Anton Valley and Central Panama
As you cross the Bridge of Americas spanning the Panama Canal and the skyscrapers of the big city grow smaller in your rearview window, you find yourself slowly being immersed in an entirely different world of peaceful and lush countryside – the world of rural Panama. Though the Panamerican Highway cuts through many small little towns on the way as it veers west towards Costa Rica, the first place of real interest to the traveler is the picturesque town of El Valle de Anton (Anton Valley), or El Valle as the locals call it, which is nestled like a hidden treasure in the crater of a giant extinct volcano (the second largest in the world).
Driving over the crater rewards you with jaw-dropping views over this fertile mountain region. El Valle is a tranquil town, surrounded by thick forests, babbling creeks and jagged crater edges. Situated at 1000m above sea level, El Valle offers a refreshing break from the heat of Panama City and is known as the “Land of Eternal Spring.”
El Valle is a real treat for the senses, a glimpse back into the cultural and culinary world of Old Panama. The laid back village has not yet been urbanized and swept up into the world of fast food chains and shopping malls. Instead, you can spend hours chatting and haggling with the local artisans at the town’s artisan’s market, open seven days per week.
One of the fun-filled activities that are available in Anton Valley is to hike to the top of La India Dormida (Sleeping Indian Woman) where you hike up the legs, across the torso, and then down through the vast tropical rainforest of her hair. Your reward is a refreshing waterfall to cool off in before venturing back down to where you started. You can also go horseback riding, mountain biking, indulge in a spa treatment or just relax and take in the fresh mountain air.
Veer off the beaten path in less traveled Central Panamá and you’ll be rewarded by rich natural beauty, intriguing history, and the cultural heart of Panama. Venture back in time at Penonome, the ancient capital of Panama – just a little bit further west down the highway from Anton Valley. Eco resorts in the unspoiled tropical rainforests allow you to relax in hammocks while listening to the sounds of the birds or go on long meandering hikes to cool waterfalls.
Keep venturing down the twisting mountain roads – after Penonome you will find La Pintada – where you can see how the Panamanian version of the famous “Panama Hat” (which actually originated in Ecuador). Then, take a left and go south into the Azuero Peninsula and the epicenter of cultural Panama. Discover the deep rooted folklore traditions of the local area and see how the “Pollera” is designed – a large one piece skirt that is usually worn in traditional festivals and folklore. Take advantage of the opportunity to experience the grand festivities of authentic Carnavál or simply stroll quaint little towns that have not changed much during the last few hundred years.