Kelli and I arrived in El Valle de Anton recently.
The cloud forest located inside the crater of an extinct volcano sits roughly 2 and a half hours from hustling and bustling Panama City. El Valle boasts no such hustle and bustle. Friendly locals, stunning mountain views and over 400 species of bird makes this small town a desired spot for Panama City professionals and expats alike.
Well-heeled Panamanians from the city own weekend homes in El Valle while expats retire to this serene setting dominated by nature. Birdwatchers flock from all over the world to enjoy one of the top birding spots. I counted no less than 10 species flittering to and fro within 5 minutes of walking into town today.
Kelli and I will be doing back-to-back month-long house sits in El Valle de Anton.
Check out my first impressions of El Valle.
1: Mother Nature Shows Off Here
Mother Nature does not hold back in El Valle de Anton.
We see New Zealand as the gold standard of natural beauty based on our world travels. There is New Zealand and everywhere else. El Valle rivals NZ in terms of raw, pristine, staggering beauty, lush, green surroundings, dramatic mountain views and crisp, clean air promoting incredible visibility levels.
2: Weather Conditions Change Fast
I could easily spend 8 hours a day snapping 100s of photos because the lighting and weather patterns create fresh new views every few minutes, it seems. I heard thunder claps as the sun quickly retreated 5 minutes ago. 5 minutes later, a heavy downpour washed the forest floor. Weather conditions and brilliant views of the valley and surrounding mountains change fast here.
Being a world traveler and meteorologist alerted me to the fact that weather changes quickly in mountainous regions. Change feels supercharged in El Valle because like neighboring Costa Rica, heavy marine influences from the Pacific Ocean, Caribbean Sea and mountains creates a combustible, unpredictable environment ripe with fast-moving sunny conditions, storms, winds and mild showers.
3: Locals Are Exceedingly Friendly and Chatty
After circling the globe for 10 years I know that most human beings are nice. However, local cultures sometimes influence people to be a bit reserved, shy or even closed-off to tourists and expats.
This is not the case in El Valle de Anton. Kelli and I walked to Inda Dormia this morning. We forgot to bring our phone; no GPS. However, we did the odd, bizarre thing of asking human beings who live here for directions. Piece by piece, everyone offered smiling instructions at each twist and turn. Eventually we arrived but did not know a $3 entrance fee seemed to be required.
We did not have cash on us so we simply decided to return later this week.
One man who offered directions sat in front of his house as we returned. He asked if we got lost. We explained the entry fee deal and said we’d return this week. I feel like he’d have walked us there himself or perhaps written a small map for us to find our desired destination if we hadn’t yet found the place.
We also experienced the same attitude as no less than 30 passer-by wished us a “Buenas Dias!”, punctuated by a few folks who initiated a Sunday morning chat.
Kind, friendly locals make for a pleasant trip. El Valle de Anton has this department all sealed up, in spades.
4: The Landscaping Game is Tight
The place where we are sitting has the most impressive landscaping I have ever seen.
Note; I grew up with 2 gardening buffs as parents who made our backyard a show yard.
Kelli snapped photos of at least 20-30 different flowers on the property grounds.
Neighbors also show off similarly impressive yards although after traipsing around town I’ve not seen anything close to the yard of these homeowners.
Exquisitely presented and impeccably designed, I imagine that more than a few homeowners hire landscapers full time for the sheer amount of upkeep required. The homeowners here employ the landscaper on a full time basis; he even lives in a casita on the grounds (the image below is the main house).
5: Hiking El Valle Is Fun and Challenging
Different hike difficulties vary but we seem to be finding each to be enjoyable and a wee bit challenging.
The famous Cerro Gaital hike begins via a trail behind the house. Kelli and I did roughly 45 minutes each way as a warm up but feel prepared to dive into what some claim to be the most difficult hike in all of Panama. We shall see.
I do know that a few nearly vertical climbs and descents – albeit, for short stretches – made for un poco de resistance. Biting flies pour salt in your hiking wounds the split second you stop to snap a picture or to catch your breath. Keep moving! Or else those little buggers alight on your back and bite you through your shirt.
Have you made it to El Valle de Anton yet?
I suggest spending at least 3 days in this mountain paradise of Panama.
Please share your thoughts below.