The first time I heard the word “Glamping”, I assumed it was a neologism uniting “glamorous” and “camping” – I was right.
And this is what glamping in Panama looks like:
You had me at “Luxury”.
Luxury Camping Panamá is located in the district of Chame in Sorá. Scarcely 97kms away from Panama City via the Panamerican Highway, the glamping site sits on the grounds of the Altos del María – a residential mountain project dating back to 2003.
The site wasn’t built until 2018, and I have the suspicion that whoever pitched the idea must have been someone like us, or at least thinking of people like us: adults who are young enough to seek the thrill and adventure of camping out in nature, yet old enough to know they want the comfort of the city (not 20 anymore!)
Apart from what I consider normal, weather related wear and tear, the space was clean: “Monica, clean.”
As a Panamanian, I must remind you that the four seasons approach is not applicable for us. We live in between the rainy season (with hints of sunshine and rainbows) from April to December, and the sunshine season, from December to March.
This said, the best time to visit is when it’s sunny and dry, basically now and for the next three months.
We stayed last weekend and the weather was cozy and crisp – everything you’d expect from a cabin in the woods, but inside a movie set type of construction, with a ceramic floor, a wall that doesn’t touch the ceiling and a wooden structure that holds the fancy tent.
With a temperature of 19C (66F) past 8pm, I was most comfortable out by the bonfire, roasting my complementary marshmallows and freezing terribly when I stepped away – mind you that I sleep with the A/C on 23C (73F).
I have to confess that even though this weekend getaway was meant as a gift for my husband’s 37th birthday, it was also a gift for me.
I’m crazy in love with the mountains and with most things nature, particularly in their greenest state.
As much as I enjoy going to the beach, being mesmerized by the immensity of the ocean and hearing the sounds only the waves can make when crashing into the shore – I deeply dislike being permanently soaked, uncomfortably covered in sand and sporting a salty skin.
My husband (Tito) on the other hand, can’t get enough. I suspect he is part fish.
However, since he loves nature in general and more so, being outdoors I deemed this a win-win situation.
Under COVID-19 restrictions we hadn’t been able to leave the city, and we’ve both been at the edge of burnout. So, when planning for this trip, I only had three things in mind: REST, RECOVERY and RELAXATION, and a place where we could potentially have them all.
And speaking about COVID-19 measures, after 90 minutes on the road we arrived in Altos del María, at their first checkpoint.
We were greeted by a security guard with a thermometer in the one hand and gel alcohol in the other one. We gave our information and headed up to the glamping site.
We parked our car at the administration office, where another person greeted us with the same protocol as the security guard. She left, and then came our service contact, who, for the third time, took our temperature and provided gel alcohol.
He shared some history on the property, indicated to us the way of working and servicing, disinfected our luggage, and escorted us to our room a few meters away.
THE DELUXE STAY
When booking our stay, I realized the site offered two experiences: deluxe and suite – I was on a budget so decided for the deluxe.
I had planned for a Saturday night stay and was surprised to hear they were booked throughout January.
Then I understood that the space is limited, with the glamping site hosting four deluxe tents, and one gorgeous, spacious suite.
So, we shifted some items in our agendas and left Friday at noon.
The site allows, for a fee of 37 USD, a cooler with all you can bring to drink, which would be lovely for a larger party. For us, a bottle of wine was enough and we enjoyed it on our tent’s porch after checking the last emails and shutting off our laptops – oh the wonders of the remote workplace.
With a mini bar stocked with the basics e.g., water and beer, snacks, and most importantly: a coffee maker (yas!), we had more than we would consume over a one-night stay.
Our service contact gave us two options: to bring the food from the restaurant to our porch and dine there, or, to drive a few minutes to the restaurant. When we asked him for his recommendation, he said: “Go to the restaurant for the view.”
We agreed, and he was right.
It was fun and strange to have the restaurant all to ourselves, and we dived into conversation so deeply that neither of us took any pictures of the food. Which, if you knew us, you’d know it’s uncommon. We shared a burger and a chicken parmesan, but the highlight was the key lime pie – tangy, creamy, sweet, with a strong hint of condensed milk…nothing more to ask.
In my mind, and perhaps in the minds of many others, camping and bonfire are unconsciously linked. They coexist as one.
Perfect temperature mix right there
For our first anniversary, he crafted a Star Map of the day we were married. Whenever we’re out and there are plenty of stars, you’ll find him doing this .
We each received a bag with six marshmallows.
To paint a picture: Imagine 10 strangers, all adults, standing by a bonfire – in turns because #COVID – roasting their marshmallows to either eat them right away or to craft their s’mores treats with graham crackers and chocolate (dark for me please!).
At least I was transported back 10 to15 years minimum, to the last time I enjoyed a moment like this.
If only for the bonfire, it was all worth it.
THE NEXT DAY
We woke up at around 5.30am.
Falling asleep at 9pm will do that to you – but we didn’t get out of bed for at least an hour.
Note to self: Next time, Watch. The. Sunrise.
I was cool because I was enjoying the spectacular scenery, the ride in a truck that reminded me of Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, and it was my first time visiting.
However – spending 30 minutes listening to a presentation on their available properties – wasn’t in my plans. Although, I did find myself daydreaming about a house there…#inception.
I captured so many pictures and videos I felt like a tourist in my own backyard (and LOVED it). Our first stop was a viewpoint, with a winning mountain scene.
Our last stop was my favorite – Chorro Yorti.
Chorro in Spanish translates roughly to “stream of water”. The magic of this place however, is impossible to translate, nor transfer into pictures. We tried though:
Pure Panamagic right here
We headed back at around 11.30am, and with check-out being at 1pm, we ended the way we started it: sitting in the porch, enjoying the view and the crisp air, and this time – exchanging the wine, for a book.
Book: Hello Fears
If our experience inspired you to head out on your own glamping adventure: #GoForIt – highly recommended.