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Many first-time visitors to Panama are astounded at how much there is to see and do. For such a tiny country, it offers an astonishing variety of adventures. Fortunately, it is also a very compact place, and for the most part, easy to navigate. If you’re short on time, Panama City makes a great base with scores of attractions within easy reach. West of the capital, the road network is in very good shape with frequent intercity bus services. Eastern Panama is much more remote and tricky to explore. It is home to large areas of rainforest, far-flung indigenous communities and few paved roads.
Take a day or two to experience the multicultural throng of Panama City, including the colonial quarter of San Felipe and the old Canal Zone township of Balboa. A trip to see the workings of the Panama Canal is obligatory, as is a hike in one of the nearby rainforests reserves, including the Parque Nacional Soberanía.Read more
A stay in Panama City is complemented by a journey across the isthmus, if only for cultural contrast. You can reach the Caribbean coast by bus or car, but the most enjoyable way is on the Panama Canal Railway, which spirits passengers from coast to coast in just one hour.
It’s easy to reach the stunning Caribbean archipelago of Guna Yala (previously known as Kuna Yala, also known as San Blas) from the capital with flights to several islands. Alternatively, you can take private overland transport to Carti and go from there. The Guna maintain strict control over their semi-autonomous territory and it can be complicated getting around without your own boat. After a few days lolling on the beaches, snorkelling in coral reefs, eating fresh seafood and exploring interesting indigenous villages, most visitors find they need to fly back to Panama City.
From Panama City, head west to the Caribbean coast and the province of Bocas del Toro, where you’ll be rewarded with a string of stunning Caribbean islands. Unwind on the beaches, go searching for neon frogs, snorkel, scuba dive or visit the intrepid communities of the indigenous Naso and Ngabe – it’s up to you.
Places of interest in Panama
An obscure Caribbean province of scattered islands and secret enclaves, the remote and sparsely settled backwater of...
Founded five centuries ago as the Pacific terminus of Spain’s pioneering transcontinental trade routes, Panama City...