What many visitors to Panama don't realize is that just at the western tip of the republic, lies an undiscovered land brimming with promises of wildlife, adventure, exotic culture and enchanting mountain villages that will make you long to extend your stay. This tropical mountain paradise pleasantly surprises those who don't expect to find a home away from home.
Bordering on the Pacific side of the Continental Divide, undoubtedly luring most to Chiriqui are the storybook villages nestled along the craggy flanks of Baru Volcano, Panama's highest peak and only Volcano at 3,478 meters. No stranger to the visitor, Chiriqui has long charmed Panamanians from the capital to its cool mountain villages for a respite from the daily grind and heat of Panama City. A-frame Swedish style houses adorn the landscape; remnants and evidence of those Europeans who came to Panama to work on the canal and railroad projects and surprisingly found themselves at home in the pristine highlands of Chiriqui. As of late, the serene beauty of forested and flower dotted hillsides have once again caused a great many of those internationals "just passing through" to actually set up house and take on new roles as inn keepers and coffee farmers.
Chiriqui is considered first and foremost to be Panama's breadbasket. The slopes of Baru Volcano are covered in a rich, black and fertile soil that has inevitably made Chiriqui's highlands the agricultural lifeline for the rest of Panama. Virtually everything and anything seems to grow in colorful abundance; everything from potatoes, intoxicatingly sweet oranges, vivid and exotic flowers, strawberries, and, of course, the province's most recent source for pride, highland coffee whose induction to the international coffee arena has been well received; all enjoy Chiriqui's rich conditions and all thrive upon Chiriqui's soil.
Baru Volcano lies smack in the center of the province flanked on either side by the small and picturesque towns of Boquete to the east, and Cerro Punta to the west. Both are bustling agricultural towns where rosy cheeked people bundled in sweaters meticulously tend their gardens and farms. Boquete's people mostly cultivate coffee and during the months of October to February trucks can be seen rumbling down the streets heavy with red and succulent coffee cherries. The entire town of Boquete takes on a joyous ambiance which culminates in the yearly Boquete Coffee and Flower Festival during the month of January. This week-long festival shows off flowers imported from Europe and carefully nursed into bloom in Boquete, as well as the fair's newest addition: the Specialty Coffee Association of Panama (SCAP) coffee hut which has been hosting their yearly coffee cupping (akin to wine tasting) featuring prestigious cuppers from all over the world.
Known as the "Valley of the Moon" to the natives, Chiriqui is also home to a large population of Ngobe-Bugle (Guaymi) Indians. Panama's largest tribe, they number about 125,000 and although found in large groups in Chiriqui's eastern town of Tole, many Ngobes make the yearly migration to Chiriqui's highlands in search of jobs as coffee pickers. A strenuous and labor-intense job, coffee picking for the Ngobes is the financial and social event of the year since they make the bulk of their money picking coffee and often return home with new wives. The Ngobes still speak their own language which they refer to as el dialecto and the women can be seen in colorful and beautiful hand-stitched dresses called naguas. Using the most vivid hues of blues, reds and greens, the dresses are adorned with triangular trimming and are certainly works of art. The Ngobes can also be seen using woven handbags called chacaras which are also quite lovely and which, along with the naguas, can be found for sale in the local shops along Boquete's main drag.
The towns of Cerro Punta and Bambito on the Western side of Baru, offer vistas of manicured agricultural farms, wild flower farms and gurgling brooks and streams. At 1900 meters and like Boquete, this area has a brisk and cool climate that ranges from 55-70 Fahrenheit. Cerro Punta mainly produces flowers for export, and produce such as lettuce, tomatoes and cabbages. Along a drive through Cerro Punta one can see the renowned horse farms that breed and train Panama's prized thoroughbred racehorses.
Bird watching in both Boquete and Cerro Punta is quite phenomenal. Trails crisscross their way into these lush and verdant cloud forests and continually awe visitors with their surreal like beauty. Upon reaching higher levels of the cloud forest one is struck with the ethereal sound of the Black-Faced Solitaire; a bird whose song is as lovely as the sound of chimes. The Los Quetzales trail is a popular path for visitors and connects the two towns of Boquete and Cerro Punta along the northern ridge of the Baru Volcano. An easier hike from Cerro Punta to Boquete (since the former is at higher elevation), this trail is often times a strenuous but nonetheless beautiful hike offering excellent birding opportunities where such birds as the Emerald Tucanette and the sought after Resplendent Quetzal inhabit the cool jungles and flit through their canopy of avocado and orchid laden trees. The forests surrounding these towns are also home to pumas, as well as the new world's largest herbivore, the tapir. By all means, consider yourself lucky if you should happen to come across one.
For those in search of excitement and a reawakening of their system, Chiriqui's perfect combination of highlands and abundant rainfall set the stage for world class whitewater rafting. Descending from the flanks of the volcano, these rivers have been hailed by many a rafter to be some of the best stretches of river throughout Central America. Both day trips and multi-day raft trips are offered on the Chiriqui and Chiriqui Viejo rivers as well as various river classification levels (class III-class IV predominate). And if the excitement of whitewater has piqued your interest for a more personalized sort of water sport, three day kayaking clinics taught by stateside instructors will set you on your way down these rivers.
Although not necessarily conducive to nature watching (one is usually more concentrated on running the rapids), these river trips offer rare glimpses of remote areas of Chiriqui that in some instances are virtually only accessible by your river craft. Some of these rivers take you through untouched gorges and to little known but spectacular waterfalls that tower above you as they cascade into the river.
- Marina Ehrman
- Panama, Panama, Panama
- Greetings from Panama! My name is Marina Ehrman and I have been a professional tour guide and promoter for Panama Tourism and Travel Company since 2005. I love what I do and am proud to share what my country has to offer. It is filled with endless leisure and commercial attractions, friendly happy people who open their doors to all visitors. Panama is a country of incomparable natural beauty with a variety of tourist attractions, beautiful beaches in the Pacific and Caribbean. The tropical climate year round with its diversified flora, fauna and indigenous groups make it one of the most important of Ecotourism in Latin America. I invite you to know our country’s history, culture and also enjoy the cuisine, folklore and traditions that only a place in the world can provide………Panama! Contact me and I’ll organize your visit and will be happy to welcome you in Panama. For more information on Panama, follow my Facebook page and my blog. Visit www.panamatourismtravel.com
Tourism Attraction : Chiriquí Province
Publicado por Marina Ehrman