Panama's "Shangri-La Valley"

Panama's "Shangri-La Valley"

The healthiest place in the world is Panama.

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Expat Patrick Greer, the owner of the Lost and Found eco-lodge, says few places rival Volcán for green-highland scenery and low-cost living. But he and other ex-pats are cottoning on to the health benefits of living here.

Check out the cemetery gravestones and you'll note people in this region were living into their 80s and 90s when life expectancies elsewhere in Panama averaged 77 years or less. It's a combination of the spring-like weather and the fresh food, seafood caught daily, free-range eggs and chicken, and more.

Often described as the "Shangri-La Valley," Volcán's attractions include thermal springs and some of the best birdwatching in Panama. Just try to stress out here; it's hard to do the pace of life is so serene.

Not only that, but the Chiriquí province where Volcán is located is known as Panama's breadbasket. About 80% of the nation's produce comes from here. There are larger farms producing everything from coffee to fruit and vegetables, and smaller outfits supplying the increasing demand for specialty crops hydroponic lettuces, organic herbs, exotic fruits and flowers, pesticide-free vegetables, and much more.

Patrick's lodge is in a national park with dozens of hiking trails. "We are surrounded by tranquility," he says. "Hordes of monkeys come through the trees, cacomistles appear every night at eight like clockwork." His neighbors include an organic farmer who specializes in coffee and makes his wine. You can sample both and have a farm-to-table lunch, then lose yourself under the green canopy of La Fortuna nature reserve.

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