3rd Leg of Our Trip: El Valle

I’m going to finish off our trip we took last year when we visited Las Lajas, Coronado and El Valle. John and I have travelled quite a bit since then, but not in Panama. Since this blog is about Panama, I’m keep my travelogues to trips taken in country.

From Coronado, we got on the Pan Am Hwy and drove just a little ways west to the turnoff to El Valle. It’s well marked, so we didn’t overshoot it, which is what we did in trying to get to Las Lajas for the first time. That’s a whole other Oprah and involved furrowed brows, tears and threats.

The road to El Valle is charming, twisting and turning all the way up to the town. I’m going to copy some facts about the town from Wikepedia here. All live links are courtesy of Wikepedia:

El Valle de Antón, generally called El Valle, or Anton’s Valley in English, is a town of 4,500 in the Coclé province of Panama.

First view of El Valle from the road as it drops into the valley of the volcano.

First view of El Valle from the road as it drops into the valley of the volcano.

The town is located in the flat wide caldera of the 6 km wide El Valle volcano that is inactive; there is evidence that it erupted as recently as about 300,000 years ago[2] Because of its elevation (600 m), it is cooler than the Panamanian lowlands.[3]Natural attractions near El Valle include the Chorro El Macho waterfall, Las Mozas waterfall, the “square” trees behind Hotel Campestre, and a group of small thermal pools (which consist of three cement pools of mineralized water that varies in color depending on the specific minerals present at a given moment).[4] The area around the town is also known for being one of the last habitats of the critically endangered Panamanian golden frog.[3] Some of the forests around the town are protected areas.[

Panamanian Golden Frog. I didn't see any.

Panamanian Golden Frog. I didn’t see any, reaffirming their critically endangered status.

El Valle has one main road, called Avenida Central or Calle Central, which runs east–west across the town.[5] (We drove all around and especially made sure we saw “Calle de los Millonarios”!

A map of town. The arrow in the lower right shows the way in. The large circle is where we stayed.

A map of town. The arrow in the lower right shows the way in. The large circle is where we stayed.

Yup, downtown. This is it. We're beginning to believe what others said about the place: there's not much to do if you live here.

Yup, downtown. This is it. We’re beginning to believe what others said about the place: there’s not much to do if you live here.

A main landmark is the town’s public market, which is open seven days a week, although it is sometimes referred to as El Valle’s Sunday Market.[6]

The street view of El Valle's market.

The street view of El Valle’s market.

This is a typical stall in the mercado. Also, a veggie and fruit stand in one corner. Sorry to say, but it was a little underwhelming. And we were there on a Sunday!

This is a typical stall in the mercado. Also, a veggie and fruit stand in one corner. Sorry to say, but it was a little underwhelming. And we were there on a Sunday!

El Valle has a very small historical and geologicalmuseum, as well as a small zoo (El Nispero, named after a type of tree), a small serpentarium, and an orchid conservation center, calledAPROVACA, which displays over 100 native local orchid species.[7]

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.[8] Popular activities in the area include cycling, hiking, horseback riding, and birdwatching.[8] El Valle is home to around 500 species of birds.

The town is about 25 km off the Interamerican Highway by a two-lane road. The road is generally in good condition, with a few potholes that are repaired regularly. Buses to Panama City are frequent and take approximately 2.5 hours. To reach other locations in Panama, it is generally necessary to take a bus to San Carlos and transfer there.

(end of Wikepedia narrative)

After we drove around town just to get our bearings, we followed our map (see above) to our hotel. We’d heard from others who had visited El Valle that Los Mandarinos Hotel was the best place to stay, so John booked us a room. Needless to say, it was way more than we needed. The Italian-inspired hotel was lovely with multiple buildings scattered throughout the large grounds. Swimming pools, gorgeous views, a so-so Irish Pub on the grounds. Each building housed roughly four to six rooms. Here are some pics:

Our room is on the second floor. See the circular stone area? It is our shower!

Our room is on the second floor. See the circular stone area? It is our shower!

 

Our living room.

Our living room.

 

...and the bedroom. Quite large, with a balcony outside the double doors.

…and the bedroom. Quite large, with a balcony outside the double doors. 

Remember in one of the previous photos I said where our shower was? Here’s the inside shot of it:

It felt like I was showering in a cave!

It felt like I was showering in a cave!

On property located adjacent to Los Mandarinos is a FAH-bulous French Restaurant located in a boutique hotel called Casa de Lourdes. Antiques, incredibly laid out, gorgeous accessories, wonderful food. I could have lived there! Here are pics:

Casa de Lourdes Exterior

Casa de Lourdes Exterior

The canopy is over the entrance and the restaurant is on the ground floor in the back:

We had a wonderful dinner here and sat at the table with the green tablecloth.

We had a wonderful dinner here and sat at the table with the green tablecloth.

If one were to walk outside of the restaurant towards the pool and looked back at the restaurant, this is the view:

Dramatic curtains frame the view to the pool.

Dramatic curtains frame the view to the pool.

As we walked around the restaurant during the day and then ate there at night, I can tell you how different it looks! With candle light, chandeliers, patio lights and pool lights it’s a completely different view. As I gazed around me with a particular light in my eyes, John said “Uh oh, I’m in trouble aren’t I? This is your ‘I think I’m going to change my whole style of decorating’ look. Puh-leeze don’t tell me you’re going to go out and buy a houseful of furniture!”

No, dear, I’m not. Been there, done that. We live in Panama to “live lightly upon this earth”. That means we think very carefully about each and every thing we buy now. It’s just one more thing to pack when we next move.

This was the last leg of our LasLajaCoronadoElValle trip. We can now say we’ve been to El Valle, we’ve checked it out as a potential place to live some day and for us, we’ve placed it in the “No way, Jose” column. It’s gorgeous, but it is waaaaay too quiet for my tastes. Not large enough and not enough going on. Plus, if either of us had a medical emergency getting down that twisting, winding road to the Pan Am Hwy would have been a major obstacle.

We are happy we live in Boquete, where everything we need is within our grasp. Hope you enjoyed this little travelogue, and we’ll speak again soon!

About robyncole

I am a woman in my mid-'50's, married since 1990 to a man 11 years my senior. We currently live in Boquete, Panama, having moved from Orange County, California on February 16th, 2011. I am just trying to negotiate life's passages on this rock upon which we've landed. I would like to do that with as much dignity as possible and without wreckage, hurt feelings and tears. I can do that. If I stay in bed all day.
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4 Responses to 3rd Leg of Our Trip: El Valle

  1. Sherrie says:

    Hi R&J!
    I looked in on your latest blog! Great reviews on the local happenings Robyn:) You both seem to be enjoying your new (well 2 years now) digs….. I am not so sure this will get to you, but you have my email! Be safe and happy on your adventures!
    Sherrie

    • robyncole says:

      Thanks, Sherrie! We’re having a ball and am learning there is more to life besides work work work. It really interesting I am living in the land of coffee groves. Surrounded by coffee roasters and sellers. Maybe I oughtta do a blog post on my years of owning a coffee house and now I live in coffee country.

      Hope all is well with you and yours! God bless….

  2. Bonnie says:

    That “part across the river past The Rock” is Palo Alto, my friend, where I live! And don’t forget it!

    • robyncole says:

      Lol….I kept looking on this post to see my reference to your location. I knew I’d written it somewhere, but for the life of me, I couldn’t find it here. I’d written it on a previous post to this one. You are getting pretty good at confusing this writer! And you’re right….it IS Palo Alto!

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