Until recently, the main tourist trade of Panama was through ports of call, where hordes of cruise ship inhabitants would disembark for a few hours of sightseeing and shopping. As such, Panama’s accommodations for the overnight crowd are still developing. For instance, only recently have tour buses become air conditioned and, while wake-up calls at hotels are enthusiastically written down, they are rarely, if ever, actually made.

Before leaving on this trip, many people asked me what was in Panama. I did not have an answer. Apart from some knowledge of the history of the canal, I was shamefully unaware of this country. That alone was reason enough to visit.

Founded by the United States during the construction of the Panama Canal and named after the Spanish conquistador.

Completed and settled in 1673, it was built following the near-total destruction of the original Panama city, Panama Viejo in 1671.

The town of El Valle is situated in the crater of an extinct volcano and ringed by verdant forests and jagged peaks.

Of the several dozen native tribes that inhabited Panama when the Spanish arrived, only seven remain.

The locks drain 26 million gallons of water and lower vessels about 39 inches (one meter) per minute.

In all, the Panama Canal is about 50 miles long and can take 9 to 12 hours to pass through.

Panama Viejo was founded in 1519 by the conquistador Pedrarías Dávila, and is the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas.

Portobelo has a deep natural harbor and was used as a center for silver exporting before the mid-eighteenth century.

Back to Mexico & Central America

Travel is a vanishing act, a solitary trip down a pinched line of geography to oblivion.
— Paul Theroux

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