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Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is the southernmost country in Central America and the whole of North America. The country is located on the isthmus that connects North and South America, and is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Panama’s capital and largest city is Panama City. As the second largest economy and the fastest growing economy in Central America, tourism in the country is rapidly growing, highlighting Panama’s jungle that is home to many tropical flora and fauna, some of which can only be found in the country.

What to see & do

Panama’s wildlife is the most diverse among the nations in Central America. Its forests are home to both South American and North American species. Aside from this, there is a lot more to experience in Panama, making it one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the world. More than enjoying the mountains and the rainforest, visitors can delight in two different large bodies of water, as the country has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean; tourists can also learn about native cultures in Panama, derived from European music, art, and traditions apparent in its handicraft, festivals, and traditional cuisine and clothing; and don’t miss Panama’s vibrant urban life, especially in the capital, Panama City. The city’s sophisticated and modern metropolitan area can be likened to Miami, with well-known arts, fashion, and dining establishments.

Situated on the isthmus that forms the land bridge connecting North and South America, Panama controls the Panama Canal that links the North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean – one of the most important shipping routes in the world. Panama Canal is also a major tourist destination, best viewed when up in the air via a local operator (www.panamaflightadventures.com).

The highest point in Panama, the Volcan Baru, can be found in Boquete city, the coffee-growing capital of the country in the Chiriqui highlands. The city is also known as an adventure capital where exhilarating activities can be enjoyed such as whitewater rafting, zip lining, and rock climbing. For a more relaxed water activity, go to Boca Chica, a small fishing village in the Gulf of Chiriqui. In the beautiful islands within the village, visitors can experience snorkelling and deep sea sport fishing.

How to get around within Panama

When driving around Panama, travellers should be aware that traffic can get heavy at around 8:00-9:00 a.m. and 3:00-7:00 p.m. Driving is also easier with the use of GPS – the most recommended is the one provided by the copyrighted map produced in the country as it is updated quarterly. There are also car rental companies available but beware of companies using pirated outdated GPS.

Highway buses travel between the terminals and the destinations along the Pan American Highway. These buses can pick up and drop off passengers at any point along the route. Panama is roughly linear in shape, making the bus system an ideal mode of transportation. The MetroBus, on the other hand, takes travellers to any location in Panama City. For destinations not covered by the bus route, taxis are another option, with rates set by a zone system but can also be negotiated.

How to get there

Tocumen International Airport, 24km from Panama City, is the largest and busiest airport in Panama and Central America in terms of passenger traffic. It serves as a hub for Panama’s flag carrier, Copa Airlines, and is the only airport in Central America with two runways. Tocumen International Airport is well-connected with the Americas, with non-stop flights to almost 20 countries in the region. There are also airlines in the airport that fly from key destinations in Europe. Some flights from Costa Rica also land on Enrique Malek International Airport in David, Chiriqui via Air Panama. Panama can also be accessed from Costa Rica by driving across at Paso Canoas (Pacific side), at Rio Sereno (Pacific side), or Sixaola/Guabito (Atlantic side). There is also a bus service at Paso Canoas that traverse from San Jose, Costa Rica to David or Panama City. By boat, there are cruise lines that include Panama Canal on the itineraries.

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