Panama’s most underrated destination for nature, culture and cuisine

From the peaks of La Amistad International Park to the tangled jungles of Darién, the Central American nation of Panama is home to truly spectacular natural beauty – and for those seeking a fascinating region that combines cultural immersion with plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure, it’s hard to beat Colón.

Perched along the Caribbean Sea, this gentle province measures over 1,750 square miles, offering plenty of opportunities for exploration all along its borders. While the southern depths of Colón are home to fascinating native species, there is a world of opportunity to be discovered on its sparkling shores, with many charming towns and vast reserves dotting the coast.

For seasoned outdoor adventurers, it’s best to head east, where the quaint neighborhood of Portobelo awaits. Founded in 1597 by the Spanish Empire, it served as a leading port city for the global silver trade, but its ideal position ended up being its downfall. Portobelo has been under regular attack over the centuries, changing hands between the English Empire and independent pirates over the years, with Spain eventually turning to smaller ports across the Americas for its purposes. commercial. While the community today numbers only a few thousand people, one of its main attractions is nearby in the form of Portobelo National Park.

Established in 1976, this coastal reserve is renowned for its pristine mangrove forests, and for those who want an up-close view of Panama’s Caribbean coastal ecosystems, Portobelo Adventures is the perfect guide. Although hiking and snorkeling day trips are available, the Cascajal River and Mangroves Tour offers a fascinating perspective on Panama’s native flora and fauna, drawing guests deep into the forest in search of wild animals. Mangrove crabs, three-toed sloths and white ibises are just some of the creatures that might make an appearance, while truly lucky visitors may spot the jaguarundi, a small wild cat that tends to hunt during the winter months. daytime.

There’s an incredible variety of animals to spot on a Colón coastal mangrove swamp tour, but the surrounding area is home to more than just wildlife. After an early morning expedition, downtown Portobelo is a particularly charming place to spend the day, offering stunning beaches, historical landmarks and a rich culture found nowhere else on earth.

Upon arrival, one of the city’s most impressive tourist attractions is on full display, namely Fort San Jerónimo. This massive military fortification is one of many structures built between the 17th and 18th centuries, each created to protect the coast from invading forces. While many of its strong companions have crumbled over time, San Jerónimo still stands strong and was even granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1980 due to its historical significance – and it’s far from it. the only concept recognized by UNESCO found in the region.

During the 1500s, many enslaved Africans living in Panama revolted against their Spanish captors, eventually establishing their own free colonies on the Caribbean coast. Today, their descendants continue their legacy through their Congolese culture, with traditional African festivals and rituals held throughout the year. On a trip to Portobelo, visitors can visit the Nazareno – a wooden statue of Jesus Christ carved centuries ago – or head to Black Zambombo to sample Afro-Caribbean style fried fish, but culture Congolese is perhaps best known for its many traditional dances and rituals, all of which contributed to its status as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2018.

Panama is home to stunning wildlife, beautiful natural sights and a host of fascinating cultures, and to experience all three in one fell swoop, Colón is the perfect destination. Although Portobelo is far from the largest community in the country, the city’s rich Afro-Caribbean heritage coupled with the abundant natural beauty that surrounds it makes for a truly memorable trip. As you plan your next vacation, don’t miss this highly underrated province.

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