Colon is a crumbling Colonial district, full of faded grand mansions and pastel-painted warehouses. It’s also your gateway to one of the most famous landmarks in the world, Panama Canal. This enormous waterway bridges the 48-mile gap between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, and gives cargo ships a helping hand on their around-the-world voyages.
• Fort San Lorenzo, in the sleepy town of Portobelo, dates back to Spanish colonial times, when it was destroyed by pirates. Now a World Heritage Site, it’s got ruins to explore, and sea views to capture on camera.
• Chagres National Park boasts over 300,000 acres of rainforests and rivers. Chagres River is great for rafting, and Alajuela Lake has perfect conditions for fishing and sailing. The indigenous villages of the Embera-Wounaan tribe can also be found here.
• Panama City is often compared to Miami and Rio de Janeiro. Casinos, nightlife and designer shops cater for tourists. If you’re serious about spending, try Via Espana, Latin America’s answer to Rodeo Drive.
SHORE EXCURSIONS► View all EXCURSIONS
Panama Canal Tour►
Built between 1904 and 1913, the Panama Canal is one of the world’s greatest feats of engineering. Connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the construction of this narrow, 80 kilometre-long waterway claimed over 20,000 lives – a clue to the monumental scale of the task. On this trip, you’ll witness this incredible construction first-hand, sailing the canal to where it meets the Pacific. To begin with, you’ll head inland and board the ferry, which will carry you along the canal. Complete with comfortable seating and open decks, it’s perfect for watching the passing scenery. You’ll start by sailing through the Gaillard Cut, the part of the canal that crosses the Continental divide and presented the biggest challenge during construction. Then, enjoy the views as you pass through two locks, each of which uses 197 million litres of water to operate. After crossing Miraflores Lake, you’ll then sail under the famous Bridge of the Americas out into the Pacific – look downwards and you’ll see the fresh canal water mingling with the salty ocean. Back on dry land, a bus will then return you to ship. Lunch on the ferry is included in the trip.
Panama City Tour►
Panama is the only place in the world where you can stand on the shores of the Atlantic and Pacific in less than an hour. And on this trip to Panama City that’s exactly what you’ll get to do. After setting off by coach at noon, you’ll arrive in this fascinating city, whose skyscrapers loom over the Pacific. Your sightseeing starts with a chaser of history – a visit to the ruins of Old Panama. Follow your guide around the crumbled walls and old cathedral tower, tracing the story of the original city, which was built by the Spanish in 1519 and destroyed by fire in 1670. Next, continue to Casco Antiguo, the old quarter of the new city, which was constructed after the first capital was destroyed. This atmospheric district is UNESCO-protected and woven with cobbled streets, churches and sunny plazas. See the Metropolitan Cathedral, whose belltowers are inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and admire the grand palaces and flower-festooned townhouses. Last but not least, you’ll walk along Las Bovedas, a historic walkway lined with plaques chronicling the history of the Panama Canal. Finally, enjoy some light refreshments before heading back to ship.
Embera Indian Village►
This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet indigenous Embera Indians, a tribal group who live in Panama’s rainforest. After driving into the wilderness of the National Park around the Chagres River, your adventure begins. Here, you'll take a short ride on a lake boat - or "Piraguas" as the Embera call them. Afterwards, you’ll be welcomed ashore by the locals who’ll show you around their simple settlement – a cluster of thatched huts built on stilts. Have a chance to see how they live – sitting on the floor and sleeping on mats – and learn how they move their ladders at night to stop wild animals getting inside. Afterwards, you’ll watch an Embera dance, then, have the chance to see some traditional carvings and knitting handicraft. You’ll also have chance to have a wonder around the village. And to round things off, you’ll get the opportunity to buy some Embera handicrafts, such as handmade baskets and pots.