Panama

Excelencias from the Caribbean & the Americas - - Contents - BY AN­DRES VILLA PHO­TOS AL­FREDO MAÍQUEZ & JOSE CAR­LOS DE SAN­TI­AGO

A Des­ti­na­tion in Vogue

ITS STRATE­GIC LO­CA­TION IN THE HEART OF THE CON­TI­NENT, BE­ING A BRIDGE BE­TWEEN THE NORTH AND SOUTH, ITS CON­NEC­TION WITH THE CARIBBEAN, ITS PRIV­I­LEGED NA­TURE AND THE CANAL, A KEY TO COM­MER­CIAL AND CUL­TURAL DE­VEL­OP­MENT, HAVE PUSHED THIS COUN­TRY TO IM­POR­TANT PLACE WITHIN THE LEISURE IN­DUS­TRY IN THE AMER­I­CAS.

Are­cently-opened air­port con­nect­ing Panama with the main cities of the hemi­sphere has spe­cially contributed to the tourism boom in this coun­try. This adds up to its lat­est demo­cratic turns, eco­nomic progress –a Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct growth of 2.4 per­cent in 2009–, and dy­namic poli­cies fos­ter­ing in­vest­ment and in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment.

In ad­di­tion to be con­sid­ered an in­ter­na­tional cen­ter of banks, Panama City’s full range of ho­tels opened by top world and lo­cal chains and the tremen­dous va­ri­ety of cuisines of­fered by restau­rants scat­tered all over the city clearly shows that it is a melt­ing pot of races and a bridge, a port and a gate­way into a place where visi­tors feel like home.

Old Panama (Panama Viejo) is one of the city’s as­sets, home to the first Span­ish set­tle­ment looted by pi­rates in 1671, and a com­plex of mon­u­ments and mu­se­ums in­clud­ing the Old Cathe­dral, a na­tional hall­mark. Colo­nial Panama or el Casco Viejo is an­other re­mark­able place to visit with its nice cof­fee houses, beau­ti­ful colo­nial ar­chi­tec­ture and the ro­man­tic en­vi­ron­ment of its nu­mer­ous plazas and nar­row streets. Both places were named World Her­itage Sites by UNESCO.

A PLACE FOR ALL

To­wards the coast of the cap­i­tal city, the sky­line of mod­ern func­tional and el­e­gant sky­scrapers is a re­sult of an am­bi­tious real state project un­der­way in Panama. In this panorama, the Trump Ocean Club, In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel & Tower Don­ald Trump rises up like a colos­sal ship pro­pelled by the wind.

Panama has be­came an ex­cel­lent tourism des­ti­na­tion be­cause of its mul­ti­ple at­trac­tions, nice weather, in­fra­struc­tures and var­ied of­fers, while show­ing off a high qual­ity of life and poli­cies fa­vor­ing in­vest­ment that make it a great place for the re­tired.

The Panama Canal is for many the hall­mark of the coun­try. This won­der­ful feat of en­gi­neer, an­nu­ally used by more than 14,000 ships, came to crys­tal­lize the hu­man dream of con­quer­ing time and dis­tance by con­nect­ing the Pa­cific and At­lantic oceans. For ten years now, it has been strictly in the hands of the Pana­ma­ni­ans who are now em­barked on a de­vel­op­ment pro­gram seek­ing to im­prove its ef­fi­ciency.

The Canal is crowned by trop­i­cal forests look­ing over the Gatun Lake, awe-in­spir­ing sce­nario for eco­tourism ac­tiv­i­ties such as bird watch­ing, as Panama shel­ters over 800 bird species. The Gam­boa Re­sort, Melia Panama Canal, among other world-class ho­tels over look­ing the Canal are ex­cel­lent plat­forms to en­joy day-long ad­ven­tures, fish­ing and eco­log­i­cal tours in the sur­round­ing ar­eas.

There is also the Canopy Tower, a small and ex­clu­sive lodge ideal for bird­ing lovers, where trav­el­ers can reach out right to the canopy of the rain­for­est.

With cruises sail­ing both sides of the canal, more than 200 lux­u­ri­ous ships en­ter Panama ev­ery year. The Colon 2000, a gate­way to the Caribbean, is one of the most at­trac­tive “home ports” of Latin Amer­ica. The Cris­to­bal Port or the Gatun Yacht Club –which wel­comes cruises in the mid­dle of the Gatun Lake– are also very ac­tive; while the Fla­menco Is­land stands as the port par ex­cel­lence of the Pa­cific coast.

A very in­ter­est­ing site for cruise trav­el­ers and tourists in gen­eral is the Mi­raflo­res Locks Visi­tors Cen­ter where visi­tors can learn first hand about the his­tory of the Canal and have a close up of the Canal op­er­a­tions. The cen­ter fea­tures the Mi­raflo­res restau­rant that of­fers ex­cel­lent in­ter­na­tional food.

Dy­namic in­vest­ment poli­cies have helped stream­line Panama City into one of the largest fi­nan­cial cen­ters of the west­ern hemi­sphere, now boast­ing a func­tional air­port that has dra­mat­i­cally in­creased its pos­si­bil­i­ties of con­nec­tions with the rest of the world

GREAT­EST TREA­SURES

Panama is an indige­nous voiced name that means abun­dance of fishes, but­ter­flies and veg­e­ta­tion. It is the nar­row­est part of the con­ti­nent with coasts and is­lands on both sides of the main­land. The largest pop­u­la­tions in the Isth­mus of Panama are on the Pa­cific side. Just one hour from the cap­i­tal, very nice re­sorts like De­cameron, Breezes, Playa Blanca, Coron­ado, Nikki Beach, Bris­tol are an­chored by a belt of beau­ti­ful beaches. It is a very happy area and highly val­ued in the real state mar­ket.

The Pana­ma­nian Caribbean is fan­tas­tic, fea­tur­ing hun­dreds of un­spoiled is­lands and the well-known Bo­cas del Toro ar­chi­pel­ago, a very spe­cial des­ti­na­tion in this coun­try

But there are many other des­ti­na­tions and in­ter­est­ing sites for tourism in Panama. There is the cen­tral re­gion of the prov­inces of Co­cle and Ver­aguas, Los San­tos, Her­rera, el Valle de An­ton –a set­tle­ment lo­cated right on the crater of a vol­cano.

Such trea­sures as cen­ten­nial towns with lovely ar­chi­tec­tures and churches fea­tur­ing nicely-elab­o­rated colo­nial al­tars like that of Nata or San Fran­cisco and Parita. Deeply-rooted tra­di­tions, folk­lore, pop­u­lar cel­e­bra­tions and fine crafts are in store for the visi­tors of the coun­try.

To­day, the travel in­dus­try chips in 10.2 per­cent of Panama’s GDP. How­ever, the Panama Canal con­tin­ues to be the top world-class al­lure this coun­try has to of­fer.

Also promis­ing are the prov­ince of Chiriqui or the Moon Val­ley, where the very im­por­tant com­mer­cial city of David is lo­cated; and the Baru Vol­cano, an icon of the re­gion with quet­zals, forests and set­tle­ments like the Bo­quete, Vol­can and Cerro Punta. In Chiquiri, visi­tors can en­joy agro-tourism and out­doors tours in a cool weather, have fresh veg­eta­bles and stay at very nice ho­tels and inns where hos­pitable peo­ple will help you have an un­for­get­table stay.

The Pana­ma­nian Caribbean is also a treat, where the crys­tal-clear wa­ters of the beaches of Bo­cas del Toro and the Colon Is­land with its wooden build­ings are a must. Ev­ery­thing is easy in this fun, mu­si­cal, won­der­ful neck of the woods.

When talk­ing about Panama, its eth­nic groups al­ways come to mind, con­sid­ered iconic cul­tural el­e­ments of the coun­try: the Em­beras in the Darien and in the Cha­gres River, just 40 min­utes from the city; the Ku­nas with 365 heav­enly is­lands, its an­ces­tral cul­ture, its mo­las and dances; the Gnobes of the Chir­i­cana Moun­tains and the Teribes of the forests and rivers of Bo­cas del Toro.

Panama is more, much more: its mod­ern high­ways, the par­adise of Las Per­las is­lands, the mer­lin fish­ing in Piñas Bay, that ex­clu­sive and fa­mous re­sort of Tropic Star, the car­ni­vals cel­e­brated in ev­ery sin­gle site of the coun­try, in par­tic­u­lar those in Las Tablas known for be­ing the most col­or­ful of those pop­u­lar fi­es­tas.

Panama is on fash­ion. En­joy it

6 spe­cial

Tourists at the Mi­raflo­res Visi­tors’ Cen­ter of the Panama Canal.

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