This year to beat the ‘Winter Blues’ I decided for the first time ever to book a winter holiday! I could have opted for an easy option like the Canary Islands but I wanted something much more exotic! So I started my search online to find an amazing destination. Lucky for me I found an amazing website called ‘ Voyage Prive’ …. which had an amazing choice of package holidays in many exotic locations ………but also at very competitive pricing.
So after some careful thought I finally decided to book a 2 week vacation to the amazing country Panama! And in January had one of the best holidays of my life! Panama is a country on the isthmus linking Central and South America. The Panama Canal, a famous feat of human engineering, cuts through its center, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to create an essential shipping route. In the capital, Panama City, modern skyscrapers, casinos and nightclubs contrast with colonial buildings in the Casco Viejo district and the rainforest of Natural Metropolitan Park.
Souvenirs like the famous Panama hat ( I bought 4) …. can be picked up at Victor’s, open until 10 at night. On our way to Plaza de Francia, there were several other souvenir shops, including La Ronda and El Faro, with a good selection of typical Panamanian handicrafts. We continued on towards the romantic Esteban Huertas walkway at French Square bordering the sea, with a spectacular view of Cerro Ancón, the Bridge of the Americas, the Biomuseum, the Amador Causeway, the Bay of Panama, and the modern city. Back at the square, we went to the Las Bóvedas restaurant for a variety of exquisite French cuisine, and to sip a few drinks at the bar, all with the added touch of jazz music.
On Avenue A, you can find restaurants for all tastes. Italian cooking is delicious at Caffe Per Due, where pizza is their specialty. If your passion is wine, right on the intersection of Avenue A with 4th Street is the wine bar Divino, an establishment dedicated to the preferred drink of the wine god Bacchus. Their collection of bottles comes from the major wine-producing countries of the world and they also recommend food pairings when tasting the different varieties of this exquisite beverage.
RESTAURANTS & FOOD
Also located on this avenue is a boutique called Reprosa that sells replicas of Indian jewelry. At the broad Herrera Plaza, on weekend evenings you can listen to contemporary music and sample a range of international appetizers at Puerta de Tierra, accompanied by a glass of wine for the finishing touch on your tour of Old Town. In Panama City’s Old Town, the ancient and modern coexist in harmony, making for a pleasant and memorable visit.
I was pleasantly surprised with the variety of amazing restaurants and bars most of my favourites were in Panamas Old Town which I have to confess was the best place to eat out!
Tinajas is the oldest and most famous traditional Panamanian restaurant in Panama. Diners can enjoy their meal accompanied by a one-hour folk performance, starting at 9:00 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday. Important to book ahead as it is always very busy!
Diablicos restaurant, in the city’s Old Town sector, also offers traditional food plus evening shows, with varied folk performances that include indigenous dances for an authentic dining experience.
Another restaurant famous for its Panamanian fare, and the locals’ preferred breakfast spot is El Trapiche. It has two locations: one on Via Argentina, El Cangrejo, and the most recent on in Albrook Mall, next to the casino. Then we went to Mi Ranchito and Pencas on the Naos Island of the Amador Causeway provides a spectacular view of Panama City. Under its typical palm-leaf thatched roof and while enjoying the taste traditional dishes, you will feel enveloped in a wholly Panamanian environment. At the entrance to the Causeway you can eat traditional meals in the cozy setting of the restaurant Pencas, with the sea and part of Panama City as the backdrop and the Biomuseum only a block away.
During our second week we decided to book a few different day trips with the hotels own Tour Operator. Most days we had to wake up quite early to join our guide who collected us directly from our hotel. But I was well worth it!
Our first trip was to El Valle de Antón which is a rural community built on the crater of an ancient inactive volcano. Due to its cool weather and calm environment at a reasonably short distance from the capital city, it is a popular weekend destination among nature-loving nationals. It has hotels and inns focused on wellness tourism and the area around the town is known for being one of the habitats of the Panamanian golden frog, an endangered species. Some interesting sites in El Valle are its trails, mountains, waterfalls, hot springs and the “El Nispero” zoo.
Our second trip was Boca del Drago, located a short distance from the center of Isla Colon, is one of the usual stops for boats leaving from Bocas Town. It is a peaceful beach surrounded by a beautiful landscape. There are cabins for rent and restaurants serving savory Caribbean cuisine dishes.
Our third trip was out towards the rainforest in Gamboa which is surrounded by an abundance of exuberant vegetation. In this area we visited the Municipal Summit Park, home of the harpy eagle; Soberania National Park, one of the city’s largest green areas and home to lush flora and varied fauna (such as caimans, crocodiles and iguanas), as well as the starting point to many outstanding birding trails; centers for those interested in ecotourism; and hotels that invite you to relax in a jungle environment.
Our final day trip was to “Kuna Yala”, Guna Yala is an indigenous territory located to the northeast of Panama, with more than 365 islands to visit. It is the home of the Guna indigenous group, who have maintained their culture and traditions, as well as the natural wealth of the area. Tourists may choose between hotel lodgings or the ecofriendly lodgings built by the locals. Restaurants offer traditional dishes, mostly seafood. Diving, swimming, enjoying the sun and relaxing amidst the beautiful surroundings are some of the visitors’ favorite activities. The most common way to get around in the archipelago is by sailing between the islands, but you may also fly from Panama City to one of the local airports in San Blas. We had an amazing experience snorkelling enjoying the local cuisine and the beautiful relaxing environment!
Overall my experience in Panama was one that I will never forget. I was blown away with the diversity it has to offer its tourists!
One thing for sure you will never be bored with the variety of trips and activities they have on offer! The locals were extremely warm and friendly! The traditional cuisine was simply delicious!
I loved this trip so much I plan to go back and discover more of this beautiful exotic country!