At the crossroads of the Americas, Panama is best known for the amazing feat of engineering that is the Panama Canal, which connects the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
Yet the country has so much more to offer. Its amazing biodiversity and lush rainforests make it a birdwatcher’s paradise. It is possible to learn about the indigenous cultures of the Kuna in the San Blas islands and Emberá tribes in the Chagres National Park, while the Pacific and Caribbean beaches offer superb sun, sand and sea. Panama can also easily be combined with a visit to neighbouring Costa Rica.
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Capital Panama City
Currency US Dollar
Flying time from London 12 hours
Official language(s) Spanish
Time difference -5 GMT
Visa requirements Visa not required for UK passport holders
Panama offers hundreds of tropical islands and protected coral reefs. The Pacific coast close to Panama City provides perfect beach extensions to a city stay. Further afield lies the Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro, with lush forests, rich marine life and white sands. Alternatively, the sun-soaked San Blas islands provide opportunities to snorkel in clear waters, unwind on deserted palm-fringed beaches, and meet indigenous people.
Go bird watching
Panama’s incredible biodiversity includes superb birding opportunities, with more than 950 species to spot. Explore the rainforest trails of the Soberanía National Park, such as the famous Pipeline Road, or the cloud forest of Boquete on the slopes of the Baru volcano. Closer to Panama City, the small town of El Valle is surrounded by rugged peaks and forests, while the Metropolitan Park is a tropical forest oasis set within the city’s limits.
Meet indigenous cultures
Panama is home to some intriguing indigenous communities. The Emberá live in traditional villages in the rainforests of Chagres National Park and are famous for their intricate handwoven baskets and wood carvings. The fiercely independent Kuna reside in an autonomous region which includes the San Blas archipelago. Stays in simple lodges can be arranged to learn about their traditional way of life and brightly coloured mola textiles.
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"I really enjoyed the Panama Canal trip and then visiting the Miraflores Locks the following day. Having learned about it as a child, it was just great to experience it 'for real'. It was fascinating to see everything working in virtually the same way as it has done for the past 100 years! I found the the museum/information centre excellent."
Ms Merryl Graham
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