vocals played over the speakers as we traveled along the InterAmericana Highway then scenic windy mountain roads. Plenty of people boarded throughout our three-hour trip, but the minivan never filled to capacity, which I cannot say about our return trip. Sunday was market day, the busiest day of the week. And buses were filled BEYOND capacity. Our hotel owner h...Read More