A Village Paradise
There’s probably no better way to escape a scorching hot city than to drift up to a village paradise where daytime temperatures resemble a northern late August or September. El Valle is the perfect retreat after spending time in a hot and congested Panama City. This small mountain town provides a number of things to do in an idyllic setting.
The following activities are what I managed to engage in during my four day stay at El Valle.
Pozos Termales (Thermal Pools)
Whenever I’m in a place that offers spa-like activities such as hot springs or saunas, I make it a point to take advantage of the opportunity.
On my first day in El Valle I walked to these Thermal Pools. It was afternoon and the girl informed me that the one adult pool was full, thus it that it wasn’t worth paying the $2 to enter. She told me that if I were to come back at 8am the next day then I’d surely have the pool to myself. This would prove to be true for the next three days.
I was told to choose one and rub it on my face:
“But I have absolutely no idea which one to use.”
“Do you have oily skin?”
“Then use the black one.”
Mud facial masks are natures alternative to Botox. I’ve never actually thought of having Botox done, or a mud facial. However, since I was there, and it was included in the price of entry, it was a no brainer.
This was a brand new experience that felt comforting. I proceeded to give myself this facial treatment for three straight mornings.
After my self facials, I showered and hopped in the warm, green-water pool. I had this wonderful micro body of water to myself for three consecutive mornings too.
Sitting in the pool and gazing up into the tree cover while listening to exotic birds chirping provided a feeling of deep relaxation.
A few of the many health benefits of thermal waters include:
● Good for blood circulation
● Provides a detoxification mechanism as the body’s temperature rises
● Relaxes the muscles
● Alleviates stress
In Panama City I was able to purchase a pair of shoes that are conducive to hiking. These shoes cost me $80. I’m guessing that they would have been $60 in the states. I paid extra to cover import costs.
As my stingray bitten toe was probably now about 90% healed, I was finally ready for a hike.
Leading up to the top of the mountain, to the earth that is thought to resemble a Sleeping Indian Girl, is a wonderful and somewhat steep trail that took me around an hour and a half to hike up. It probably takes less time but I managed to get lost, ending up at a little home where a farmer and his wife were happy to talk to me for a bit and then lead me in the right direction to complete my ascent.The very nice, hard-working man, who lives off the land, told me that once in a while lost tourists end up near his little house.
On the way down I’d get lost again, luckily running into a local mountain man who explained how to get to the path that leads back to the village.
In hindsight, maybe I should have hired a guide; but, prior to the hike, I’d read somebody else’s account. This person mentioned that the trail was very well marked. I didn’t find this to be the case.
The hike was wonderful. I saw the Pacific Ocean from the top. Perhaps I would have been able to see the Atlantic/Caribbean too but there was nothing but cloud formation to my north. Thick clouds rolled in causing rain and a slightly slippery trail in parts when I started my descent.
Back in the days of the Spanish Conquistadors, there was an indigenous princess who fell in love with a Spanish soldier. This caused the enamored and jealous man of her tribe to jump to his death from a mountain, right in front of her. This caused great trauma to the princess who then decided to leave her home in despair. She crossed mountains and valleys while crying the whole way. She then fell to her death over the Caribbean Sea.
The mountain Gods were deeply touched by this tragic story so they decided to form the shape of the princess at the top of this mountain. The people then called it La India Dormida or The Sleeping Indian girl. It’s believed by some that one day she’ll awaken.
Piedra Pintada (Painted Rock)
Piedra Pintada is a rock containing petroglyphs. It costs $1.25 to enter and takes a few minutes to get to along the path that begins the ascent to La India Dormida.
Do not come to El Valle just to see this rock. I recommend seeing the rock if you decide to hike up to the Sleeping Indian girl.
Arboles Cuadrados (Square Trees)
Behind the Hotel Campestre, to the right is a very short trail that leads to a bunch of square trees.
I actually found them to be partly square and partly round. Still, these trees are quite unique and something to see.
Besides seeing the trees the hotel sits in a magical natural setting surrounded by hills and forest. I had the whole trail and trees all to myself as there wasn’t another soul in sight.
Centro de Orchideas (Orchid Center)
Upon arriving at this Orchid Garden, the very pleasant woman working there told me that there’s a lot more to see at the end of the rainy season in October, November and December.
Upon walking around, I wondered if the entry was worth the $2 that I paid. Regardless, the orchids here are a rare species to see.
The natural flower of Panama is said to be a unique orchid that’s sometimes referred to as ‘The Holy Spirit’.
I only saw a handful of tourists in El Valle. Most North American and European tourists that I’ve spoken to in Panama haven’t heard of the place. Apparently, on weekends the little town comes alive with Panamanian tourists escaping Panama City.
During the week it’s very calm and easy to find accommodations.
I wholeheartedly recommend El Valle as a place to go to breathe cool, fresh air in a pleasantly natural setting.
The locals are very friendly.
What I liked most was sleeping to the soothing sounds of the heavy night winds.