Tag Archives: El Valle de Anton

Panama – Day 4 – AM: Exploring El Valle de Antón: Hot Springs, Orchid Center, Craft Market, and Lunch at Bruschetta’s

In the morning I visited Los Pozos Termales AKA the hot springs.  I read varying opinions online about the sanitariness of the thermal waters, but I figured for only $2.25 admission, I would leave if it was bad.

Entrance

Walkway

Landscaped grounds

I was the only visitor when I first arrived, although a French family came later.  The pools looked a little sketchy, so I decided to just do a mud mask.  An attendant helped me select the proper mud for my skin type from two different options.

My assistant and the mud buckets

Mud mask

While waiting for the mud to dry, I walked around the grounds, which featured a playground and two mysterious half-egg sculptures.  The attendant showed me that the eggs sculptures can carry whispers if people sit facing the wall and talk into painted dots (similar to a whisper gallery).  I am not sure what this has to do with spa relaxation, but my guess is that it provides entertainment for children while their parents soak in the pools.

Thermal waters

Playground

Whisper-carrying egg

After the mud dried the attendant gave me two buckets of fresh water for washing my face and I attempted to clean up.  When I looked presentable enough, I took a taxi across town to the APROVACA Orchid Nursery and Conservation Center.  APROVACA is the acronym for Asociación de Productores de Orquídeas de El Valle y Cabuyais and is a non-profit dedicated to the conservation of native Panamanian orchid species in danger of extinction.  I was lead on a very informative tour by a retired English police officer/orchid enthusiast who was volunteering at APROVACA for several months in exchange for room and board and orchid care training.

APROVACA

Pretty flowers

Orchids

Orchids for sale!

Lady slipper orchid

A vanilla orchid growing up a tree.

Not an orchid, but very pretty…

After the 30-45 minute tour, I walked back to the center of town to visit the fruit and craft market.  The market had a wide selection of mola (embroidered) artwork at less expensive prices than in Panama City.  I bought several items from a Kuna Indian woman to give as souvenirs to my family.

Fruit market

Entrance to the craft market next door

Kuna Indian woman in traditional clothes

Colorful mola artwork

The most famous activity in El Valle is hiking, but I decided to forgo it since I was traveling alone (note – if I had really wanted to, I would have hung out in my hotel lobby and made friends, but I’m not a huge hiking fan).  Instead I enjoyed walking around the town, which was very quiet and pretty.  Other than school children and gardeners working on the large homes, I didn’t see many people around (most likely because it’s a weekend destination and I was there during the week).

Students on their lunch break outside the local discoteca

Cute coffee shop at the end of the road

After my walk I was planning on taking the bus back towards Panama City and stopping half way to visit the beach town Coronado.  However, it was pouring rain, so instead I decided to stay in El Valle for lunch and then take the bus back to the Albrook mega-mall, on the outskirts of Panama City.  I showered, checked out of my room, and ate in the hotel’s restaurant, called Bruschetta’s.  I ordered the classic namesake dish and a house salad (both were larger than I was expecting, which seemed to be a general theme for the food in Panama).  When it continued to downpour, I ordered a hot chocolate and checked my email (the Anton Valley Hotel was my only hotel that didn’t have internet in the rooms, but the lobby access was enough).  Eventually it stopped raining and I  boarded the bus in route to Albrook…

Bruschetta

House salad

Hot chocolate

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Panama – Day 3 – PM: Arrival in El Valle de Antón, dinner at la Casa de Lourdes

I took a bus from Panama City and arrived in El Valle de Antón approximately 2.5 hours later, via the Pan-American highway.  The bus was an air-conditioned mini-van and cost only $4.50 one way (basically the Panamanian equivalent of Greyhound).  Although I received skeptical looks when I told people I was going to take the bus and was even advised by a Panamanian guy to “lose the pearls and sunglasses,” the ride was relatively stress-free, minus the blasting Spanish music (for the record – I did remove all jewelry and my no name sunglasses beforehand).  There were other women on the bus, but I was the only tourist.  At a few stops vendors got on the bus and sold snacks.  The only thing I found kind of bizarre was that the bus picked up and dropped off passengers on the side of the highway.  The last twenty minutes of the ride up the mountain were extremely windy and nauseating, but it probably would have been just as bad if I were in a taxi.  El Valle de Antón was the last stop and the driver kindly dropped me off right at my hotel.

Gorgeous mountains

El Valle de Antón is the world’s only inhabited volcano and many wealthy Panamanians have weekend homes there.  From the drive up, I was immediately impressed by the views of the mountains, which reminded me a little of the Berkshires.  I was also pleased that the weather was much cooler than Panama City, where the temperature was 92 degrees and humid throughout my stay.

I arrived around 4:30PM and checked into my hotel, the Anton Valley Hotel, which was in the center of town.  The room was rustic, but the staff was friendly and the location could not have been better.  My only issue was that there were some bugs in the room, but the whole town was VERY buggy, so I doubt they could do anything to remedy the situation.  I wore mosquito repellent bracelets on both wrists the entire time I was in El Valle and miraculously managed to leave bite-free (thank you JB for gifting me with these amazing accessories).

My room at the Anton Valley Hotel

Cute towel art

Since it was too late in the day to do any major activities, I went for a walk around the town.  I explored a road called Millionares’ Row, which had lots of large modern mansions, very reminiscent of the Hamptons.  I tried to photograph the mansions, but the angles in the photos are a bit off because most of the homes were surrounded by hedges and large fences.

Pretty house and gate

Another view of the pink sprawling mansion

A very modern mansion

A more traditional style house

Modern mega mansion

Stone-accented McMansion

Cool fence

A more traditional stone gate

Quaint church across the street from my hotel

After my walk, I changed for dinner and took a taxi to La Casa de Lourdes, which is a restaurant located in the town’s most upscale boutique hotel and spa, Los Mandarinos.  The restaurant is in a Tuscan-style villa and is not surprisingly a popular wedding venue.  The restaurant had lovely ambiance and the food and service were excellent.  I would definitely recommend it!

Corn cakes with spicy honey sauce

Creole dish with the largest shrimp I’ve ever seen

Tuscan-style dining

My view during dinner

Posing at the pool

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