Travel to Panama and find places of interest enough to last a lifetime

New among places of interest to travel to Panama

Travel to Panama and places of interest are around almost every corner. It will take some time before I am able to visit and write about many of them. Look for a small flood of places of interest in Panama stories early in 2005 and beyond.

Why should you consider travel to Panama? Palm trees silhouetted against the golden sky of a setting sun, leaves rustling gently in the warm tropical breeze? Yes, it is those romantic things, but so are many other places. Panama is so much more.

Its capital is the most modern city south of the U.S. If this is the third world, I missed the first somewhere in my travels. Panama City is a world-leading financial center with some 120 banks, many with competing glass and steel phallic symbols to commerce, designed by the world’s leading architects.

For some, places of interest when they travel to Panama will include its shops, U.S. style. Many of the stores found on Main Street, U.S.A., are here. After all, the Panama Canal was run by Americans for almost 100 years, and the American military had a major presence here until 1999. Colon is one of the places of interest in Panama you may wish to visit. It has one of the world's largest duty-free zones.

Panama once had a reputation as part of the pipeline for Colombian drugs. It suffered under the savage dictatorship of Manuel Noriega, until he was captured and imprisoned by American troops in December, 1989. The country has enjoyed democratic peace ever since. And it has the Pinkerton Intelligence Agency's highest rating for tourist safety.

Travel to Panama, a peaceful country

Like Costa Rica, Panama has no military. Money is spent on education instead, and its people have a high level of literacy. And if you need medical attention here, your doctor is likely to have been trained in the U.S. or Europe.

Places of interest for tourists who travel to Panama and locals alike include silver sand on the Caribbean side and black volcanic sand on the Pacific side. Another place of interest you can find when you travel to Panama is a quiet tourist and retirement town nestled inside the second-largest inhabited volcanic crater in the world. Panama is dessert and mountaintop. It can be humid all year, or like spring for all 12 months, depending on where you are in this small country.

Panama is world-class hotels and resorts, and the best roads in Central America by far. Many were built by Americans, and they are well-maintained.

Panama is tales of pirates, of Spanish treasure and the forts that tried to protect it; it is jungle and monkeys and parrots. It has more birds than all of North America put together, some 960 different species. One of hundreds of places of interest in Panama City is a wild jungle preserve right inside the city limits. And Darien National Park on the Colombian border is a jungle of monstrous size and one of the world’s richest wildlife habitats. Although referred to as parks, these are not Sunday afternoon jaunts; much of their area is impenetratable.

Travel to Panama the Inca way

Panama, that thin strip of land joining the northern and southern halves of the Americas (yet running east to west) provides a 50-mile wide divide between the worlds two largest oceans. And its narrowness has provided the ingredients for much of its history. The Spanish used it as a land bridge to transship Inca treasure en route to Spain. This attracted pirates whose exploits names the world over. The rest, as they say, is history.

And much of that history offers intriguing places of interest when you travel to Panama, in the ruins left behind after buccaneer attacks.

The French tried to build a canal, and went broke. The Americans, who proved the value of the isthmus during the Gold Rush, succeeded where the French had failed. And today, the Panama Canal, now run by Panamanians, produces much of the country’s wealth. It is another of those places of interest in Panama high on visitor’s agendas. More shipping is registered in Panama than in anywhere else on earth.

Panama is a land of diversity. Its people are friendly. If your car breaks down, runs out of gas, or gets a flat, within a few minutes someone will stop to help. Try that in Manhattan! The language is Spanish, but in the major hotels and many places in the capital, the people who serve you speak English. And if they don’t, there’s sure to be a helpful English-speaking person within earshot who will offer assistance. Panama currency: the U.S. dollar since 1904. What could be easier?

There are so many places of interest when you travel to Panama that it will probably take a lifetime to see them all. And by that time, guess what: there will be new places of interest in Panama.

Panama is much more than swaying palm trees on tropical beaches. Its capital is modern, cosmopolitan. A third-world country? Only in the fact that it is largely free and unspoiled.

Chiriqui Province

Boquete or Volcan?
A reader wanted to know why I favored Boquete over Volcan. 

A resident gives his view of Boquete today and tomorrow, and discusses the ex pat impact

Boquete, Flower Capital of Panama
Untold numbers of gardeners groom Boquete blooms for the annual fair in January, but the flowers take the breath away all year.

Villa Marta, Boquete
Psychedelic cows in unusual colors (no, we have not been smoking) rest among the amazing gardens of this mountain village private property, open to the public without charge.

Why Volcan?
After travelling to dozens of countries and seeing thousands of communities, why did YourPanama colleague David Dell choose to live in Volcan.

'Little Switzerland'
Settlers from Switzerland brought their distinctive housing style to the Chiriqui Highlands early in the last century.

In a land where 10-ton maps served as street signs, were Orientalshere 10,000 years ago? And did they have African slaves?

Sitio Barriles
Not only was this place a sacred ceremonial place for ancient Indians 10,000 years ago, it has mysteries of its own today.

Holiday at the beach
A promise is a promise, and David Dell does his best to deliver an idyllicday at the beach to his wife. What happens next would make an ideal comedy script for Rowan (Mr. Bean) Atkinson.

Beachfront condos
Las Olas Resort: The moon glitters like diamonds from the crashing waves in this corner of heaven where a three-bedroom condo on the beach can be had for $159,000. Buying a ready-made package is a lot easier in this country than having to start from scratch.

Coclé Province

Inside a volcano
El Valle de Anton nestles in the bosom of what was once a fiery volcano. Now it is a vacation and retirement location with springlike weather 12 months of the year.

Colon Province

Portobelo, its treasure believed to have been the target of more pirates than anywhere else in the world, is peaceful now. But the silent cannon still keep watch from the remnants of four forts.

Black Christ of Portobelo
Black Christ Every October, pilgrims trek to Portobelo where the Black Christ has been housed since the 1600s.

Black Christs Robe Rich velvet, decorated with gold braid, sequins, 'jewels' and lace. Benefactors such as former boxer Roberto Duran, a native of Panama, donate money for local women to fashion new garments for the Black Christ of Portobelo.

Herrera Province

La Arena
In the small community of La Arena, pottery production is booming, but the production has nowhere to go but the local market. Exporting these works is a business opportunity waiting to happen.

Friendly and clean: two words that sum up the town of Chitre . David Dell says the main square has some of the elegance of Mexico' most prominent towns.

Panama City

The Panama Canal has a number of surprising features , including the fact that the oceans at either end are of different heights.

Off the beaten path
Profound experience makes this church a Panama City attraction worth visiting when you travel to Panama.

Oasis in the city
Mi Pueblito, several acres of peace in the bustling city, displays replica homes of black Panamanians in the 1950s and the thatched homes of indigenous Indians. Souvenirs bought from the people who make them are cheaper here, and there's a restaurant with a view of the bay.

PanamaViejo was never rebuilt after it was sacked by Henry Morgan in 1671, but you can still hear the bloodcurdling screams if you listen closely.

Casco Viejo is where Panama was rebuilt after Henry Morgan’s pirates sacked the first city in 1671. With government help for real estate investors, it is now being rejuvenated after having been allowed to decline. Many fine restaurants now occupy what were once grand mansions. The National Theatre and Panama's night life are here, not in the flashy banking district.

Bargains galore
Shopping in Panama on the world’s longest pedestrian-only street offers bargains galore for those who enjoy shopping until they drop. Prices can be 20% to 30% below the already-low prices in other Panamanian stores.

Panama Province

Mountain living
Altos Del Maria is a new community with springlike weather less that 90 minutes from Panama City and the international airport.