Panama Vacations

The world’s most famous shipping shortcut may have defined the country, but it has so much more to offer. Climb a volcanic peak and explore the vast wilderness.

This small S-shaped sliver of land connecting the American continents is a paradoxical place. It has long been a commercial hub, the center of global trade routes, but it’s also home to a vast tropical wilderness of rainforests with rich biodiversity. 

Columbus explored Panama in the early sixteenth century. It was in Spanish hands for nearly 300 years until gaining independence in 1821.The country was a magnet for migrant workers during the construction of the canal, some of whom stayed. Panama has a diverse society with indigenous groups and heritages that include Spanish, African, Chinese and North American.

Many visitors make Panama City their base, a busy, modern metropolis where glass and steel skyscrapers dominate the skyline. Old Panama can still be found in some of its neighborhoods. Go to Casco Antiguo, also known as Casco Viejo, the city’s historic district. Here Spanish colonial mansions, palaces and leafy plazas meet bohemian bars, boutique hotels and upscale restaurants. Fill your bags at the shopping districts of Central Avenue and Via España and relax on one of the Pacific beaches  less than an hour’s drive from the city.

Running across the center of Panama and linking the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans is the Panama Canal. This engineering marvel has been a shipping shortcut since 1914. Watch canal operations from the Miraflores Locks. See how ships are raised and lowered through a series of locks to start or complete the journey through the 50-mile (80-kilometer) waterway.

Panama has a varied landscape including cloud-forested highlands, untamed swamplands and huge tracts of rainforest. Go on a guided tour of the dense, humid Darien jungle on the east side of Panama. It’s one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet with swamps, mountains, rivers, more than 800 species of birds and more than 1500 species of trees. You may even come across some of the indigenous tribes living in remote jungle villages.

Hike or drive to the top of Baru Volcano in the Province of Chiriqui. At 11,398 feet (3,474 meters), it’s the tallest mountain in Panama. On clear days you can see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea from the summit.

Panama has a good transportation infrastructure. The most common ways to travel between cities are by car, plane or bus. Panama City has many bus and minibus services as well as taxis.

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