El ValleCentral Panama.
Because of its small size, and relative isolation from Panama City, El Valle is a stunning example of the cultural, environmental and culinary bounty of Old Panama. The flat terrain of the valley’s floor makes the bicycle the favored mode of transportation and during rush hour many, often loaded down with several family members, are seen quietly gliding down the main street. There’s no fast food in the village but a variety of smaller restaurants, four mini supers that stock fresh meat and dry staples, the farmers market for produce, an ice cream parlor, a sports bar and even a weekend pizza purveyor. This interior village exemplifies pre-canal Panama still somewhat insulated from today’s urban cities with their hurried pace, westernized foodways and consumerism.
Both the village environment and the nearby, often cloud shrouded, Cerro Gaital National Monument offer an excellent opportunity to view some of Panama’s 10,000 plant, 1500 tree, 1000 bird, 220 mammal, or 354 amphibian and reptile species. They might not all call El Valle home but a significant number do and the local zoo, although somewhat disheartening in it’s housing practices, also has several of the harder to find species. You can ride a bike, horse or even walk to waterfalls, square trees, mud baths, a zoo, a museum, the forest canopy tour, pre-Columbian petroglyphs, or farmers market. Tours of the local organic farm, guided birding and fauna surveys are also available. A orchid conservatory and the amphibian rescue station are also two world class eco sites in town.
Anton Valley Hotel.
- Cerro Ñielol Natural Monument
A lot of new age types have settled in the area for its reputed spiritual aura and you get get massaged, pulsed, yogaed or spa treated. Bring a thick book. Most activities are diurnal so when the sun goes down the town goes to sleep but you should include the orchid conservatory, the amphibian rescue center and the local cooking school in your itinerary they're all stellar especially in an Eco context.
El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC)Many environmental biologist contend that the current wide spread species demise is the sixth mass extinction of the planets life forms. Global amphibians have been especially hard hit by an unstoppable fungus called Chyrtid or Bd. Survey samples have yielded only 40 or so of the 68 known frog species that used to inhabit the El Valle micro climate an area known world wide for its amphibian diversity. In an attempt to stave off this impended demise of local and other world wide species the EVACC was devised and spearhead by the Houston Zoo. This global heralded triage model takes infected species from the wild and washes them in a simple anti fugal solution that kills the fungus. It would be impossible to inoculate the infected amphibians in situ, even if a serum was available, to prevent the fungus. Instead over 200 collected varieties of frogs, salamanders, and toads are detoxed by being immersed in a solution of intraconazole once a day for 10 days and then and kept in clean room environment to wait out the plague or until a method of environmentally sound eradication is found.
Half of the new facility, located on the grounds of the local Nispero Zoo, is a clean room habitat and the other devoted to education and exhibits. When the “ark” was first launched volunteers would make nightly forays into the forest to obtain bugs for food. but recently an in house insect breeding program was developed that makes the supplying the nutritional demands of the residents much easier. Special exhibits relate to the local golden frog, a cultural icon and the republic’s emblematic conservation symbol, are interlaced with some extraordinary examples of Central American amphibians that are sure to astound. The center is a world wide model for cooperation between American universities, zoos and grass roots volunteers. On the grounds of El Nispero Zoo-Nursery that has many examples of the local fauna, flora and wildlife up close.
El Valle Orchid NurseryNo trip to El Valle can be complete without a visit to this world-class eco-site. A place where the orchidophile can experience orchidelirium since 6% of the world orchids are grown in Panama. Over 1300 varieties are thought to grow in the Cocle Province and of those 200 endangered samples that have been gathered from the local area by harvesters for preservation and propagation. Before the village was accessible by road oral history states that there were over 1000 varieties in the six square mile area of El Valle and of course there are examples that have yet to be catalogued in the more remote areas of the Republic.
The JICA, COSPA, APROVACA center is one of just a few in the world and is sponsored by a consortium of Japanese and Panamanian orchid growers. The center offers technical advice and in situ conservation and propagation expertise to village inhabitants who then assist in gathering field samples of endangered endemic species. Not the most thrilling of tours but certainly breath taking especially if you’re a flower lover and remember all orchids are edible. There are LOTS of orchids Amazing!!
- Bruschetta - Good Italian fare and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Artash - serves wraps, etc.
Most other restaurants are local Panamanian. Edible pizza and one or two other choices offering local cuisine is cooked and served by untrained locals so be prepared for long waits. Best bet is to stay with braised items or be sure to ask if the beef's imported since that raised here in Panama is of an entirely different breed yielding very healthy but tough meat. The local places are cheap but you might find one that's acceptable and stick with it during you stay. Once or twice a month one of the local artist co-op has a vegetarian offering which for that date is the best food in town. Search the on-line sites for vacation rentals and house swaps and you can find lodgings with a kitchen if you'd like. Otherwise stick with the chicken and fish broiled or fried. A decent sandwich can be obtained from the local bakery but there's no ethnic, Chinese, Mexican, Thai and the like, available for miles.
Santa Libradaaddress: along Avenida CentralLocal eatery with reasonable food for a good price. They do 'comida corriente' (dish of the day) in which you can choose beef, chicken or fish. Furthermore they have a menu.
Bambusillo Cafeaddress: along Avenida CentralVegetarian foods produced from a local organic grower. Open W-Su.
phone: +507-983-6097A charming boutique hotel located on the main street of El Valle. Meticulous attention to detail, contemporary styled rooms in decorator hues, and top notch guest service are the benchmark for this number one rated, nine room, El Valle hotel. In room lagniappes include the usual shampoo, lotions and scented soaps and each room has up scale linens beddings and furnishings. Guest amenities included a cozy interior courtyard, hospitable patio overlooking the main street and church, satellite TV and room service from the villages best restaurant. In addition the Anton Valley Hotel has the best breakfast in town!
phone: +507 6565-8307address: Calle Las VeranerasThe residence of a former Panamian President exemplary of the life style of the Republics old elite now reincarnated into a charming B and B. 6 well appointed North American styled rooms including two suites. Guests enjoy ala carte breakfasts, a complementary evening mixer, and a fully equipped pool side kitchen. Internet access, a well volumed library and comprehensive concierge guest services are standard. Conveniently located a short distance from the village yet cradled by the lushness of the rainforest with its amazing plant and animal diversity.