Exploring the Chiriqui Highlands
El Hato Del Volcán, better known simply as Volcán, is a small mountain town located in the Chiriquí province of Panama.
Nestled in the foothills of Panama’s tallest peak Volcan Baru (3,475m), this dormant Volcano was first inhabited by indigenous tribes thousands of years ago. Volcán and the surrounding communities, including the agricultural capital of Panama Cerro Punta, are still home to many indigenous people belonging primarily to the Ngäbe or Guaymí commarca.Over the last century, groups of Swiss immigrants have settled throughout the highlands leaving their mark on the area’s architecture.
Today the town is praised as one of Panama’s top retirement destinations boasting coffee farms and national parks.As you begin to climb in altitude passing through the small village of Cuesta de Piedra, the breeze gets a bit cooler, the air misty, and you can almost begin to taste the coffee. Driving through the clouds, past tall pines growing up towards the volcano’s peek, the sleepy town looms. Despite its appearance, Volcán is actually quite an active town. Almost 80% of Panama’s milk, meat and vegetables pass though here. The town is a highland hub for locals, expats and tourists alike with amenities like banks, grocery stores, restaurants and hotels.
Local business, like the bustling morning activity of farmers delivering vegetables, and the smell of freshly baked bread, uphold the town’s old charm.
Originally named Baru, the township was officially formed in November 30, 1924. Years later the name was changed to El Hato Del Volcán (in English the herd of the Volcano), because of a herd of wild horses that often visited lagoons in the area.
The lagoons are a group of small lakes in the foothills of the volcano; they were formed over 50,000 years ago by a debris avalanche that occurred after an eruption. The avalanche deposit is considered to be one of the largest and best exposed in Central America. It reaches 30 km in length, 20 km in width, and removed an estimated volume of 30 cubic km from Volcan Baru. The hummocky (hilly terrain) surrounding the volcano, is a result of the natural event, also responsible for the area’s lagoons.
Up until recently, Volcán was part of the Bugaba District. After almost forty years of dispute, the district of “Tierras Altas” was created under the Martinelli administration in 2013. The new district would include: Volcán, Cuesta de Piedra, Paso Ancho, New California and Cerro Punta.
The region is a nature lover’s haven, rich with hidden treasures. From thermal hot springs and waterfalls, where wildlife and exotic plants are abundant, to a freshly brewed cup of geisha coffee, with and the incredibly scenic Volcan Baru, peaking out behind you.
For a gorgeous view of Baru’s peak visit the Janson Family Coffee Farm.
This agro-tourism farm, home to the highest lakes and wetland system in Panama, was purchased in the mid 1940’s by Sweden-born Carl Janson. The area offers a microclimate ideal for growing high quality coffee. Today coffee is planted, picked and processed, by hand, as it has been for decades.
Sitting on over two hundred hectares of pristinely preserved land, the property owned and protected by the Janson family is a vital habitat for a large variety of birds and wildlife.
Leif Janson and his wife Emily run Laguna Adventures, a tour company showcasing the farm. Their knowledge of the area offers visitors a unique experience and peeks into its history.
To get to the Janson Family Farm, drive through the town of Volcan past the police station. 1 km after the police station you will see mini mart ‘super Kinara’ on the corner as well as the Janson Coffee Farm sign. Follow this road until you see the entrance to the farm on your right.
For more information
+ 507 6867-3884 + 507 6569-7494.
For more information you can visit the Business Directory at Tierras Altas Chiriqui website
Several kilometers west of Volcan, sits the archaeological site Barriles where visitors can see artifacts believed to be over 3000 years old. The site is accessible by Landeu farm, and for a small fee the family will give you a tour of the area. The farm can be difficult to find so it is best to call for directions.
For more information
+507 580-8008 +507 592-5397
La Amistad National Park
La Amistad, a bi-national park that stretches from Costa Rica into Panama, is made up primarily of cloudforests. The unique ecosystem created by warm air meeting cooler mountain air, it is an ideal environment for a diversity of flora and fauna.
To access the park, drive through the town of Volcan keeping left at the Y in the road, just before the police station. Follow this road up to Cerro Punta and onwards to Guadalupe. La Amistad National Park is about a one hour hike though the Los Quetzals lodge property. For a guided hike speak to the folks at Los Quetzals (see below for contact info).
ACCOMODATIONS IN CHIRIQUI HIGHLANDS
Hotel Dos Rios
Located just past the town of Volcan, the lodge offers rooms ranging from $79.00 – $150.00 per night. All rooms have a private bathroom at hot water, a garden view, and breakfast included in the price.
+1 507 771-5555
Located in Guadelupe on the way to Cerro Punta, the lodge style hotel is located at the enternce to the Amidtad National Park and offers tours guides for birders and hikers. Packages range from $115 - $250 per person.
+1 507 771-2291
+1 507 774-5555
This 42 room Apline-style hotel has rooms from $100.00 a night, and boasts an indoor pool and jaccuzi. They offer fishing in their private trout farm, horses stables, and tennis courts. Las Truchas, the hotel restaurant, also offers room service until 11:00 p.m.
+1 507 215-9448
RESTAURANTS IN CHIRIQUI HIGHLANDS
Cerro Brujo Gourmet
Cerro Brujo among the best restaurants in Panama. Offering a simple chalkboard style menu made up of 4 or 5 items for each sitting, Chef Patricia Miranda is a creative genious when it comes to using fresh local ingredients to excite the palet.
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 12:00 noon – 3:00 p.m. & 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
+1 507 6669-9196
Facebook: Cerro Brujo Gourmet
Located in the Volan Lodge, this restauant offers a large menu to with a varity of well priced items including soups, salads, pastas and more. A favorite among expats living in the area. Open Mondaty to Sunday from 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
+ 507 771-4709
Burricos Mexican Grill
Burricos is has a colorful setting and offers quality Mexican food in the heart of town. Typical Panamanian dishes are also available, with daily specials from $5.
+1 507 6203-7363
La Carbonera Restaurant
This new addition to the area, on the road to Cerro Punto offers authentic Italian is very reasonably priced. The food is fresh, beautifully prepared, and potions are extremely generous.
+1 507 6449 7117
To get to Volcan from Panama City or Coronado, you will need to drive through the town of David on the Pan-American Highway. Once in David, Drive though David, as oppose to turning off to Boquete at the TGIF Fridays, continue stright. When you come to the small town of Concepcion, you will see signs for Volcan is on the right. After making this right, it is about a half an hour drive (depending on the clouds).