How Many Active Volcanoes Are There in Panama?

Thanks to its specific geographic position and distribution, Panama is one of the hotbeds of biodiversity in the world. In terms of landscape, in Panama, you would experience the same variety in environments. From oceans to lakes, from cities to jungles, ending up with beautiful hills and mountains of volcanic origin. And if after this you are asking yourself if there are still any active volcanos in Panama, here you will find your answer.

There is only one volcano that is currently considered active in Panama, the Volcán Barú. This volcano is one of the three volcanoes found in Panama which included Volcan Baru, El Valle, and La Yeguada. Volcan Baru is the youngest among the three volcanoes.

Referred to by locals simply as “Volcan”, Volcan Baru last erupted 500 years ago. Despite its long period of inactivity, intermittent seismic events recorded in the vicinity of the volcano attest to its continued activeness. Following an intensive study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with Panama’s Science, Technology and Innovation Secretariat (SENACYT), the volcano was ruminated to be a potential hazard to its adjacent communities in case of an eruption. 

What is Volcán Barú?

Also known as Volcán de Chiriquí, because of its location in Chiriquí province, is an active volcano in Panama which is also considered as its highest peak and tallest mountain. Its peak has an altitude of 3,374 meters (11,401 ft) and rises around 2000 – 2500 m (6550 – 8200 ft)above the people living in its adjoining valleys. Around 11,000 people inhabit the adjacent areas of the volcano, who are most vulnerable in case of eruptions in the future occur.

Volcán Barú was created by the abundant eruptions it experienced a hundred thousand of years ago. The volcano is distinguished for its fledgling but bulky dacitic cupola- field set inside a crescent-shaped ring formed into the erstwhile fragment of the volcanic structure. Apertures on the apex dome indicate the eruptions in the past.

Is Volcan Baru active?

Yes, Volcan Barus is an active volcano. It is described by Panamanians as a sleeping giant although nobody really knows when the volcano will wake up nor will it ever wake up again. However spasmodic seismic events registered in the volcano reveals that a tectonic terrain underneath the volcano still actively exists. The most recent seismic activity was recorded in 2006. Previous earthquakes in the area were recorded in 1930, 1965, and 1985. The USGS and SENACYT explain that these movements serve as reminders that the volcano is still active. However, it is not expected to erupt in the near future.

When was the last time Volcan Baru erupted?

Eruption of Volcan Baru

There are many proposed dates when Volcan Baru last erupted largely because of the lack of proper technology to monitor the volcano’s activities as well as a crude system of recording before. However, the most accepted and most popular belief is that Volcan Baru in Panama last erupted sometime in 1550 AD, around 500 years ago. This is based on the Spanish recording in the 17th century as cited by Montessus de Balore.

Moreover, scientists have established that the volcano has erupted sometime in 600 AD based on radiocarbon dating and artifact accumulations. Scientists also believed that the volcano has had four major eruptive episodes for the past 1,600 years. However, several more eruptions happened in the preceding 10,000 years.

What type of volcano is Volcan Baru?

Volcan Baru is a stratovolcano or composite volcano. This type of volcano is constituted of a single layer of solidified magma, tephra, volcanic pumice, and residue. Stratovolcanoes are also called conical volcano because they are typified by their steep cone-like contour with a central cater. Stratovolcanoes are also characterized by their violent and explosive eruptions that can subside peak craters to become calderas.

What is the highest point in Panama?

The highest point in Panama is Volcán Barú (or Volcán de Chiriquí). The volcano is 3,474 meters (11,401 ft) above sea level and considered the highest peak in Panama and the twelfth highest peak in Central America. While it has not erupted in the last 500 years, it is still aptly called a volcano because it remains potentially active.

Can you climb Vulcan Baru?

climber man

Yes, you can trek or hike Vulcan Baru. In fact, it is one of the major activities that many tourists are looking forward to doing when visiting Panama. The hike can at least be one full day. It takes around 4 – 5 hours to climb the peak of the volcano and another 3 – 4 hours to climb down. Hiking at a relaxed pace will take you the summit in 6 hours.

There are also designated camping areas if you want to stay overnight. The best time to climb the volcano is before midnight so that you reach its peak by the dawn and get a glimpse of the beautiful sunrise. While the trail is easy to follow and well kept, it is better to hire a guide to help you get to your destination without trouble. 

For those physically unable to climb the volcano, there are 4×4 rides that you can rent that will take you to the summit. However, it’s going to be a rough ride along its rock-loaded track.

What is the Barú Volcano National Park?

Known as Parque Nacional Volcán Barú in Spanish, this is the western highlands adjacent to the town of Boquete, which is the home of Volcan Baru. It is a popular tourist destination for its hiking trails when trekking the volcano. It is also a famous destination for bird watching. The park also has a well-known sightseeing spot in Paso Ancho. There are also opportunities for white-water rafting in the area.

How to get to Volcan Baru?

Volcan Baru is an hour flight or 5-6 hour drive to David from Panama City. From David, you will make another 20-30 minute drive to Boquete. From Boquete, you can reach the entrance of Barú Volcano National Park, which provides the route and trails to the top of the volcano.

What can you see in Volcan Baru?

The hike towards Volcan Baru is an adventure on its own as you are allowed to get in touch with nature through its tropical rainforest. The two most popular trails are the La Nevera and Sendero de Los Quetzales Trail. The climb to the top of the volcano will approximately take around 4-6 hours by foot depending on how fast you can hike. However, if you take a 4×4 jeep, the ascent will only take less than an hour. 

The climb will provide visitors the opportunity to view vestiges of volcano’s eruption. You can also most probably witness different exotic birds along the way. Before reaching the summit, you will see many cellular towers that had been erected. There is also a huge boulder that is swathed with graffiti.

On your way to the top, you’ll pass a shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. When you reach the summit, you see breath-taking views of the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean seas at the same time if the weather is clear. More trails lead towards the different craters of the volcano, which will give you different panoramic views.

Is Volcan Baru safe?

glowing magma Volcan Baru

Yes, it is safe to climb Volcan Baru. Climbing the volcano is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Panama. While the volcano is deemed active, scientists consider the volcano still latent. It has been inactive in the last 500-600 years and is not expected to erupt soon.

As an active volcano, however, Volcan Baru posts a serious hazard to the people living in its vicinity. As a stratovolcano, it is envisaged to have violent eruptions that can last for years. However, no recorded activities indicate that the volcano will erupt anytime soon. 

What do you need when climbing Volcan Baru?

There is a minimal entrance fee (US$5.00) when you want to climb Volcan Baru so be sure to have some cash with you. You should also ready for the cold conditions. The temperature at the peak can be freezing so you may need proper protection. In general, the weather on the volcano is unpredictable. It can be windy, sunny or rainy which you need to consider.

Other important items to bring included water and food to keep you nourished. Finally, comfortable trekking shoes are important. The climb to the volcano is relatively easy. Any average person can do it. However, proper gears are needed to make your climb comfy and safe.

What are the other volcanoes Panama?

Aside from Volcan Baru, there are two more volcanoes in Panama namely, El Valle and La Yeguada. El Valle is a 6 km wide caldera formed around 56,000 years ago. It has an elevation of 1,185 meters (3,888 ft.). The presence of the caldera is evidence that a former collapsed volcano once stood in the area. El Valle is located in central Panama approximately 80 km Southwest of Panama City. While it is considered as an inactive volcano, some experts claim that the volcano is potentially active for being a part of the Central American volcanic arc in Panama.

The third known volcano in Panama is La Yeguada. Also called Chitra-Calobre, La Yeguada is another enormous stratovolcano located in west-central Panamá in the province of Veraguas. It has a summit peak of 1,297 meters (4,255 ft.). It is believed to have last erupted in 1620. However, carbon dating showed that the last volcanic activity happened around 45,000 years ago at the Media Luna cinder cone, which is the youngest feature of the La Yeguada region. The last major eruption of the volcano however occurred 220,200 years ago at Cerro de la Charca (Cerro Corero lava dome). Because of this, the volcano is considered as inactive and is currently a site of intensive geothermal exploration.

What is the connection between volcanoes and the Panama Canal?

Because of the inactivity of volcanoes in Panama, the US government decided to continue the construction of the waterway canal that will connect the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean in Panama. Panama was considered a safer bet, so to speak to build a canal than Nicaragua, which has more active volcanoes.

Matt Romero

I’m Matthew Romero, one of the guys behind PanamaLifeInsider.com I am incredibly passionate about Panama, its beautiful territory, and all the incredible opportunities which offer to people coming here from all over the world both either visiting and settling. In this blog, I decided to share my passion with you!

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