Travel to Panama

Travel to Panama

This Caribbean paradise packs a punch: ethereal cloud forests, highland coffee farms, indigenous traditions, and beaches that glisten like tinsel.

Panama is an ideal introduction to Latin America, a place where tropical and urban exist in a haze of jungle and skyscraper. While Panama has long been a convenient passageway between east and west –the crossroads of two oceans and two continents -it has become one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world. Visiting Panama is like visiting two counties. Panama City, the capital and largest city in the Republic of Panama, is a dynamic metropolis, a boomtown whose skyline grows by the day. Panama City is a country in its own right, a sprawling melting pot where luxury travelers, backpackers, adventure-seekers and sun worshippers rub elbows in waterfront wine bars. Beyond Panama City is a different Panama. This colorful region features jungle and rainforest, 125 endemic animal species, rare birds and capuchin moneys. It’s a place admired by nature-lovers for its biodiversity and Eco lodges.

The recent redevelopment of Panama City’s old colonial district, Casco Viejo, has attracted a variety of boutique hotels, bohemian bars and stylish eateries. However, its Panama’s powder white beaches, surf breaks and natural settings that increasingly draw visitors. Bocas del Toro, a group of 68 Caribbean islands and described as “the place where primary rainforest meets the sea,” is a hotspot for nature enthusiasts. Kayaking, snorkeling, fishing and hiking are popular activities in Panama, as the country abounds with jungle hills and nature reserves. Other highlights include Chiriquí’s hot springs and pre-Hispanic ruins, Isla Coiba, a marine reserve in the Pacific, and the city of David.

Traditional Panamanian cooking is an overlapping mix of Spanish and Afro-Caribbean influences. The name "Panama" means “abundance of fish,” and there is no shortage of sea bass, red snapper, lobster and octopus on restaurant menus, many of which are sourced from free divers. Panamanian cuisine incorporates a variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs, and emphasizes local ingredients. Ceviche, gaucho (a Panamanian take on risotto), fried plantain slices and sancocho (chicken stew) are traditional meals. Top it off with a local beer such as Balboa or Atlas, or Panama’s most famous drink, seco -a sugar-cane distilled alcohol served with milk and ice.

Panama is a narrow strip of land that connects North and South America and includes more than 1,600 islands off its Atlantic and Pacific coasts. It has long been celebrated as the “door to the seas and the key to the universe.” Historically, the Central American country served as the staging point for the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Panama is home to the world famous Panama Canal, a narrow waterway that cuts through the country's midsection. The Panama Canal has long provided a shortcut for shipping and secured Panama's role as a major transportation hub. In 1999, the U.S. relinquished jurisdiction of the Panama Canal, giving Panama full control of its national territory.

Panama has a young and diverse population. Two-thirds of Panamanians live in urban areas, many in the communities within the Canal Zone, the central provinces of Herrera, Los Santos and Cocle, as well as the Azuero Peninsula, long considered the "heart” of Panama. Panama’s dominant culture has Spanish origins, but indigenous groups, steady waves of immigration and U.S. influence in the region has turned Panama into a melting pot. Panama’s unique history and geographical location is a source of national pride and the popular phrase puente del mundo, corazon del universe (“bridge of the world, heart of the universe”) aptly sums up Panamanians’ love of country. Panama is known for its vibrant cultural influences, which are expressed in the country’s music, cuisine, art and literature.


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