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:
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 Because of its elevation (600 m), it is cooler than the Panamanian lowlands.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). The area around the town is also known for being one of the last habitats of the critically endangered Panamanian golden frog. Some of the forests around the town are protected areas.[
El Valle has one main road, called Avenida Central or Calle Central, which runs east–west across the town. (We drove all around and especially made sure we saw “Calle de los Millonarios”!
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.
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.
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 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:
Remember in one of the previous photos I said where our shower was? Here’s the inside shot of it:
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:
The canopy is over the entrance and the restaurant is on the ground floor in the back:
If one were to walk outside of the restaurant towards the pool and looked back at the restaurant, this is the view:
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!