Small in size but big in character, Panama is a narrow isthmus that sits between Central and South America, between Costa Rica and Colombia. Famous for its canal – an incredible feat of civil engineering – there’s plenty more to Panama than just the shipping route between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Most holidays to Panama start in Panama City, a growing, seething metropolis with towering skyscrapers and fashionable shops that rival the glitziest cities in the Americas. Its thriving commercial economy and service-driven workforce has given Panama City the moniker the ‘hub of the Americas’, and the constant influx of revenue ensures that gentrification continues apace around the city. One section of the city that has seen such investment is the historic Old Town, where recent renovations have meant that the quarter has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status. Throughout the city you’ll discover a number of characterful boutique hotels, world-class restaurants and pavement-side cafes; even vegans will be exceptionally well catered for thanks to Panama’s abundance of tropical fruit and homegrown vegetables. With a number of day trips possible from the capital, including visiting the Soberania National Park and remote rainforest communities such as Embera Parara Puru in Chagres National Park, you’ll find Panama City has a wealth of experiences to try.
Outside of the capital, Panama is blanketed in beautiful countryside, including the lush mountainous region of Boquete; home to cool mountain air, rivers and alpine forest. Its fertile volcanic soils make it ideal for growing coffee, flowers and delicious citrus fruits. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the many hiking, biking and rafting opportunities in the area.
As well as its inland beauty, Panama holidays can also showcase its stunning coastal scenery, including its idyllic beaches. On the Caribbean coast near Costa Rica the Bocas del Toro islands make for a remote and relaxing escape, with white sand beaches, azure waters and a backdrop of dense jungle. In the seas around the islands you can spot dolphin and several varieties of turtle – best seen through a snorkel. To the east, the stunning San Blas Archipelago is not only blessed with incredible good looks, but also fascinating culture in the form of the indigenous Kuna Indians.
However, no one visiting Panama should leave without visiting the canal, a 67-kilometre long waterway that raises ships some 26 metres between the two oceans. Since its inception in 1914 the canal has provided an alternative route to rounding Cape Horn, knocking 8,000 miles off the original journey, and its popularity endures to this day.
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Panama Holidays Fact File
December - April
Approx 12-13 hours, via AMS or BOG
Colombia, Costa Rica
- 5 hours