A Visitor’s Guide To Panama
Panama is a country that lies on the land bridge between North and South America, and it has long been one of the most prosperous and important trading countries in the region because of this location. The country is famous for both the Panama Hat which was historically distributed from the ports of the country, and the stunning engineering feat that is the Panama Canal, which links the Pacific and Caribbean Seas. As well as its trading importance, Panama is also a hot spot for those who enjoy birdwatching, as it has more unique species of birds than those that can be found in Canada and the USA combined.
Visitors to Panama are advised to be aware of the potential for petty theft and occasional violent crime in the country which is similar to many parts of Central America. The area south of the town of Yaviza in Southern Panama is also considered to be an area to avoid due to the presence of Colombian drug gangs that are active in the area.
Top Sights To See In Panama
Coiba National Marine Park – Having been home to a penal colony and prison until 2004, this island has an amazing range of species, while the stunning reefs have a diverse marine life making it an amazing scuba diving destination, while arranging a permit before going is vital.
Panama Viejo – The former capital of the country was first settled by Europeans in 1519, but was sacked by the pirate Henry Morgan, which caused so much damage that the city was relocated in 1670, but it is still a remarkable place to explore with several buildings still standing.
Miraflores Locks – A short distance from Panama City, this site is one of the best places to see the huge ships that travel through the Panama Canal, and the way that the water level lowers taking the ships down with them to continue the journey across the canal.
Volcan Baru – Located at the western end of the country, Volcan Baru is the tallest mountain in Panama at 3,474 meters high, and on a clear day has the benefit of views over the Caribbean and the Pacific at the same time, with hiking to the top of this dormant volcano a popular activity.
Boquete – This small town in the coffee growing region of Panama is a popular place to visit with some superb natural sights and forests to explore, along with being a popular location to go white water rafting.
Islas Secas – These beautiful islands remain a fairly undeveloped area off the coast of Panama, but do have a small number of places to stay, and enjoy some beautiful beaches and some of the best scuba diving sites in the region, while many people come to the area to enjoy the excellent fishing.
Portobelo – This small port city on the Caribbean north coast of Panama enjoyed its heyday during the colonial period where many ships were filled with silver to be exported to Spain, but today it is most famous for the remarkable fortifications created to protect the town against pirates.
El Valle – Surrounded by several natural reserves, this town has been developed in the flat caldera of a nearby inactive volcano, and is popular for tours of the natural sights and waterfalls, along with a series of thermal pools.
Contadora Island – Located in the archipelago of the Pearl Islands off the Pacific Coast of Panama, Contadora is a beautiful island with excellent beaches and great snorkeling, while it is also a popular fishing destination.
Boca Chica – This small village is a great place for a relaxing getaway, with some nice beaches and interesting forest areas to explore, while it also offers easy access to the National Marine Park of the Gulf of Chiriqui, where there is excellent scuba diving.
Where To Stay In Panama
Veneto a Wyndham Grand Hotel – This impressive hotel offers stunning rooms with large luxurious beds and beautiful bathrooms along with great leisure facilities such as an outdoor pool, sauna, hot tub and even its own casino.
Hotel Centroamericano – Offering a great base from which to explore the city at a good price, this hotel has clean and comfortable rooms in a convenient location, while guests can use the wireless internet, coffee making facilities and a pleasant restaurant.
Bocas Del Toro
Faro Del Colibri Hotel – The stunning villas that provide the accommodation at this hotel are built on stilts above the waters of the Caribbean, with each one being lovingly decorated with airy rooms and tastefully designed bathrooms.
Hotel Posada Isla Chica – Offering spacious rooms at a good price, this hotel is a great place to relax within yards of the seafront, with comfortable beds and nice bathrooms and a series of hammocks for relaxing on those quiet afternoons.
Hotel Valle Del Rio – Providing guests with beautiful and impressively furnished rooms that enjoy stunning views over the surrounding area, guests have access to a pleasant fitness center and wireless internet access.
Hotel La Casa De La Abuela – Located near the center of the town, this hotel has colorful and attractive rooms with large beds and simple bathrooms, while the pleasant terrace is a nice place to relax, and families can use dedicated rooms with bunk beds for the children.
Gran Hotel Nacional – This stylish and modern hotel is a nice place to stay with pleasant rooms within easy reach of the city center, and also including access to a pleasant outdoor pool.
Hotel Alcala – Offering simple and affordable accommodation, this hotel is a good option for those visiting the area on a budget, with wireless internet and a small business center available, along with a nice rustic style bar area for relaxing in the evening.
Because of its history as a trading nation Panama has long taken its culinary influences from across North, Central and South America, but in terms of the crops grown locally corn has always been an important part of local food. Examples of this include the tasty pastry pockets known as empanadas, while bollos are buns that are made with this corn, and are often served with cheese. Sancocho de gallina is a popular dish throughout the country, which is a thick stew made with chicken, culantro and other vegetables grown in the country, while tres leches is a popular and tasty sweet dessert.
Currency And Visa
Visitors traveling to Panama will need to ensure that their passport is valid for at least six months before departing, and a tourist visa is given to visitors from the United States at a cost of $13. Panama does use the US Dollar as its national currency, but does mint its own coins of smaller denominations, meaning that buying goods can get a little confusing. Locals also refer to these coins as balboas and pesos, but shouldn’t be confused with other currencies.
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