This post is also available in: Spanish
By Gabriela Pedrotti
My search for alternative travel options near Panama’s capital recently led me to take an excursion to the town of Quebrada Ancha, located deep within the 129 hectares of Chagres National Park, on the shores of Lake Alajuela.
Quebrada Ancha is a picturesque town situated approximately 45 minutes by boat from the port village of El Corotu. The community presents a successful model of self-managed ecotourism whose main objective is to protect the area’s flora and fauna while celebrating the cultural traditions of the local populace.
The Quebrada Ancha community’s Tourism Committee has developed an entire catalogue of tours and activities in the zone with assistance from the Chagres National Park Foundation, the United States Embassy, the Nature Conservancy, the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) and FUNDES, among other organizations.
Many options are presented to visitors such as tours of the town’s sustainable beekeeping project, fishing trips on Lake Alajuela with artisanal equipment and techniques and guided treks along the tropical jungle trails with a local guide to explore the historic Camino Real (the Royal Road), built by the Spanish in the XVI century to unite the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the isthmus of Panama. For experienced hikers, the entire Royal Road can be walked, a trip that takes three days and two nights and promises complete contact with history and nature.
The Quebrada Ancha community also provides cultural activities that highlight their folklore and traditions such as dance presentations and food tastings, participative craft projects, demonstrations of “cocobolo” wood carving and field trips to identify medicinal plants with explanations of their preparation and use. For a truly rural experience, the community permits visitors to spend the night in a hammock or tent at their “Casa Cultural” (Cultural House) –popularly referred to as “Aquí me Quedo” (Here, I stay).
Visitors are received with open arms and warm hearts, making for a memorable and unique trip.