PANAMA CITY — This tiny country that straddles Central and South America has long been regarded as the "bridge of the world" because it connects the Pacific Ocean with its Atlantic counterpart.
Due to its small size and snakelike geographical shape, visitors can get from one coast to the other in a matter of hours, making it the only place on Earth where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific Ocean and see it set on the Atlantic in the same day.
While many destinations were quick to re-open after closing their borders due the pandemic, Panama took its time and strategically planned their re-opening and implemented strict health and safety protocols to ensure the safety of both travellers and residents.
Before travelling to Panama, passengers arriving by plane are required to complete an electronic affidavit when checking in to their flight, where they must agree to comply with all health and safety measures outlined by Panama’s Ministry of Health. All incoming travellers, including Panamanians, must present a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test upon arrival, which must be taken no more than 48 hours before landing.
Above: Panama City's vertical skyline is one of the most impressive in the world and looks out on the Pacific Ocean.
While in Panama, visitors are encouraged to experience the country’s history and traditions of the inhabitants of Panama through thematic routes that captivate tourists and allows them to experience the welcoming culture first-hand.
Panama is considered a melting pot of cultures due to its geographical location and history. The first inhabitants in the country were Indigenous groups, many of which still reside in the isthmus. The destination recently introduced an Indigenous Panama tourist circuit highlighting Panama’s pre-Colombian cultures as well as the seven living Indigenous peoples of the country: Bri Bri, Naso, Ngäbé and Buglé, in the forests and savannas of the western provinces; and the Guna, Wounaan and Embera, east of the Panama Canal. While Panama has always been famous for the 82-km-long Panama Canal, the Central American country is gifted with having a wide range of rainforests, deserts and beaches on both of its coastlines.
The country’s unusual geological history has given rise to over 10,000 varieties of plants, 1,500 species of trees, more than 800 species of birds, 255 mammals, and 226 amphibians. It is also home to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, where scientists from around the world study Panama’s unique ecological heritage.
The capital, Panama City, is the only national capital containing a tropical rainforest within its city limits. From Panama City, travellers can easily visit natural sites and experience nomadic treasures like walking part of the Camino Real at the Chagres National Park or experiencing Barro Colorado, an island located on Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal.
Above: Panama's vibrant traditions and Indigenous culture are what captivate visitors and keep them coming back.
Its tropical and volcanic soils also enables Panama to be at the forefront of agriculture. The Coffee Circuit, which takes place in the province of Chiriquí, takes visitors on a journey through the local coffee farms from the Coffee Exploration Center, designed to showcase the production process as well as the opportunity to taste some of the product that is grown on their volcanic lands. This, combined with the unique growing conditions that Boquete offers, has resulted in the award-winning flavours of Panama’s Geisha coffee, considered one of the most expensive and delicious coffees in the world.
Panama’s Pacific coastline stretches approximately 1,600km, and its beaches can go from calm waters to the best surfing waves (tides change frequently) and can feature both black-coloured and pearl-white sand.
Panama is also home to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites including — Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Casco Antiguo, the San Lorenzo Fortress, the Coiba National Park, Darien Biosphere Reserve and Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves.
Panama is in Eastern Standard Time all year round and has two seasons — dry, which runs from January through May, and rainy, which runs from May to December.
Above: The old colonial buildings and ruins that make up Panama City's Old Town and the floral splendour around them make it treat to visit.
Panama’s adopted the U.S. Dollar as currency in 1904 and while English is widely spoken, the official language is Spanish.
• For Canadians wishing to travel to Panama from Toronto or Montreal, Copa Airlines offers non-stop service.
• For more information on what to do in Panama and an update on current travel restrictions and protocols, go to http://www.VisitPanama.com