El Valle is a very touristic and popular destination for people of Panamá City.
The city has some square trees, a big waterfall, hot springs, Petroglyphs and several mountains to hike.
El Valle de Antón is located in the Coclé Province, central Panamá at an altitude of 600m. About 8 000 people live in the valley of an extinct volcanic crater which is more than three million years old. The city has a very agreeable climate and is a popular weekend destination for people from Panama City.
We stayed at the "Windmill Hostel", near the center. It's a huge building, owned by an American which get called "el gringo con los dos machetes" (the Gringo with the two Machetes). The hostel has plenty of rooms and dorms, three kitchens with a barbecue grill and an oven, a pool and a game room.
La India Dormida
The mountain La India Dormida, with the silhouette of a sleeping indian girl (hence the name), is in the West of el Valle.
To climb up to the peak of the mountain at 1000 m altitude and to see the Petroglyphs it is necessary to pay a little fee. There are two rocks with Petroglyphs, a big one in the beginning and another one which is smaller and on the ground. The last one is more uphill, called the piedra el sapo (toad stone).
People have several theories over the meaning of the symbols: Some think it is something religious or artistic, other think it is a map of the mountains, rivers and caves in this region. Whatever it means, it looks very interesting.
On the trail are also several waterfalls with swimming pools or big stones with enough place to picknick. Unfortunately, the trail is very touristic and there is plastic trash all over the paths.
The way is splitting and leading to the left after the last stone with Petroglyphs. On the top there is a view over the whole valley and it's possible to see the pacific, maybe Caribbean as well. There are less people on the top and the way gets slightly more difficult. We walked until the arm of the sleeping indian girl and climbed down to avoid returning the same way.
Unfortunately, rainclouds came from every side into the valley and just before the end of the hike we got a big shower.
The legend of the India Dormida (copy):
Flor del Aire was the daughter of Urraca, the most successful Chief in Panama fighting against the Conquistadores. It was her misfortune to fall in love with one of the Spanish soldiers. Yavari, one of the strongest fighters of her tribe, vied for her affection. When she did not return his love, in despair, he jumped to his death from a mountain top before the Princess' eyes. In sorrow Princess Flor del Aire left her home and never saw the Spaniard again.
She crossed mountains and valleys bitterly weeping over her fate. Above the beaches of the Caribbean she fell dead looking back at the beloved mountains where she had been born. The mountains were so touched by this sad love story they decided to form the shape of the Princess, and that is how the India Dormida arose.
For 5$ it's possible to enter the "Monumento National Cerro Gaital". The Cerro Gaital are 3 mountains, North of El Valle at an altitude of 900-1100m.
We only climbed up at one of the small mountains because the park ranger advised us not to try to climb up the high one, because the way is very difficult to walk, slippery and dangerous. Also, the maintenance of the trail is very bad.
Besides the fact that we saw some birds, butterflies and glossy insects, the trail was just 2km long and very disappointing.
This mountain was my favorite and is on the South side of El Valle. There is no entrance fee and besides some locals, there were no other people.
There is a steep uphill starting from the town on a stony, slippery street, until reaching 900m of altitude. After a while, the trail splits to the left and goes into the forest. There's a part with many plants on both sides but it changes to grassland with pines.
The view remembered me of Switzerland.
Actually there should be another way to climb down again but the guy in the information center disadvised us to do this because it will end on private land.
Unfortunately, we miscalculated the time we needed in El Valle de Antón.
After the first day we realized that there was way less to do than we expected. The city is very touristic and because Laura and I don't like places like this, we searched for other ideas to do, far from all the tourism.
A waterfall with plenty of people sitting around, square trees or a zoo with horrible conditions for the animals didn't attract us.
Therefore, we climbed up three different mountains, in North, West and South and had always a good view over the valley. My favourite was the Cariguana. The Gaital was very disappointing and the India Dormida was, besides the fact that it is very touristic, interesting, because of the old petroglyphs.
El Valle is definately a good place for bird observation. There are plenty of different birds living in the cloud forest around El Valle. Some of them may come down to the village to find seeds and fruits in the luxury gardens of some residents. Spending more time at one place shows how many species there are.
The mountain Gaital, which was supposed to be one of the best observation places, was a bit disappointing.There is a lot of vegetation and spotting birds in the cloud forest wasn't so easy. Most of the birds I observed were in the garden behind our hostel which had plenty of trees and hedges.
Same same but different view