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Panama Cultural Tour - Meet the Locals

  • Off the beaten track
Embark on a tour to expand your knowledge of the history of Panama, and its people.Meet the Guna and Embera tribes and learn of their cultures past and present.Panama culture has so many influences, including Spanish, African, Colombian, North American, West Indian, European and Chinese, making it an incredible multicultural land and a truly diverse and vibrant place to visit. ...

Embark on a tour to expand your knowledge of the history of Panama, and its people.
Meet the Guna and Embera tribes and learn of their cultures past and present.
Panama culture has so many influences, including Spanish, African, Colombian, North American, West Indian, European and Chinese, making it an incredible multicultural land and a truly diverse and vibrant place to visit. 

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Customizable tour itinerary

This tour idea is fully customizable

This itinerary has been crafted by our Local Agency with one idea in mind: to inspire you. Every element can be adapted to your needs and your interests, from duration to accommodation and activities.

Day 1: Your First Day in Panama 

You have arrived...

Your journey on the natural bridge between the Americas starts at Tocumen International airport, located 20 km East of Panama City.

After a short drive on the Pan-American highway you will discover the impressive skyline of Panama’s capital before arriving at your hotel.

Overnight at hotel Tryp Panama Centro

Visited:
Tocumen

Day 2: Panama City and Miraflores Locks

Culture and history...Panama City is the capital and by far the largest city in the country. Its impressive skyline and vibrant business activity make it the Dubai of Central America.However, it has a lot more to offer: you will visit ‘’Panama La Vieja’’ founded by the Spaniards in 1519 when they started to use Panama as a bridge to send to their mother country the gold of Peru… the city was destroyed in 1671 following the attack of pirate Henry Morgan. It was rebuilt a few years later and became the ‘’Casco Viejo’’, the old colonial quarter that hosts among many other monuments the Cathedral and the ‘’French Square’’ dedicated to the first Builders of the Canal.Miraflores Canal locks are the next stop after the visit of the ‘’Casco Viejo’’. They are huge water elevators that lift the ships to the level of Gatun Lake, 26 metres above sea level. Open in 1914 its chambers are now too small for the last generation of container carriers, this is why a set of new gigantic locks was recently inaugurated at Cocoli, about one mile from Miraflores.Overnight at hotel Tryp Panama Centro

Visited:
Panama City Miraflores

Day 3: Crossing Paths with the Embera

This excursion is an unforgettable trip through time. You will meet a very special culture still very much linked to its rainforest environment, with friendly people eager to share their beautiful traditions.

Your guide/ driver will pick you up at your hotel after breakfast and drive you through the Canal zone during about 1 hour until you reach the shores of Lake Alahuela, where your Embera hosts will be waiting for you. You will board one of their narrow dugout canoes and start navigating of the lake first, then on the small river Pequeñi through the rainforest. You will probably see many birds such as cormorants, herons, egrets and kingfishers, and may see turtles resting on the banks.

You will discover the village and its authentic huts built on stilts.

The Embera come from the province of Darien and the ‘’Choco’’ area of Colombia.

Your hosts are the descendants of families who settled in the Chagres National Park area about 40 years ago. You will see them with their traditional body paintings, used for all special occasions.

They will sing and dance for you and you will share a traditional lunch: fish and ‘’patacones‘’ (fried plantain).

They will also explain their artisanal craft: wood carvings and small figures in ‘’vegetable ivory’’, baskets and masks.

In the afternoon you will have time to take a refreshing bath in the river Pequeñi, rest in your hammock or take more photos of the people and the beautiful nature surrounding the village.

Stay overnight at the Embera village in a traditional hut on stilts (tent or hammock).

Visited:
Chagres Nationalpark

Day 4: Explore the Rainforest with the Embera

Embera culture...

Your day will start early with a good breakfast, then you will leave the village to explore Chagres National park ’s rainforest with your Embera guide. You will go up the Pequeñi river in a small dugout canoe. After the boat ride you will start hiking under the giant trees. Your guide will show you some of the plants the Embera use for their traditional medecine. You will keep your eyes open to try to spot the local fauna… there are good chances to see the beautiful poison arrow frog; dendrobates auratus, with its psychedelic colours. The trail ends at the Pequeñi Riverside where your canoe will be waiting for you. On the way back you will pass through several rapids, it is a fun and exciting experience. Back to the village you will take a refreshing swim in the river while your Embera hosts prepare lunch. In the afternoon you will come back to lake Alahuela and enjoy your transfer to your hotel in Panama City.

Overnight at hotel Tryp Panama Centro

Visited:
Tocumen Panama City

Day 5: From Rainforest to Coral Reefs

On day 5, yoou will take an early transfer from your hotel to Albrook national airport, catch your flights to San Blas, leaving at 6 AM…

You will fly over Panama’s impressive rainforest before landing at Playon Chico’s small ‘’airport’’, in front of a gorgeous scenery of islands and coral reefs.

Your Guna hosts will be waiting for you to take you to the nearby island of Yandup.

Yandup is a private island owned by a Guna family, as are all the other 375 islands and islets of this incredible archipelago.

Yes, San Blas is a very special place in the Caribbean and Latin America. It is not only a paradise of desert islands, white beaches and transparent waters, it is also one of the autonomous territories of the Guna.

It was the Guna who helped Conquistador Vasco Nuñez de Balboa in 1513 when he became the first European to cross the Isthmus and find the Pacific Ocean.

The Guna obtained a special status in the 30s and nowadays San Blas is governed by the traditional chiefs, called ’’Sahilas’’ and traditional law rules here, Panamanian government providing healthcare and education.

You will stay at Yandup Lodge for two days. The lodge will organize two daily excursions during your stay, with local Guna guides: visits to a Guna village where you will see the ‘’Casa del Congreso’’; from where the Sahilas rule whilst lying in their hammocks (the hammock being the symbol of their power), take trips to other islands to enjoy the amazing beaches and snorkel, visit a Guna cemetery, go on an excursion to see the mangrove and rainforest hikes are also available for those who are interested.

Stay overnight Yandup lodge.

Visited:
San Blas

Day 6: In Paradise with the Guna

Cultural delight...

Second daily excursion with local Guna guides: visits to a Guna village where you will see the ‘’Casa del Congreso’’; from where the Sahilas rule whilst lying in their hammocks (the hammock being the symbol of their power), take trips to other islands to enjoy the amazing beaches and snorkel, visit a Guna cemetery, go on an excursion to see the mangrove and rainforest hikes are also available for those who are interested.

Stay overnight Yandup lodge.

Visited:
San Blas

Day 7: From Paradise Islands to a Volcano!

Heading west...

After a light breakfast, catch a transfer by boat to Playon Chico. Planes coming from Panama City usually arrive around 7 am so you can expect to be back in the capital around 8 h 15.

Upon arrival at Albrook national airport you will be met with your guide and driver… you will leave Panama City, pass over the impressive ‘Bridge of the Americas’’ that crosses the Panama Canal and take the Pan-American Highway to the west.

After a 1 hour drive you will leave the Pan-American Highway and take a little road going north until you reach ‘’El Valle’’.

‘’El Valle’’, is a large volcanic valley just 130 km from the capital and thanks to its cool climate it is a favourite destination for wealthy Panamanians. See incredible properties and gardens in the middle of the huge crater; one of America’s largest (more than 5 km wide).

You will hike along a beautiful rainforest trail to the top of ‘’Cerro Gaital’’ through a fascinating world of giant ferns covered with moss and epiphytes. The trail ends at a mirador where you will enjoy a great panoramic view of the crater.

Back to the village you will make a stop to admire the famous "Piedra Pintada", an ancient petroglyph representing a map of the region.

After lunch you will have time to visit the little local market. Especially on Sundays, many local families come from the entire valley to sell their goods on the colourful market: fruits, vegetables, orchids and handicrafts.

Overnight at Hotel Campestre

Visited:
Panama City El Valle Volcano

Day 8: The Friendly People of Vaquilla

4 wheel driving...

Your guide and chauffeur will pick you up early at your hotel. You will come back to the Pan-American Highway and drive to the town of Penonome.

From Penonome, you will take a little road that goes through a beautiful landscape of little farms and forested hills until you arrive in front of the ‘’Cerro La Vieja’’ with its impressive rocky slopes. You will change your car for a 4x4 before leaving the main road for a rough dirt road going down steep.

Your destination is the village of Vaquilla, nested inside a spectacular valley.

There is no cattle ranch there, no deforestation as the inhabitants dedicate themselves to small-scale agriculture.

You will be welcomed by the ladies of the local cooperative that will take you first to the little church for a visit, then to the local school where the little kids in uniform will perform a few traditional dances, called ‘’Tipico’’.

After the visit of the school you will be invited for lunch by one of the ladies.

These people don’t have much but they will share it with you with all their heart and a big smile.

You will come back to Cerro la Vieja after lunch and make a short hike on a trail through the jungle that will lead you to the spectacular Tavida waterfall. You will be rewarded of your efforts by a refreshing bath in front of the cascade. Later in the afternoon you will come back to Penonome and the Pan-American highway and drive all the way to Pedasi, in the very south of the country, in the Azuero Peninsula.

Overnight at hotel Casa de Campo, Pedasi

Visited:
El Valle Volcano Vaquilla Pedasi

Day 9: Azuero's Master Craftsmen

Folklore and friendly faces...

Azuero is a large peninsula in southern Panama. It is the very heart of rural Panamanian culture, full of folklore, friendly faces and natural beauties. You will see the manufacturing process of the traditional products of the province: sugarcane, salt, pottery and bread. We will first discover the many uses of sugarcane, from the refreshing juice known as "Guarapo" to the traditional cooking of sugarcane syrup and to the production of artisanal liquor. We will see the extraction of salt from the Pacific Ocean, visit a handmade clay pottery workshop, and learn how famous "La Arena" bread is baked.

After a traditional lunch, learn why many consider Azuero "the cultural heart of Panama". Learn about the fabrication of the ''Pollera", one of the most beautiful costumes in the world, by visiting an elder lady who has dedicated all her life to the traditional dress of Panamanian women. We will also visit small workshops of local artisans who produce the colourful devil's masks, the drums used in local music and the gold ornaments that are part of the traditional Panamanian culture.

Overnight at hotel Casa de Campo, Pedasi

Visited:
Pedasi Azuero

Day 10: Iguana Island - Nice Discovery

Wildlife refuge...

After breakfast transfer to Playa El Arenal a few minutes from Pedasí, where your boatman will be waiting to transport you to Iguana Island: a wildlife refuge 8 kilometres off the coast. The island is famous for its white sand beach, crystal waters, extensive mangrove forests and coral reef with 12 different types of corals that shelter more than 300 species of fish. Dolphins are frequently seen, as well as (harmless) sharks, turtles and – between June and October – humpback whales that migrate from Antarctica to Panama’s warm tropical waters. Iguana Island is also home to a large breeding colony of frigate birds and – as the island’s name suggests – iguanas. You will snorkel above the coral reef and the colourful tropical fish. Then relax on the stunning white sand beach for a while, before hiking on a trail that crosses the island from west to east, to observe frigates and iguanas. Lunch with be either a picnic lunch on the island or back to Pedasi. After the tour your driver will take you to the superb beach of Playa Venao, about 30 minutes from Pedasi

Overnight at Villa Marina, Playa Venao

Visited:
Isla Iguana Playa Venao

Day 11: Relaxing Day On The Beach

A day of leisure...

Day at leisure to enjoy the beach and the generous nature around Playa Venao.

Overnight at Villa Marina, Playa Venao

Visited:
Isla Iguana

Day 12: Back To The Capital

Back to Panama...

You will have the morning to keep on swimming, exploring and relaxing.

After lunch your driver will take you to Chitre, located about one hour from Pedasi by road. You will take the afternoon plane to Panama City, where another car will transfer you to your hotel.

Overnight at hotel Tryp Panama Centro

Visited:
Panama City

Day 13: Panama Farewells You

Thank you for visiting...

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and it is time for you to go back home with amazing memories from Panama.

Your trip will finish where it started, at Tocumen international airport where you will be transferred by one of our drivers.

Visited:
Panama Tocumen

Tocumen Panama City Miraflores Chagres Nationalpark San Blas El Valle Volcano Vaquilla Pedasi Azuero Isla Iguana Playa Venao Panama

Price details

This tour idea is fully customizable

The price reflects this specific itinerary and is designed to give you an idea of the budget required for this destination. Throughout the trip-planning process, our local agency will tailor your itinerary around your budget.

Approx. $2,760 / 13 days
Excluding international flights
Low Season (December 1st - April 30th)                            High Season (May 1st - November 31st)
Price per person, based on double occupancy $2,840 $2,890

Included in price:

  • All transfers as described
  • All tours as described with English-speaking guide
  • 4 nights at hotel Tryp, Panama City
  • 1 night in the Embera village
  • 2 nights at Yandup Lodge, San Blas
  • 2 excursions / day in San Blas (local guide)
  • 1 Night at hotel Campestre, El Valle
  • 2 Nights at hotel Casa de Campo, Pedasi
  • 2 Nights at hotel Villa Marina, Playa Venao
  • Meals as described before days descriptions : B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner
  • Flight Panama City - Playon Chico RT ( 14 kg PP )
  • Flight Chitre - Panama City

Not included in price:

  • International flights
  • English-speaking guide in San Blas
  • Guide during airport transfers
  • Optional tours and activities

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