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Set almost 2000m above sea level in a bowl-shaped valley surrounded by densely forested mountains, CERRO PUNTA is the highest village in Panamá, and often swathed in cloud. In the eighty or so years since it was settled, agriculture has expanded so rapidly that the town now produces some 80 percent of all the vegetables consumed in Panamá. This agricultural boom has been at the expense of the surrounding forests, however, and the local population is just beginning to face up to the consequences of deforestation, soil erosion and excessive pesticide use.

Despite these problems, the village and surrounding fields are still undeniably beautiful, filled with abundant flowers and buzzing with hummingbirds. The spectacular scenery, together with the cool, crisp mountain air (it even gets cold at night – a rare luxury in Panamá) makes Cerro Punta a perfect base for hiking, and the pristine cloudforests of La Amistad and Volcán Barú are both within easy reach.


These parks are perhaps the best places in all Central America to catch a glimpse of the elusive quetzal, particularly in the dry season between January and April. Another worthwhile destination is the Finca Dracula Orchid Farm (daily 9am–3pm; US$7; tel 771 2070), about five minutes' walk beyond the Los Quetzales Lodge and Spa in Guadelupe and home to one of the most complete orchid collections in Latin America. Telephone in advance to arrange a visit.

Bambito is 18km (11 miles) N of Volcán; Cerro Punta is 7km (4 1/2 miles) from Bambito; Guadalupe is 2.5km (1 1/2 miles) from Cerro Punta. Bambito, Cerro Punta, and Guadalupe are three of a dozen or so tiny farming communities nestled in a bucolic, alpine paradise. The area is characterized by rugged hills and peaks cloaked in thick emerald forest that is speckled with flowers and interspersed with a patchwork of colorful fields. Bambito is just a sprinkling of homes and services along the road. Cerro Punta is located in the crater of an extinct volcano, and is the epicenter of agricultural production.

Cerro Punta sits at 1,800m (5,900 ft.), looking out over a fertile valley and craggy peaks beyond, and provides for a quick scenic drive past strawberry and flower farms. Guadalupe, too, has flower-filled streets and is flanked by quiltlike farms that slope up the surrounding hills. From here, the roads branch out to La Amistad International Park and Volcán Barú National Park. This is truly the loveliest alpine region in Panama.

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Last Modified June 23, 2009