Acting as the bridge between North and South America, Panama is a beautiful destination that offers much more than just its famous canal.
Like other Central American countries, Panama’s natural beauty and landscape is staggering. Hundreds of idyllic islands are dotted across the warm sea, while inland thick forests cover the terrain. And yet it is rather underappreciated by tourists. So before you hop aboard one of the many Panama Canal cruises, we will cover everything you need to know about the country.
Facts about Panama
The Panama Canal is a topic widely covered in the school curriculum, but there is still much more about the country that many don’t know. For instance, 60,000,000 pounds of dynamite was used during the excavation and construction of the canal.
It is also one of only a handful of places in the world where you can swim in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the same day. The country is also blessed with an amazing selection of wildlife - with over 940 bird species and 125 animal species, this small destination is incredibly biodiverse.
What you can do in Panama
The country is a hub for culture, with a brilliant balance of influences from the north and the south, you can experience the Mardi Gras or explore the history of the country with a trip to Casco Viejo, a World Heritage Site.
Elsewhere, head to Panama City for a full-throttle Latin American experience where you stroll along the cobblestone paths past the bright and bustling bars, casinos and stalls.
Should you wish for something a little slower, head up towards the highlands where you can pick fresh coffee berries, swim in the rivers and take in the beautiful natural landscape.
What to do along the Panama Canal
A Panama Canal cruise is still one of the best ways to appreciate the wonderful biodiversity of the country. Along the journey you will pass the many animal species or for something a little more close-up, head to the Panama Rainforest Discovery Centre. Established by the Fundación Avifauna Eugene Eisenmann – a non-profit environmental organisation dedicated to the conservation of Panama’s birds – the centre strives to provide sustainable tourism in order to help protect the rainforests. Enjoy a hike, the educational centre and the jewel in its crown, the 32-metre observation tower providing views of toucans, monkeys and many more species.
Food and Drink in Panama
Diversity is huge in this part of Central America. From the animals to the people, the culture, cuisine and history has been influenced heavily by the Americas, Spanish and Afro-Caribbean countries. However, the indigenous traditions and customs still stand across Panama.
A typical breakfast will incorporate deep-fried corn tortillas which are smothered with a selection of toppings including eggs, fried meats and vegetables. But if you are perhaps looking for something a bit lighter and more refreshing, fresh fruit is bountiful.
Across Panama and its many islands you will find an array of ingredients that are local to that area. While you may see your main meals made up of chicken, coconut rice and beans in the more developed parts, expect lighter options of fresh seafood to accompany varied vegetables like yucca, squash and plantains.
More than just a canal, this underappreciated corner of Central America is just waiting for you to embrace it in its entirety.