Panama; A True Adventurer’s Challenge

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When I say Panama is an adventurer’s challenge, I do not mean it in a bad way. There are trips, and there are adventures. While some travel experiences are just meh, Panama presents a culturally diverse mix of activities that will test your appetite for adventure.

From snorkelling at Borcas del Torro to spending time with its unique wildlife; it is any adventurer’s dream.

A cultural heritage

How much do you know about Panama- besides its famous canal or once despotic leader? As a meeting point in the history of Latin America, Panama is a nation forged by an extensive number of cultures and traditions. They unite to create a uniquely complex, yet exotic environment.

The country’s diverse ethnicity is evident in its local produce, such as ceremonial masks, woodcarvings and pottery. It is also renowned for its architecture, festivals, and of course, its rich cuisine.

A trip to Panama automatically dazzles your senses; its seamless combination of indigenous and European cultures creates a nation unequalled. Its architecture is an indication of the various ethnic groups that live there. The homes built by the Yugoslavs, Swiss, Swedish, German and American immigrants are a stark contrast to the traditional huts in the Ngobe Bugle Region, a dwelling place of the native Ngobe Bugle Indians.

Panama’s cultural centres

The old city of Panama, Casco Antiguo, is being restored and is the site of great historical and architectural significance. In December 1997, it was officially recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The homes are strongly representative of colonial French, neoclassic and African influence.

Most of the architectural structures were built at the dawn of the last century. They include the narrow lanes with remnants of ancient ruins, the National Theatre, attractive colonial churches, and the Church of San Jose. The church still has its legendary golden alter which was saved from pillaging by greedy pirates.

Panama City is also endowed with plenty museums, like the History Museum, the Canal Museum and the Museum of Reina Torres de Arauz, which specialises in the anthropology of the isthmus. Others include the Museum of Religious Art and the Art Museum, to mention a few.

Traditional food of Panama

If you are a foodie traveller, this is where it gets more interesting. Because it is a melting pot of various cultures, Panama has a smorgasbord of delicious cuisines- each one developed uniquely by the founding fathers and early immigrants to the country.

Local delicacies include the Sancocho de gallina (chicken stew sauce), sweet corn snacks, jerked beef, fried rinds of pork and carimanolas (yucca rolls filled with deep fried meat). I hardly travel to a new place without trying out the local dishes- no matter how different. But the yucca was an instant hit with me, so I cajoled my chef to part with the recipe.

Many locals enjoy a variety of fish meals, including a popular staple known as Fu-fu. It is coconut milk soup with green plantains, fish and a dash of the distinctive spicy ingredient; “chombo” chile.

 

Activities on the tour

Enough of tales of Panama’s heritage. The country is a destination for exploring. I spent time in Boquete, a charming town located in the Chiriquí province. It is perched at the foot of Volcan Baru and surrounded by La Amistad International Peace Park and coffee farms.

At Boquete, you can take leisurely bike rides, visit local coffee plantations and see why the coffee from this particular region is so coveted. There is no shortage of activity here. It is no wonder Boquete is fast becoming a popular destination for the Adventurous traveller.

The following tours are available at Boquete:

  • Whitewater rafting

The Chiriquí providence prides itself in having the tallest mountains, as well as some of Panama’s longest rivers including Chiriquí Veijo and Rio Chiriquí. It is an amazing experience whitewater rafting along these rivers.

They are also renowned globally for their highly-accessible non-stop Class 3 – 4 rapids. Ready for adventure? The steep canyons and heavy thickets add to the breath-taking scenery and creates that adrenaline surge.

  • Tree trek tour

How at home do you feel in the forests? If you have been hiking back at home, I guarantee that nothing prepares you for the tree trek you will encounter at Boquete. With beautiful flora and fauna to browse through, and the overlying greenery, it is nothing short of spell-binding.

However, nothing beats the beautiful scenery of the backdrop offered by the Baru Volcano and the La Amistad Peace Park. One tip; never embark on an adventure without a high-quality DSLR- especially when you are visiting a place such as Panama.

 

  • Mountain Bike Tour

Are you an extreme sports biker? Then be prepared to attempt a daring 25km biking trip downhill. It coasts within the lush vegetation, meandering through local coffee farms and plantations. Beware of ruining the harvest though, as it is one crazy ride.

The mountain bike tour of Boquete offers a beautiful view of the region’s main areas. It is said that once you visit this region of Panama, you will want to come back with friends. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Hiking along the Baru Volcano

You probably became cautious when you saw the word “volcano”. Don’t worry, Baru is a gentle one and has been asleep for a while. There is no reason to panic (for now). Volcan Baru is the highest mountain in Panama and it is an ideal destination for hikers along the Quetzales trail.

Having been globally acclaimed as one of Panama’s beautiful trail, the Los Quetzales guides trekkers across the norther part of Volcan Baru. Don’t get lost in the whole experience; look out for the wild orchids and beautiful animal wildlife too.

The flora and fauna of Panama

Are you a nature lover? If you are, then be prepare to gongoozle at the vast beauty that awaits you. The name “Panama” gets its origin from pre-Colombia times; it means, “the abundance of butterflies, fish and trees.”  True, it is home to 954 indigenous bird species including migrating birds. Panama also has 225 mammal species, 143 amphibian, and 214 reptile species. With over 10,000 plant species including 1,200 varieties of orchids, one can agree that it is truly a haven of natural wildlife.

Are you a true adventurer? If Panama isn’t yet checked off on your list, what are you waiting for?