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Connecting Central America and South America, Panama is located between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Cutting through the center of this narrow strip of land is an astonishing feat of human engineering – the Panama Canal. Known for its deserted islands, beaches and cloud forests, Panama is a no nonsense destination, which will amaze you with its raw and authentic natural beauty. Apart from nature, in Panama, you can discover ruins of Spanish forts, enjoy nightlife in Panama City or zip-line through verdant rainforests.
Capital Panama City is Central America’s most modern and cosmopolitan city. Because of its towering skyscrapers and modern architecture, it resembles USA’s Miami more than any other city in Central America, but that is where the similarity ends. Founded in 1519, Panama City’s original center was located at Panama Viejo. However, in 1671, it was destroyed and the centre was moved to what we know today as Casco Viejo – the UNESCO listed historic district of Panama City, dotted with colonial-era landmarks. This is where the residence of the President of Panama – Palacio de las Garzas, is located. Casco Viejo’s diverse architectural style ranges from Caribbean to French and Art Deco. The district hosts several events like the Panama Jazz Festival and Sobresaltos Dance Festival. Panama Viejo, however, still has some of the remnants of its heyday and is celebrated as one of the country’s most important ruins
Panama City’s skyline is dominated by several skyscrapers, of which the uniquely designed F&F tower is the most iconic one. Oddly but fortunately, this modern city has a wildlife refuge centre – Parque Natural Metropolitano, within its city limits, and is quite popular with its visitors. This 265-hectare park is home to numerous bird species and people visit to escape the city and hike amidst verdant nature.
Panama Canal, one of the world’s most remarkable man-made engineering marvels, starts at the Miraflores Locks in Panama City. The canal has a total length of 82km, and connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific, forming an essential shipping route. There are several operators in Panama City, who can arrange a boat tour to explore the canal. In case you want to learn about it, Panama City has two museums dedicated to the history and construction of the canal and are worth checking out.
Located on the Caribbean coast, close to the border with Costa Rica, Bocas del Toro province is Panama’s ultimate seaside escape. Its colorful capital – Bocas Town, is dotted with Caribbean-style clapboard houses, from where you can take a water-taxi and start your exploration of various secluded islands and beaches. Speaking of islands, the San Blas Islands group located off the northern coast of Panama has more than 400 islands and cays. Locally known as Guna Yala, the islands are notable for the traditions and culture of its indigenous Guna people. There is nothing much to do here except for swaying in a hammock while sipping coconut water, snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters or going island hopping.
In the Chiriqui Province in western Panama, the potentially active stratovolcano Volcan Baru is the tallest mountain in the country and part of Parque Nacional Volcan Baru. The national park can be accessed from the small town of Boquete and is home to a wide range of animals including pumas and the resplendent quetzal. If you are lucky, you may encounter the elusive quetzal bird on the Los Quetzales Trail.
From a world-class city to some of Central America’s best beach destinations and jungle-covered landscapes, Panama is an emerging destination. Get here before more visitors start flocking.
Panama Canal is one of the world’s most remarkable feat of human engineering.