20 years

Travel to Panama and find places of interest enough to last a lifetime.

David Dell

By David Dell

Travel to Panama and places of interest are around almost every corner. It will take some time before I am able to visit and write about many of them. Look for a small flood of places of interest in Panama stories early in 2005 and beyond.

Why should you consider travel to Panama? Palm trees silhouetted against the golden sky of a setting sun, leaves rustling gently in the warm tropical breeze? Yes, it is those romantic things, but so are many other places. Panama is so much more.

Its capital is the most modern city south of the U.S. If this is the third world, I missed the first somewhere in my travels. Panama City is a world-leading financial center with some 120 banks, many with competing glass and steel phallic symbols to commerce, designed by the world’s leading architects.

For some, places of interest when they travel to Panama will include its shops, U.S. style. Many of the stores found on Main Street, U.S.A., are here. After all, the Panama Canal was run by Americans for almost 100 years, and the American military had a major presence here until 1999. Colon is one of the places of interest in Panama you may wish to visit. It has one of the world’s largest duty-free zones.

Panama once had a reputation as part of the pipeline for Colombian drugs. It suffered under the savage dictatorship of Manuel Noriega, until he was captured and imprisoned by American troops in December, 1989. The country has enjoyed democratic peace ever since. And it has the Pinkerton Intelligence Agency’s highest rating for tourist safety.

Travel to Panama, a peaceful country

Like Costa Rica, Panama has no military. Money is spent on education instead, and its people have a high level of literacy. And if you need medical attention here, your doctor is likely to have been trained in the U.S. or Europe.

Places of interest for tourists who travel to Panama and locals alike include silver sand on the Caribbean side and black volcanic sand on the Pacific side. Another place of interest you can find when you travel to Panama is a quiet tourist and retirement town nestled inside the second-largest inhabited volcanic crater in the world. Panama is dessert and mountaintop. It can be humid all year, or like spring for all 12 months, depending on where you are in this small country.

Panama is world-class hotels and resorts, and the best roads in Central America by far. Many were built by Americans, and they are well-maintained.

Panama is tales of pirates, of Spanish treasure and the forts that tried to protect it; it is jungle and monkeys and parrots. It has more birds than all of North America put together, some 960 different species. One of hundreds of places of interest in Panama City is a wild jungle preserve right inside the city limits. And Darien National Park on the Colombian border is a jungle of monstrous size and one of the world’s richest wildlife habitats. Although referred to as parks, these are not Sunday afternoon jaunts; much of their area is impenetratable.

Travel to Panama the Inca way

Panama, that thin strip of land joining the northern and southern halves of the Americas (yet running east to west) provides a 50-mile wide divide between the worlds two largest oceans. And its narrowness has provided the ingredients for much of its history. The Spanish used it as a land bridge to transship Inca treasure en route to Spain. This attracted pirates whose exploits names the world over. The rest, as they say, is history.

And much of that history offers intriguing places of interest when you travel to Panama, in the ruins left behind after buccaneer attacks.

The French tried to build a canal, and went broke. The Americans, who proved the value of the isthmus during the Gold Rush, succeeded where the French had failed. And today, the Panama Canal, now run by Panamanians, produces much of the country’s wealth. It is another of those places of interest in Panama high on visitor’s agendas. More shipping is registered in Panama than in anywhere else on earth.

Panama is a land of diversity. Its people are friendly. If your car breaks down, runs out of gas, or gets a flat, within a few minutes someone will stop to help. Try that in Manhattan! The language is Spanish, but in the major hotels and many places in the capital, the people who serve you speak English. And if they don’t, there’s sure to be a helpful English-speaking person within earshot who will offer assistance. Panama currency: the U.S. dollar since 1904. What could be easier?

There are so many places of interest when you travel to Panama that it will probably take a lifetime to see them all. And by that time, guess what: there will be new places of interest in Panama.