Written by: Julia Hammond
The Central American nation of Panama might be small but it packs a lot into the space within its borders. Here are our Panama highlights for a vacation to remember.
The nation’s capital is a good starting point for travellers to this Central American country. Downtown, the skyline is one of glass and steel. Check out the distinctive F&F tower. At 243 metres, it’s not the city’s tallest skyscraper, but its twisted shape makes it the most photogenic. Nearby, there are are plenty of shopping malls and restaurants. Over on the Amador Causeway, pay a visit to the Biomuseo, designed by Frank Gehry. Inside, its exhibits tell the story of Panama’s natural and cultural heritage.
The historic old city, known as Casco Viejo, is a charming space to wander. It dates from the late 17th century, when it sprang up to replace the original city which had been destroyed by fire. Jutting out to sea, it was protected by thick walls. Today Casco Viejo is a World Heritage Site and its many churches, grand mansions and squares are a delight to explore. Be sure to pay a visit to the Museo del Canal Interoceánico, which tells the story of the canal’s construction and use.
Panama’s best known attraction was completed in 1914. Built to link the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, it saved ships the uneviable, long and often dangerous journey around Cape Horn, thousands of miles to the south. Many cruise itineraries include a transit of the canal but you can also arrange a full or partial transit if you’re staying in Panama City. The excursion will take you through the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks. Expect to see plenty of other vessels, including massive container ships and tiny tugs.
San Blas islands
The San Blas Islands of Panama remind you that this Central American nation has one face fixed on the Caribbean. This beautiful archipelago comprises about 365 islands and cays, of which 49 are inhabited. Palm trees shade golden sand. Warm turquoise water gently laps the shore. It’s such a contrast to the high rises and honking horns of the city that it’s hard to imagine how close you are. Yet, the home of the Guna people isn’t easy to visit – that’s deliberate – so it’s a real treat if you can include this on your Panama itinerary.
Rainforest and river
From the moment you step into the dugout canoe and venture upstream from the shore of Lake Alajuela, you’ll enter a whole new world. Though conveniently close to Panama City, the rainforest and river offer a completely different experience. Virgin rainforest chatters with the noise of parrots and monkeys, while caimans bask and sloths snooze. The Emberá people welcome visitors and share their history, culture and way of life. Expect dancing, good food and an introduction to local handicrafts.
If you’re keen to visit Panama post-COVID, give Mundana a call and discuss your requirements.