How did I end up in El Valle de Anton, Panama?
Good question! Panama hadn’t featured on my “must see” bucket list, and I had never heard of the small town El Valle de Anton.
I was invited to a job interview
An inspiring American travel organization called Remote Year invited me to Panama to stay in a cool, crazy house (it has a swimming pool in the living room!) in this small town amazingly located inside a volcano crater.
3 days I spent with 16 other travel enthusiasts from all over the world.
You can probably imagine the conversations we had about the weirdest food we have eaten, the strangest places we have spent a night, buses breaking down in the middle of nowhere and all the random characters you meet while on the road…
But this was when I also learnt that Panama is a beautiful country and definitely worth taking the time to visit!
Unfortunately I didn’t have time to see much more of the country outside of El Valle de Anton, so let me share with you the highlights of this pretty little town.
What to do in El Valle de Anton
El Valle’s market
A main landmark in this small town is El Valle’s public market, which is open seven days a week, although it is sometimes referred to as El Valle’s Sunday Market.
This colorful open air market offers a nice selection of handicrafts, sold directly by the local artisans. You will see most artisans on Sunday and that is also why the market attracts the most visitors on this day.
The indigenous people walk in from the surrounding mountains to sell their wares. These include framed molas (Panama’s most famous native handicraft, part of the traditional dress of Kuna Indians of Panama), colorfully painted trays carved from local hardwoods, figurines carved from soap stone and Panama hats.
Next to the artisans you will find stands selling local fruits, vegetables, and plants.
Zip-lining & Chorro El Macho waterfall
A must-do when in El Valle de Anton!
After a short, easy hike through the beautiful rainforest you reach the first zip-line. If you are anything like me, looking down and seeing how fast that zip-line goes will probably get you both excited and nervous, but trust me, the staff are great and the experience is amazing!
Soaring though the treetops, you experience a wealth of natural beauty. The steepest of the zip-lines whisks you right past the amazing Chorro El Macho, the largest waterfall in the region. A memorable experience for both thrill-seekers and nature lovers!
Even if zip-lining is absolutely not for you, a visit is still more than worthwhile. You can skip the adrenaline rush and instead enjoy a nice hike through the beautiful forest, check out the waterfall and end your walk at the chilly (or let’s say “refreshing”) natural pool.
Visit Canopy Family’s website for more information.
Great for nature lovers, families and anyone with an interest in ecology, this attraction offers a short but lovely insight into the various butterflies found in the region. The tour takes under an hour so you can easily combine it with another activity. Centrally located, you can walk to Butterfly Haven from El Valle’s main street.
Visit Butterfly Haven’s website for more information
El Valle’s public hot springs & mud bath
Bathe in hot thermal water pools at the village’s thermal springs and indulge in a therapeutic volcanic mud bath with the volcanic healing clay, said to be extremely good for the skin.
Don’t expect too much, the facilities are basic and it can get crowded at times but it’s worth visiting while in El Valle. The natural surroundings are, like anywhere else in this area, beautiful.
Hiking: La India Dormida and the cloud forests
There are two hikes with mountain scenery. The first is a hike to the top of La India Dormida (the sleeping Indian woman) mountain. You can see this mountain from the town center and if you look closely you can see it: it looks exactly like a sleeping woman.
La India Dormida comes with an interesting legend: Flor del Aire, daughter of Urraca, the most successful Chief in Panama fighting against the Conquistadores, fell in love with one of the Spanish soldiers. Yavari, one of the strongest fighters of her tribe, vied for her affection. When she did not return his love, in despair, he jumped to his death from a mountain top before the Princess’ eyes. In sorrow Princess Flor del Aire left her home and never saw the Spaniard again.
She crossed mountains and valleys bitterly weeping over her fate. Above the beaches of the Caribbean she fell dead looking back at the beloved mountains where she was born. The mountains were so touched by this sad love story they decided to form the shape of the Princess, and that is how the India Dormida arose.
The hike takes around 3 hours and has spectacular views of the valley. To cool off at the end you can take a swim in a beautiful natural pool.
The second hike is a nature hike in the cloud forests of Gaital National Monument nature preserve.
The Gaital National Park covers 335 hectares (827 acres) on the northern edge of El Valle. The Spanish name of the park is Monumento Natural Cerro Gaital.
The peak of Cerro Gaital rises more than 1,200m (3,500 feet) above sea level. On a clear day, one can see both oceans: the Pacific and The Caribbean.
The hike up and back takes two to three hours, depending on how much bird-watching you do.
El Valle’s Cariguana Spa
In need of some relaxation? Then visit Cariguana Spa. Somewhat pricey but they offer a good selection of massages and other treatments.
Professional, friendly staff and a lovely property. The surroundings are peaceful with a beautiful outdoor thermal swimming pool.
For more information visit Cariguana Spa’s website
About El Valle de Anton
El Valle de Anton, often referred to simply as El Valle or in English, Anton’s Valley, has a geologically unique setting: it is nestled in the second largest volcano crater in the world. The five by three mile crater was created when a volcano blew up five million years ago.
Initially a crater lake, the valley was gradually populated by indigenous tribes from the surrounding mountains.
With a population of 8,000, this small, picturesque town, just two hours from Panama City, is a great getaway from the hustle and heat of the city.
Some of the people who own properties in the heart of El Valle are wealthy people from Panama City who use the area as their vacation or weekend home. Popular activities in the area include cycling, hiking, horseback riding, and birdwatching (El Valle is home to around 500 species of birds).
The rich volcanic soil makes this area extremely green and filled with wildlife. It is home to the famous near-extinct Golden Frog.
With an almost perfect year-round spring climate, any time of the year is therefore a good time to visit El Valle de Anton!
The cool, crazy house we rented in El Valle de Anton, Panama
Do you want to know more about the house we stayed at in El Valle de Anton or even book it for your next trip?
Check out their listing on Tripadvisor