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Do You Know the Way to Santa Fe Panama?

Dear Luke and Leia,

Do you know the way to Santa Fe, Panama? We do! This weekend we took a break and found the way into the cooler, beautiful mountains that are the country's backbone, running down the center of Panama. Santa Fe is located about an hour north of the turnoff at Santiago, which is a town on the main highway about 2 hours outside of Panama City.

Mountain shot of the Santa Fe, Panama area.
Mountain shot of the Santa Fe, Panama area.


The scenery of mountain terrain in this part of Panama is breathtaking. The road winds around the hills, and it lures you to the mountains off in a distance, following a meandering river trailing upwards to its source. We loved how the mountains seem to poke out of the plains with such a rugged, majestic beauty. Each curve of the road built our excitement.

Road leading into the central mountains of Panama.
Road leading into the central mountains of Panama.
Mountains rising out of the plains north of Santiago, Panama.
Mountains rising out of the plains north of Santiago, Panama.
Lush jungle gives way to a more mountainous and dryer terrain.
Lush jungle gives way to a more mountainous and drier terrain.

We stayed at a nice hostel we stayed at in Santa Fe and even had our own cabin. It had some beautiful gardens too.

Entrance into out Hostel in Santa Fe, Panama.
Entrance into out Hostel in Santa Fe, Panama.
Our little comfortable cabin.
Our little comfortable cabin

We checked in and set out with our friends to explore the area, then walked down the main street in the village and veered off onto a dirt road. We came across several homes of the locals in Santa Fe, but the best thing we saw was this misplaced phone booth that looked like one out of the 60’s and just didn’t belong in the surroundings. It was a working phone too!

Looking up from the trail to a local home.
Looking up from the trail to a local home.
Yes, A phone working booth in the middle of nowhere.
Yes, A phone working booth in the middle of nowhere.

Next thing we saw just past the phone booth was a footbridge across a wide river. It might have looked to be overkill for the little river, but it wasn't. During the rainy season a sudden flood of rushing water could wash a smaller bridge away, leaving all the farmers stranded and unable to sell their produce at the local markets.

Our friend Linda walking ahead seeing a foot bridge.
Our friend Linda walking ahead to the footbridge.
Foot bridge leading over the Santa Fe River.
Footbridge leading over the Santa Fe River.
Beautiful Santa Fe River with the mountains in the background.
Beautiful Santa Fe River with the mountains of Panama in the background.
View from below the foot bridge.
View from below the footbridge.

The beauty of this trail was incredible. It started leading us up a mountain and we felt the incline in our legs. Then, as we approached a bend in the road, a local cowboy came towards us driving a few cows along the trail. It was really cool to see them at work.

Cattle drive Panamanian style near Santa Fe, Panama.
Cattle drive Panamanian style near Santa Fe, Panama.
The cows just walked on by us and the Panamanian cowboy moves them along the trail.
The cows just walked on by us and the Panamanian cowboy moved them along the trail.
View from above a 20-foot waterfall into an inviting swimming hole.
View from above a 20-foot waterfall into an inviting swimming hole.

Swimming in Santa Fe

By the time we came up to the river again, we were sweating. We soon saw an inviting swimming hole, but the access was across the river and down from a waterfall that plunged about 20 feet into the swimming area. It didn’t look too bad to cross and the heat of the day was taking its toll on us, so we crossed. Our friends Farieda and Linda crossed over, and then Nana and I were next.

As we reached the fast-flowing area of the river where the water plunged downward over the rocks, it knocked Nana off her feet. I jump in just ahead of her and wedged my legs between the rocks to prevent her from going over the edge. The force of the water was so strong that Nana could do little to fight it. Farieda and Linda help me pull Nana up to safety and the only damage was a dented polarizer filter.

Waterfall that Nana nearly fell over.
Waterfall that Nana nearly fell over. It's taller than it looks.
The swimming hole was cool and refreshing to take a dip in.
The swimming hole was cool and refreshing to take a dip in.
Looking further downstream on the river.
Looking further downstream on the river.

Organic farming in Panama

The next day we visited a local organic farm to see how they grew their foods. But the owner was amazingly inviting and wanted to show us her success with the orchids. The family invited us to stay for lunch as we readily agreed. The people are so warm and friendly here in the mountains of Panama.

Our host leading us on a tour of the organic farm in Santa Fe, Panama.
Our host leading us on a tour of the organic farm in Santa Fe, Panama.
Our hostess shows her beautiful orchid collection.
Our hostess displays her beautiful orchid collection.
Colorful orchid from Panama.
Colorful orchid from Panama.
The rest of the host family members resting under a gazebo.
The rest of the host family members resting under a gazebo.
Free range chickens feeding on the seed just scattered by our host.
Free range chickens feeding on the seed just scattered by our host.

Nata

We finally had to end our trek in the mountains and head back home to Panama City, but there was a local church in the town of Nata  that we wanted to see on our way. We had heard it was gorgeous and thought that since it was on the way, why not? The church did not disappoint at all. The paintings and artwork lived well beyond its billing. We are so glad we took the time to visit.

La Basílica Menor de Santiago Apóstol in Nata, Panama is one of the oldest churches in the Americas.
La Basílica Menor de Santiago Apóstol in Nata, Panama, is one of the oldest churches in the Americas.

 

Very old interior of the Nata Church.
Very old interior of the Nata Church.

That’s all we have for now. We miss you two and hope you are doing well.

Love,

Nana and Pap

Church in Nata, Panama.
Church in Nata, Panama.
Beautiful Nata church.
Beautiful Nata church.
Steeple of the Nata Church.
Steeple of the Nata Church.

 

Dan

Written by Dan

Professional photographer specializing in street, food and travel shots at As We Saw It travel blog. Enjoys catching children at play, showing their innocence in every situation … we all can learn that, to be content with what our Father in heaven has provided. Photography is unique in that it captures light in all forms, and since the Bible says YHVH (God) is light, photography captures Him in many forms.

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5 thoughts on “Do You Know the Way to Santa Fe Panama?

  1. What a beautiful place! Before visiting Panama, I bought a Moon Handbook and Santa Fe was one of the places recommended to visit in the country’s interior. I went to Panama several years ago, so, I am assuming the area has developed a bit more. Would like to go back to the country and visit several spots.

    1. It has developed quite a bit, Ruth. I’m happy to report that Panama City has just installed a first-class subway, which means the capital’s traffic is not as horrendous as it once was…though the drivers still use their car horns at ever opportunity. 🙂

      I feel for you; we’d like to go back to see a few places we missed. Even though we lived there for more than two years we never got to San Blas, the Azuero peninsula or the island of Coiba. Where would you like to go?

    1. The swimming hole was even more refreshing after the extreme scare of Linda going over the waterfall. Guess the saying that getting there is half the battle is true in this case, but the reward was worth it, other than the need to buy a new CP filter.

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