Get your bucket list ready. In this guide, we’ll show you the best things to do in Anton Valley and how to experience them. Need help planning your trip? Check out our tips for visiting Anton Valley — you’ll find the best restaurants, where to stay, how to get around and more!
What to expect in Anton Valley
Have you ever stayed inside a volcanic crater? For most of us, the answer is no.
Anton Valley is the largest inhabited volcanic crater in the world. When you see this town, you’ll soon realise why the residents decided to build here all those years ago. It’s absolutely stunning! And the volcano is extinct, so there’s no need to worry.
Completely surrounded by ridges, mountains and waterfalls, Anton Valley is a hiker’s haven. There are countless trails for you to embark on, offering panoramic views as a reward for your hard work.
#1 La India Dormida — the best sunrise hike
La India Dormida hike is one of the best hikes in Anton Valley, potentially the whole of Panama?
The hike gets its name (‘The Sleeping Indian Girl’ in English) as the ridge running between the mountains resembles a sleeping woman.
There’s no better place to watch the sunrise than on the summit of the hike — the head of the Indian. The golden hue somehow manages to make the volcanic crater town even more magnificent.
Throughout the hike, you’ll be rewarded with unforgettable views of the rolling green hills and the vast volcanic crater below.
How to do La India Dormida hike
We would 100% recommend doing this hike for sunrise. But if you’re not a fan of early mornings, the views during the day are still incredibly impressive.
If you do choose to do the hike for sunrise, give yourself between 1-1.5 hours from leaving your accommodation to reaching the summit.
The route begins at Piedra Pintada, a 15-minute walk from the centre of town. From here, it takes around 45 minutes to reach the viewpoint.
You might have to pay $3 at the entrance of the hike. Sometimes there’s someone collecting payment there, sometimes there isn’t. It’s Panama!
The hike up is relatively steep and winds through the humid rainforest and past small waterfalls. We can’t emphasise the humid part enough. Prepare to get sweaty!
Loop vs. out-and-back
There are two ways to hike La India Dormida. You can take a 4 km out-and-back trail, so you return the way you came. Or, a 10 km loop that brings you back to town.
Some people like to do out-and-back as they go for a swim in the waterfalls on their way back.
If you want to see even more stunning views, we’d recommend taking the loop. Continuing on along the ridge, with the grass dancing on either side of you, is spectacular.
#2 Be wowed by the ancient carvings on Piedra Pintada
Hidden amongst the trees is a house-sized rock, Piedra Pintada. It’s not its size that’s impressive, it’s what’s on it.
Look closely and you’ll see ancient petroglyphs and carvings etched across the rock. That’s where it gets its name, ‘painted rock’, in English.
These carvings are believed to date back to the Pre-Columbian era, almost 8,000 years ago. The most magical and mysterious part is that we have no clue what they mean.
Some believe they are harvest calendars. Others say that it’s a map of the local area, depicting the mountains, rivers and trails. Or who knows, it might just be an expression of art?
How to visit Piedra Pintada
We recommend coupling your visit to Piedra Pintada with the waterfalls nearby, or the La India Dormida hike. The entrance is the same, and so is the fee of $3.
Conveniently, it’s only a 15-minute walk from the centre of town.
#3 Take a dip in some refreshing waterfalls
These are great spots to escape the heat, refresh after your hike or watch others abseiling the cliff face.
To reach these waterfalls, head to the Piedra Pintada entrance, a 15-minute walk from town, and pay a $3 entrance.
#4 Witness the only square trees in the world
Did you even know that square trees existed? Well they do, but only in the Valley of Square Trees in Anton Valley.
For reasons unknown to scientists, a group of cottonwood trees have grown with square trunks. It’s the only place in the entire world where you can find naturally square trees. One thing to tick off your bucket list that you didn’t even know should be on there!
Once you’ve admired the squareness of the trees, the 1.6km loop running through the rainforest is an enjoyable walk. Along the way, keep your eye out for birds, butterflies and the Panamanian golden frog.
The Valley of Square Trees is a 30-minute walk from the centre of Anton Valley. Entrance costs $3 and is paid to Hotel Campestre.
#5 Cerro Gaital — the hardest hike in Anton Valley
The Cerro Gaital hike is the hardest around Anton Valley. If you’re looking for a challenge and a trail with fewer hikers, this one’s for you!
This hike is more about the adrenaline than the views. Or if we want to sound cliche, it’s about the journey, not the destination. Why? During the second half of the hike, you’ll be climbing up rocks and using ropes to get to the top.
As an added bonus, as there are usually fewer hikers, there’s also more wildlife. Keep your eye out for an array of birds, butterflies and even sloths.
How to hike Cerro Gaital
First up, we don’t recommend doing this hike if the weather is bad. It makes it too dangerous.
If the weather is fine, you’re good to go. To reach the start of the trailhead it’s a 1-hour walk from the centre of town. Alternatively, you can catch the bus with a sign saying La Messa. The ride costs $1.
This 2km out-and-back trail gains around 400m of elevation. It’s pretty steep!
#6 Splash and relax at El Chorro Macho waterfall
El Chorro Macho is the most popular and spectacular waterfall in Anton Valley. The 35-metre wall of cascading water leads to a natural pool that’s ideal for swimming in.
Engulfed by the jungle, it’s the perfect place to relax. But swimming and relaxing aren’t the only things you can do here. There’s also ziplining, crossing hanging bridges and hiking.
Entrance costs $5 per person. The entrance to El Chorro Macho is a 30-minute walk from the centre of town, and then a further 15 minutes from the entrance.
#7 Cerro La Silla — a sunrise or sunset hike
Anton Valley is not a place to sleep in late. Cerro La Silla is another hike that’s better during sunrise. Sunset is also a winner if you don’t fancy getting up at 4:30am.
How to hike Cerro La Silla
Cerro La Silla is one of the easier hikes in Anton Valley. Most hiking abilities should be able to do it, and the path is super easy to follow.
The hike is around 4-5 km long, or 8km if you’re coming and returning to town. Over this time you’ll gain around 850 metres of elevation. It’s a nice workout for the calf muscles!
There are two ways to reach the trailhead: walking or by bus. If you’re trying to reach the summit for sunrise, we’re afraid your only option is to walk.
But luckily, you can take the bus back to town for a nice and cheap $0.50. If you’re hiking later in the day, you can get the bus that goes directly to the trailhead both ways.
Reaching the top of Cerro La Silla
You’ll know that you’ve reached the top when you see a giant cross. It’s hard to miss!
That’s the place to take a seat, catch your breath and admire the incredible views that stretch for miles in front of you. The countless ridges, peaks and unspoilt nature is a spectacular sight.
From here you can continue following the loop, or come back the way you came.
#8 Cerro Cara iguana — a shorter hike
A short but sweet hike is to the Cerro Cara Iguana ridge. When you reach the top, you’ll get to walk along the crater edge, taking in panoramic views that leave you in disbelief.
This is a great spot for both sunrise and sunset!
How to hike Cerro Cara Iguana
To get to the trailhead of Cerro Cara Iguana, you might want to cheat a little. It takes around 30 minutes to walk from town, with most of the walk being on a (boring) unpaved road. So instead, you can take a taxi or try to hitchhike there.
The trailhead is clearly marked with a signpost and a small concrete building. From here, the hike up takes around an hour to the top.
#9 Visit Butterfly Haven
The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Chinese believed butterflies to be a sign of joy and love. It’s hard to leave Butterfly Haven without feeling both of these emotions. Home to over 250 butterflies, the butterfly house can easily keep you busy all day.
Whilst admiring their beauty is fun, there are also opportunities to learn about the butterflies too. There’s a life cycle exhibit, video presentation, a rearing lab and guides in each area. Maybe you’ll leave as a butterfly expert too?
Entrance to Butterfly Haven costs $7 per person, and is only a 10-minute walk from the market in Anton Valley.
#10 Explore the handicrafts and fresh food at the market
Make sure to have a look around the market in Anton Valley. It’s a flurry of colours, smells and experiences.
This is where you’ll find some of the freshest fruits and vegetables, at great prices. No wonder it’s a favourite amongst locals too.
Alongside the food, there are a number of craft stalls selling pieces from the Ngäbe-Buglé and Guna communities. A popular piece made by the Guna community are Molas — blouses worn daily that are richly decorated with intricate needlework.
Top tip: Bring cash with you and make sure to haggle if you feel the price is too high.
#11 Spot some of Anton Valley’s 350 bird species
Whether you’re an avid bird watcher or not, it’s hard not to notice the birds in Anton Valley. There are so many of them!
More than 350 bird species have been spotted in Anton Valley. To put that into perspective, 426 species have been spotted in all of Canada.
If you are keen to see lots of birds, the best time to visit is between October to March. This is when a number of species migrate to Anton Valley. And the best place to see them is in the forest of Cerro Gaital.
Some of the species include five types of toucans, six parrot species and 25 kinds of hummingbirds.
If you’re looking to hire a guide or join a birdwatching tour, we’d recommend asking your accommodation to arrange one for you.
Rounding it up
Now you’ve picked the best things to do in Anton Valley, it’s time to start ticking off that bucket list. Not sure how to plan your trip? Our Anton Valley guide is here to help! You’ll find out how long to stay in Anton Valley, where to eat, how to get around and more. Happy planning!
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Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.