The San Blas Islands, an archipelago of 378 islands of which only 50 are populated by an indigenous people called Kuna, are the most popular tourist destination of the Panamanian and Central American people, though little known by others. They are located northeast of the Isthmus of Panama and cover 100 square miles. Our first day in Panama will be spent there. I am not sure what we will do, but the main form of transportation is sailing so how could it be bad?
Our second day in Panama will be spent traversing the Panama Canal. The canal, built between 1904 and 1914 by the US Army Corps of Engineers after an earlier attempt by France was doomed by yellow fever and malaria, belonged to the US until December 31, 1999 when its ownership reverted to Panama. It was expanded between 2007 and 2016 to create a third lane and double cargo capacity. It will take our cruise ship a whole day to traverse the canal at a fare of over $100,000. The canal, which connects the Caribbean Sea on the east to the Pacific Ocean on the west, actually runs in a north-south direction with locks on both the northern and southern sides with lakes in the middle.
Finally, we visit Panama City which is Panama’s capital and largest city, home to over 2 million people, half of Panama’s population. One of the most interesting features of the city is Parque Natural Metropolitano located on Ancon Hill. This is a 265 hectare (654 acres) tropical semi-deciduous forest within the city limits which is home to over 250 kinds of birds, monkeys, antelope, sloths, and white-tailed deer. A summit look-out in the park has views of the canal and the bay. A canal museum, housed in the original French Canal Company’s headquarters, honors the 22,000 French workers who died trying to build the canal and has a monument to Carlos Finlay, a Cuban doctor who discovered that mosquitoes transmit yellow fever. Stay tuned in January to find out what I actually get to see and do.