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Panama, beyond the American Isthmus

The Canal is its hallmark, but this country, home to 4 million inhabitants, holds much more. How can we delve into it through its architecture and culture?

There’s no denying that the Panama Canal, stretching between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, stands as one of engineering’s masterpieces. 

Witnessing how these giants ‘carve their path’ while navigating is profoundly impressive. And while undoubtedly a must-see during your visit to the country, there’s so much more to relish. 

As described by their Ministry of Tourism, this is a land that exudes vitality, perfectly imperfect and brimming with authenticity. Panamanians, the result of an intriguing racial mix, are cheerful, festive, gracious hosts, and warm-hearted. 

Panama is a region untouched by tremors, allowing for the rise of towering buildings. Modernity takes center stage in its architecture, although, like all cities in the region, it holds a wealth of history within its walls. 

In fact, the restoration of the Casco Antiguo – declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and the neighborhood known as Panama Viejo is underway. Both are essential stops when exploring the country. 

We had a conversation with Ibeth González from Helvex in Panama, who shared with us her must-visit places in the country. ¨Due to its geographical position, this has historically been a meeting point.. 

Hence the diversity in all aspects, including cuisine. We also boast abundant vegetation, with 9 months of rain each year!¨ she remarked.” 

In terms of food, she mentioned ‘sancocho’ – a type of soup with vegetables and meats. 

They also enjoy green plantains, fried in the style of Cuba and Colombia, yuca (a tuber well-known in other regions of the continent), fish in all its variations, and plenty of beer!


▄ For Ibeth, the most significant celebration for Panamanians is the carnival. This event takes place across the country exactly 40 days before Good Friday – mark it in your calendar. The most renowned area for these festivities is Las Tablas. 

Juan Abelardo Carles R. wrote for Panorama: Carnival is ingrained in Panamanian identity, a learned pleasure, an uninterrupted revelry that begins on the eve of Carnival Saturday, with crowned queens, and culminates in the early hours of Ash Wednesday, with opposing groups of revelers engaged in a fireworks duel called ‘El Topón’ . 

If you’re not Panamanian, chances are you haven’t been raised with this festive marathon since childhood. How about a mixed tour of the province of Los Santos, one of the epicenters of this celebration? Dedicate a couple of days to experiencing Carnival the Panamanian way and the remaining days to uncovering other natural and cultural secrets of the region. 

▄ Up close with nature

If you’re a fan of the sea, flora, and fauna, then Bocas del Toro is a must-visit. It’s comprised of several islands, with the main one named Colón. You can reach it by road and then take a boat, or fly for 45 minutes from Panama City. 

Veraguas is another captivating destination in the country. It’s embraced by the waters of two seas, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Easily accessible by road, it offers trails, beaches, waterfalls, and picturesque natural landscapes. 

Panama has 7 native communities that carefully preserve their traditions. These are: 

• Guna
•Naso Tjër Di
• Ngäbe
• Buglé
• Bri bri
• Emberá
• Wounaan

The first one, the Guna community, is the most visible. They reside in San Blas and are widely recognized for their molas, exquisite textiles that breathe life into the women’s attire in that region. Additionally, there are cushions and other textiles that you’ll undoubtedly want to bring home.

▄ The most daring will want to visit the Barú Volcano, where you’ll find pleasant weather, enviable views, and excellent coffee. There are routes suited for all levels, from the more complex ones to beginner-friendly walks. 

The combination of a tropical jungle
and mountains gives life to a
dreamlike ecosystem. 

Dare to dance to the rhythm of Rubén Blades in his homeland and enjoy a joyful, diverse, and captivating country. Consider Panama for your next vacation.

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