More Than Hats and a Canal

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When people think of Panama they usually think of the ubiquitous Panama Canal, the rather obvious Panama Hat and probably some coup from long ago but this is a destination that has so much more to offer than just hats and a canal. Panama like many of its Latin American neighbors frankly gets a bad rap. This is a great country whose image needs an update. So of course we’re the ones to do it. In one sentence Panama is a great destination to meet new people, observe different cultures, and try delicious new foods. Hmm we should be writing travel brochures.

Panama has much to offer for those looking to explore new horizons. The first and foremost attraction Panama has to offer is the Panama Canal. This fascinating tourist attraction brings people from all over the world to see this wonder in action. You can actually watch giant ships pass through the canal and learn all about the history of this modern marvel.

While in Panama City itself, you can also visit the Causeway Amador. If you drive the length of this stretch, you will find many shops selling the ever-famous made-in-Ecuador “Panama Hat” at bargain prices. Or you can buy other native Guna-made artisan products for your home.

If you find the heat in Panama City to be unbearable, make your way on up to the Chiriqui Highlands for an altogether different experience. There are several beautiful and bustling towns nestled in the mountains of the Chiriqui province. Many of these places boast a sizable population of ex-patriots, so you will find many places that cater to the American way of living.

Two of the most popular stops are Boquete and Volcan. Both of these towns average temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s. Boquete even has a library with hundreds of books in both Spanish and English. It also hosts an annual Fair of Flowers and Coffee in January. This fair showcases hundreds of varieties of Panama’s most beautiful flowers. Plus, many local coffee companies turn out so you can sample their coffee. Be sure to get a frozen strawberry treat made from strawberries grown in nearby Cerro Punta.

Volcan is aptly named for its biggest tourist attraction: Volcan Baru. Volcan Baru is is a dormant volcano that also happens to be the highest point in Panama. Hundreds of people a year climb this volcano, although the best month to climb it is in February. This is because other months are too wet and dangerous to climb to the top of the 11,398 feet (3,474 meters) peak.

If you choose to make this exciting trip, there are two sides to climb up from. One is in Volcan and the other is from Boquete. The Volcan side is small trails through the forests of the mountain. This is a grueling 8 hour trek. If you want to take it a little easier, you can pay to go up most of the Boquete side in a vehicle. Either way, you must be prepared with plenty of water for the trip and if you are staying over night, a tent and lots of warm clothes. It is literally freezing on the top of the volcano.

As you can see, Panama is a great choice for anyone looking for a fabulous vacation.

 

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