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Towns & Villages near Panama

If you want to make the most of your visit to Panama then visiting it's surrounding towns and villages like Portobelo, Nombre de Dios, Anton Valley, Colon, San Blas islands and Taboga will provide you with a deeper insight into Central American life.

Towns & Villages near Panama
Portobelo.

Portobelo is one of the oldest Spanish settlements on the Caribbean coast and at one point was the center of the Spanish Main. It was through Portobelo that almost all of Spain's plunder was accounted for before being shipped back to Spain. The bay was heavily guarded by forts on both sides and was host to one of the largest annual fairs in the Americas at the time. It was also fair game for the English pirates, like Drake and Morgan.

Much of the old settlement has been overrun by the local village but there are still some good ruins and examples of the Spanish fortifications. The Customs House has been restored and is a good place to see some of the history. Portobelo is also famous for it's Black Christ - kept in the church just off the main square. Portobelo is about 1-1/2 hours drive from Panama City. Head towards Colon on the Transisthmian Highway, turn right at Sabanitas (Rey Supermarket) then follow the signs.

Nombre de Dios.

Nombre de Dios is not very big, nor very exciting, it used to be the starting point of the "old Panama canal" which wasn't a canal but a route by small rivers and small paths to transport things from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Now it is a laid back place on the Caribbean coast with a distinct Rasta atmosphere. After this it becomes hard to follow the road along the coast to go to Portobelo the last port of call before Colombia.

Anton Valley.

The Anton Valley (El Valle) is located within the crater of the second largest inhabited dormant volcano in the world. It is a popular destination for city people and tourists due to its proximity to Panama city, the cooler climate is a pleasant change from the heat and humidity of the city. The region is great for hiking, cycling, dirt road bikers and for nature lovers, one of the highlights of the valley are the square trees. They are found in the foothills of Cerro Gaital behind the Hotel Campestre, Canopy tours, hot water pools, and the beautiful endemic golden frogs are other highlights. During Saturdays and Sundays the local marketplace near the Catholic Church is bustling with local farmers selling their produce and artists selling art crafts, all kinds of fruits, vegetables, legumes, flowers, hand-woven molas, stone sculptures, wood work, native indian crafts and jewelry.

Colon.

Colon is not the most beautiful of towns, it is actually quite drab and it can be dangerous at times, the harbour of Colon does provide a very useful starting point for travel by boat to different Caribbean destinations. Regulations may be a bit difficult with respect to which boats are allowed to transport passengers.

San Blas islands.

The San Blas islands are a bit of unspoiled paradise. The Kuna indians live on these hundreds of tiny islands just off the coast of Panama. They dress just as you would expect with the women wearing the family capital in the form of gold around their neck, in their ears or in their nose. Snorkeling is absolutely fantastic with many corals and lots of fish. Bring your own gear, because not all accommodations have these available for their own guests. Diving is not allowed in San Blas. Next, it is possible to visit the villages of the Kuna Indians, or to explore the jungle on the mainland. Usually your accommodation can and will provide you with guides for activities like this. The problem with the islands is, that it takes a little effort getting to them.

There are a number of options, such as taking the boat from Colon. But by far the most easiest an comfortable way is by booking a national flight from Panama City. See the Getting There section for more info. Although more and more eco resorts are being developed, accommodation is still pretty basic. It usually consist of a small number of cabins and a restaurant. Don't expect things as Cable TV here. Usually the hotel also will provide you with meals. It is possible to stay with Kuna families at home for a small amount. But you'll have to know someone and to try to arrange that. With more hotels available it is not the usual way of tourist accommodation When you take pictures of the women on the islands they expect a tip. One dollar is a normal fee.

Taboga.

Taboga is a small island just off the west coast of Panama city, it is only one hour by ferry from Muelle (Pier) 18 and an ideal day trip to make. It is a great place for hikes along well maintained footpaths. Sights on the island include the Church of San Pedro, a small Museum, and altar honoring the Christ of Buga, which contains a small garden exhibiting a profusion of flowers in different colors and species. On the back side of the island lies the Toboga Island Wildlife Reserve, containing various species of sea birds that use the island as a refuge for their reproduction during the months of December-July.


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