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Published: March 8th 2016
After a week of total decadency in Lima, Peru, our first stop in Central America was Panama. True, traveling from Cartagena via Lima to Panama City is not the most logical route, but one of the nice things of having a lot of time is being flexible.
Panama City is kind of a schizofrenic place. One part being like any American big city, the other a beautifully restored colonial town. Restoration is still in progress and there are newly refurbished buildings next to facades wihout anything behind it.
Apparently, the Panamanian government is promoting the country as a great location to retire and that shows: modern high rises and facilities, foreign big chain restaurants and hotels, American prices, a beautiful promenade, air conditioned malls, and many (older) Americans - tourists and residents alike. Not our cup of tea to be honest and we were glad to have a hotel in the historic center of town, which is absolutely stunning.
The biggest sight though is the Panama Canal, which is truly a great work of engineering and 1 of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. After the French failed building the Canal in 1890 after 10 years of
hardship, the Americans completed it in 1914. Since then they controlled the Canal until full control went to Panama on 31 December 1999. It is amazing to see huge container vessels and other ships from all over the world pass through several locks at Miraflores (Pacific side). New locks are being built, as newer ships are too big for the existing locks, which will make it even more impressive.
Our original plan was to visit the San Blas Islands (Kuna Yala Islands), which didn't work out and we decided to go to Bocas del Toro Islands instead. What a great decision! From Panama City it was a short flight to Bocas, from where a 45 minute boat ride took us to a small paradise - Al Natural on Bastimentos Island. The location, accommodation and atmosphere all were perfect. We spent our days swimming, kayaking, peddle boarding, snorkeling and just relaxing. We saw corals, reef fish, humming birds, monkeys and at least 20 dolphins. We also met some really nice people, which made this stay unforgettable.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to, or decided not to, see more of Panama this time, as apparently it's beautiful according to everyone we
met, but even 6 months is not enough to see everything in Latin America and we still want to travel to Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize, but first, onwards to Costa Rica.
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