One of the first cities in the Americas, in the 1500s, Panama City was launching point for the exploration and conquest of Peru and a transit point for gold and silver headed back to Spain. In 1671 Henry Morgan with a band of 1400 men attacked and looted the city, and the ruins of the old city still remain at Panama la Vieja. Its prosperity returned when the discovery of gold in California in 1848 led to an upsurge in travellers crossing the isthmus en route to the west coast of North America. Not surprisingly, construction of the Panama Canal was a spur to major growth of the city and has led to it being today one of the most modern and multi-cultural cities in Latin America, yet retaining remnants of its fascinating history.
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The latest from Compass - our online travel magazine
"The city of Trinidad contained much of what was great about Cuba in a nutshell. It was lively, friendly, very photogenic with a history that went back over 500 years.
Mr William Kerr"
"Guides and staff excellent, friendly and went out of their way to be helpful.
Dr A Graham"
"There were numerous, but certainly seeing Aztec and Mayan cities in real life, and quietly soaking up their atmosphere, constituted highlights of the tour.
Mr David Kennaby"
"Visiting the cemeteries for the Day of the Dead celebrations [was inspirational]. We also enjoyed the visits to the Mayan tombs which were brought to life by the excellent guides.
Mr Brian Walters"
"The highlights were seeing the rainforest for the first time, the knowledge of our local guides was also amazing. Costa Rica has been the holiday of a lifetime for me…I cannot fault the service.
"Apart from the beauty of Costa Rica as a whole, 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"
"Among many, including crossing the walkways at Monteverde in driving rain and a strong wind, the real highspot was the visit to La Selva. We felt privileged visitors, had a superb guide and saw an amazing range of animals and birds within a remarkably short time. If only we had had longer there.
Mr Paul Langridge"
"Difficult to choose! Seeing the beautiful colonial buildings, some beautifully retsored and others, often still inhabited, crumbling around us. Also, visiting the Monumento Ernesto Che Guervara and hearing the passion in our guide's voice as she explained about the battle of Santa Clara. My husband would say the old cars!
Mrs Jane Jowitt"
"The riverboat trips were marvellous, both in Tortuguero and Los Chiles. Huge amount of wildlife and excellent local guides and drivers.
Mr Roger Piggin"
"We were so impressed by the conservation and environmental policies of Costa Rica. An example to the world! The flora and fauna were the reason we chose Costa Rica and we were not disappointed.
Mr John Kettle"
"Many inspirational moments in spotting wildlife of amazing diversity in the nature reserves and alongside the road, thanks to our hawk-eyed guide. I would also mention the wonderful swim on the beach at Manuel Antonio on the last full day of the tour. You'd have to go a long way to find a better sea-swim.
Mrs Fiona Anderson"
"Havana was definitely the highlight, an architectural and historic gem. In addition, it was a hassle free city, very clean and everything easily accessible. Historic buildings are beautifully and subtly illuminated at night. The people for the most part are friendly, helpful and courteous.
Mr and Mrs Taylor"
"We had a thoroughly enjoyable time and all travel connections worked perfectly.
"Our trip to Guatemala was a great success. Thanks for organising such a great itinerary. There was plenty of contrasts, changes of pace etc to ensure there was always something of interest without being rushed around from sight to sight.