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VOL. 13 #3 -- Jan./ Ene. 26 - Feb. 8, 2007
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Discover the healing energy of El Valle’s hot springs


The golden frog, an endemic species of El Valle and surrounding areas.
Suffering from muscular or bone pain or from skin ailments? Seeking for a natural, beauty treatment? Good news! Your cure is only a two-hour’s drive from Panama City, in the mountain resort community of El Valle de Antón –a town famous for its hot springs and its excellent mud therapies.

A bit of history
Millions of years ago, the area known today as the province of Coclé harbored three volcanoes: La Meza, Río Mar and El Valle.

The first two erupted three million years ago and created a six-kilometer-wide abyss known today as El Valle.

A million and-a-half years later, El Valle also erupted, but at the same time collapsed , forming a crater six kilometers in diameter by five kilometers wide. All of the hills we see surrounding El Valle are actually the borders of this ancient volcano crater, which six thousand people presently call home.

How did the hot springs came to be?
Hot springs are nothing more than underground rainwater reservoirs. They are created when rainwater soaks down the earth, reaching (in the case of El Valle) a volcano’s boiler, some 1,200 meters below the surface. Once there, the water is warmed by the earth’s magma (With temperatures between 800 and 1,200 degrees Celsius, magma is located 40 kilometers below the boiler). The reservoir then becomes a hot water stream which flows to the surface, creating water heads and thermal springs.

Thermal water pools
The skin of a person submerged in a thermal water pool will absorb the large amounts of minerals dissolved in it, such as sodium, potassium, calcium and bicarbonate. Therefore, taking a bath in a thermal pool should last no longer than 45 minutes. These baths are highly beneficial in re-gulating sleeping problems and are said to cure everything from Asthma to Arthritis and stress.

The sparkling particles often found in thermal waters are actually iron compounds. Due to the high concentration of bicarbonate, thermal waters should not be drank, since such an action could cause a laxative effect. The temperature of the water ranges between 36 and 42 degrees Celsius.

El Valle’s thermal pools are by no means stagnant. The pools have an inlet and outlet which allows the water to flow constantly. The pools are also drained and washed every day. Smaller, shallow pools have been built for the handicapped and children.

In addition to this, El Valle’s thermal water park offers clay and mud therapy to all visitors.


El Valle's rich volcanic soil also produces beautiful orchids.

How does clay and mud therapy work?
Hot springs bring forth large amounts of clay and mud to the surface. This material is filtered and later deposited in jars and pots for use as a remedy for arthritis, rheumatism and joint swelling (mud therapy). Clay Therapy stimulates circulation, and eliminates fats, skin spots and dead cells. Both treatments work with the aid of sun light. The mud (or clay) is applied on the desired spots, which is left to dry by the sun and are later washed with water.

El Valle's thermal pools are managed by a non-profit committee of residents. Proceeds from the admittance fees are used for maintenance and staff salaries. Surplus funds are invested in other community projects. The admittance fee is $1.00 per person, which enables visitors to undergo the various therapies, and to use of all the facilities, including the pools, dressing rooms and thatched-roof bohios.

Members of the staff will be happy to give visitors a short lecture on the history and purpose of the facilities, which also harbor a small tectonic rock exhibit (tectonic rocks can be best defined as petrified lava). These rocks bear the shape of the place they were deposited in, such as in between roots, tree branches and stones. Their yellowish color is due to the iron oxide and sulfur dioxide contained in them.

Within the thermal pool area, one can find a number of papyrus plants, which were used as a forerunner to paper by the Egyptians and other ancient peoples.

How to get to El Valle
Get on the Pan-American Highway, either through the Centennial Bridge or the Bridge of the Americas and drive west. The entrance to the mountain road leading to El Valle is approximately 97 km west of Panama City, four kilometers past the beach community of San Carlos.

 
 
 

Azuero: a destination filled with surprises

Lady wearing the Pollera, Panama’s national female attire, considered by experts one of the most beautiful national costumes in the world. It is said that the best Polleras come from the Azuero peninsula. Photo: Linaza.com

Located in central Panama, the Azuero peninsula encompasses the provinces of Herrera, Los Santos and a portion of Veraguas, but, since most of the population of the region resides in the first two, the name generally refers to Herrera and Los Santos.

Azuero is part of the "Dry Arch" –the driest part of the Republic, which comprises the western half of the Gulf of Panama. Small hills covered with semi-arid savanna vegetation are the typical landscape of the region, although its rivers and coastal marshlands are always green, harboring great potential for eco tourism and bird watching. Two national protected forests, El Montuoso Natural Reserve and Cerro Hoya National Park, are also found in this part of the country.

Azuero is cattle country. Except for the picturesque towns that dot the landscape, a great part of the land is devoted to cattle grazing and farming.

Folklore is by far the greatest tourist attraction of the area. There are over 600 folklore or religious festivals each year, as even the smallest community devotes a day to its own patron saint. The most important festivals in Azuero are Carnivals (Feb/March), the Ocú International Fair (Ocú, province of Herrera, in January), the Azuero International Fair (April/May), the Pollera National Festival (honoring Panama’s beautiful female costume, in July), and La Mejorana folklore festival in Guararé (September).

Most lodging facilities are found in the town of Chitré, the peninsula’s largest town, which can be used as a base for exploration of Azuero’s beaches, islands and cool highlands. The region has a good system of roads and excellent communications with Panama City.

 
 



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