Panama displays a great variety of landscapes, as this small strip of land unites the two blocks of the American continent. Acting as a backbone, the mountains run across this green and lush country from one side to the other, bordered in the North and South by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The famous eponymous canal allows ships to go from one to the other after having sailed along its 50 miles. Although not very well-known as a beach holiday destination, those who travel to Panama will discover immense beaches lined with lush greenery diving into the sea. In addition to this, there are over 1,500 islands off Panama ? Heavenly!
If you like partying, do not miss out on the carnival of Panama City or of Azuero peninsula which takes place in February, 4 days before Ash Wednesday: it is true madness! The Kuna Indian community will let you take pictures of them for a small payment: from USD 0.25 to USD 1 per shot...
+Whereas the neighbouring country Costa Rica is going through a tourist boom, the marvels of Panama have remained fairly unexplored by tour operators.
+Within a few hours, you will switch from the jungle peopled with wild animals to dream-like beaches lined with coconut trees.
-The constant, humid heat can turn into a serious down point for travellers.
-The cost of living is higher than that of neighbouring countries.
Partying is entirely part of the Panamanian way of life. As a result, folks' traditions such as Tipico in the centre of Panama are omni-present. It alone has formed a style of music, cuisine, dancing and costumes. To be discovered particularly at the time of the many organized festivals. Music and dances are everywhere, let us mention, among many other national dances - Mejorana, punto and tamborito. For the occasion, female dancers wear the pollera (traditional costume worn at the time of festivities). Unavoidable in Panama, the Carnival is celebrated over 5 days during which the whole country comes to a standstill.
The country's national dish is sancocho, spicy chicken and vegetable stew. Sopa vieja (old soup) is a spicy beef dish served with rice. You can eat excellent seafood on the coast. They are usually served with coconut sauce. In the streets, you will have empanadas - fried meat pies or, for dessert, a platano maduro - a banana fried in butter and sprinkled over with cane sugar. Chichas are excellent - slightly watered down fruit juices.
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Panama is the kingdom of tax-free shopping; you will be able to take home hi-fi and video items, clothes... at giveaway prices. The traditional souvenir is mola - beautiful cloth painted by the women of the Kuna Indian tribe. Small and cheap: roughly USD 5. The rest of the local handicraft consists of wooden masks and ceramics made on the Azuero peninsula. Shops are open from 8.30/9 am to 7 pm, everyday, except for Sundays, but the opening times vary from one place to the other.