About 100km west of Panama City, a twisty road climbs up into the cordillera to EL VALLE, a small village in a fertile valley that was once the crater of a volcano. At 600m above sea level, El Valle is comparatively cool, and the surrounding countryside is good for walking or horseriding. Renowned for its flowers – particularly orchids – the area is a popular retreat for wealthy Panama City residents at weekends, when the place is awash with 4WDs, 4WDs and golf carts and golf carts.
Most of the village’s amenities can be found on Avenida Central (also called Avenida Principal), along with signposts pointing the way to local attractions, mostly located on the outskirts of the village. In the centre, the modest daily market draws the biggest crowds, especially on Sundays, when locals sell fruit, flowers and crafts. A small museum, run by nuns, houses exhibits on local history and folklore and stands next to the church of San José. Beyond the church by the Río Anton, a side road leads to the enjoyably quirky thermal baths, or pozos termales, reputed to have medicinal powers – they are best avoided on summer weekends and during holidays. Meanwhile, to see wonderful specimens of the orchids that grow around here, explore the APROVACA Orchid Nursery, signposted off to the left from the main road as you enter the town.