West of the Península de Azuero lies the rich agricultural province of Chiriquí. Here you’ll find David, Panama’s second city and a crossroads for travellers heading through Central America. North of David, you can escape the flat heat of the city and take refuge up in the cool of the Chiriquí Highlands, a beautiful region of cloudforests, fertile valleys and impressive mountain scenery. The varied landscapes all share the same basic characteristics of head-clearing air, cold nights and a deep, relentless green. National parks here – including Volcán Barú and La Amistad – are well protected, offering wonderful natural encounters and endless hiking opportunities. The substantial town of Boquete has many attractions of its own – particularly coffee- and flower-related – but it’s also a great base for activities, from rafting to hot-spring soaks. In contrast, the lowlands of the Golfo de Chiriquí hold other pleasures: from the laidback beach scene at Las Lajas, a broad belt of sand midway between Santiago and David, to Isla Boca Brava, further west, which affords access to islands with white-sand beaches and bird-rich mangroves. Western Panama is also home to the country’s most numerous indigenous group, the Ngöbe, whose women are instantly recognizable by their traditional, brightly coloured, long cotton dresses.
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