El Valle de Antón is a small town of about 7,600 people, located in the Province of Cocle, some 55 miles southwest of Panama City. Nestled in the caldera of one of the largest inhabited volcanoes in the world, it’s perhaps no surprise that El Valle is surrounded by spectacular landscapes. And don’t worry, the volcano isn’t active and hasn’t erupted for about 300,000 years.
The picturesque mountain town is ringed by forests and jagged peaks, its micro-climate offering a fresh escape from the city and a sanctuary for the 200 or so expats who now call El Valle home. Panamanian city dwellers pour in at the weekends, and international tourists often stay a few days or more to make the most of the scenery and the abundance of outdoor activities.
One of the most popular short hikes takes you to El Macho Waterfall, the tallest waterfall in El Valle with a suspension bridge offering great views. Near El Macho you can go on a canopy tour and zip-lining, with platforms more than 100 feet in the air.
Other popular activities include hiking up La India Dormida (The Sleeping Indian), a hill chain not far from town. If you don’t want to hike, you can also arrange horseback riding excursions and biking trips into the back country. El Valle is also one of the best places in Panama for watching tropical birds, with 339 species registered in the valley and surrounding cloud forest.
Other attractions in and around the town include the Butterfly Haven with hundreds of colorful butterflies; the Museum El Valle with a collection of pre-Columbian and religious art; La Piedra Pintada petroglyphs; and local hot springs. There’s also a colorful market in town selling fruit and vegetables during the week, and crafts and handmade objects at weekends.
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