Herrera is Panama’s cowboy country—dusty savannah and rolling pastureland punctuated by whitewashed colonial towns.
This is the nation’s cultural heartland—the birthplace of its traditional music and iconic apparel.
Here you can ride elegant Paso Fino horses, choose hand-crafted boots, enjoy rich regional cuisine, and party with a paper-mâché Mephistopheles.
The provincial capital, Chitré, is located near the eastern base of the Azuero Peninsula. This city’s leafy central park is anchored by the lovely 18th-century church of San Juan Bautista.
Inside, stained-glass windows illuminate a teak ceiling and intricately-carved mahogany accents.
Museo de Herrerea
Nearby, the Museo de Herrera exhibits 5,000-year old pottery, a replica of a pre-Columbian cacique’s burial, and collections of locally-produced gowns and folkloric festival masks.
Many of Herrera’s greatest cultural traditions live on in the workshops of local artisans.
The colonial village of La Arena, just a few miles west of Chitré, produces handmade pottery.
Festival masks, especially the goggle-eyed diablos sucios, are crafted by wild imaginations in the neighboring town of Parita.
Thirty miles west of Chitré, the village of Ocú is home to nimble-fingered weavers and embroiderers, fashioning gleaming sombreros ocúenos (straw hats) and resplendent dresses known as polleras.
Other nearby Herrera towns specialize in seco rum, gossamer lace, mejorana guitars, and fine leatherwork.
Although this region remains low-key for much of the year, its locals certainly know how to celebrate.
For two weeks in late May and early June Chitré is the scene of spectacular battles between the dancing demons and sword-wielding angels of the Corpus Christi festivities.
Las Tablas, a small town 16 miles south of Chitré in Los Santos Province, hosts elegant pollera festivals (July) and raucous Carnival celebrations with up to 200,000 revelers (February or March).
Playa el Agallito
Wild parties of a different kind takes place almost daily at Playa el Agallito, four miles north of Chitré.
Here, the coastal plain provides crabs and clams in rare abundance, resulting in a feeding frenzy for thousands of migratory birds.
Local ornithologists, working at the Alejandro von Humboldt Ecological Station, will help you identify terns, spoonbills, and egrets.
Cenegón del Mangle
Nearby, the Cenegón del Mangle refuge is home to seven species of mangroves. These coastal wetlands also support herons, anhingas, and caimans.
Parque Nacional Sarigua, six miles northeast of Chitré, is a scenic but cautionary example of the critical importance of conservation.
Originally blanketed in tropical dry forest, this land was first cleared for agriculture in pre-Columbian times; farming settlements dating back 11,000 years have been discovered here.
From colonial times to recent years, overgrazing by cattle ranchers has depleted the topsoil, resulting in a parched, desert landscape.
Suprising Birdwatching and Wildlife Watching Opportunities
Surprisingly, the park’s pockets of inland and coastal greenery still support species such as frigate birds, armadillos, iguanas, and margays.
Trips to Herrera Province can be easily combined with time on the Azuero Coast, Cocle, and Pacific beach towns.
Getting to Chitré
Regional flights connect Panama City’s Albrook airport to Chitré, with flight times under one hour.
The overland journey from the capital takes about 3.5 hours.
The climate of the Herrerra Province is semi-arid, with rains infrequent from September to May.
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