Top Five Facets of Panama
Whether you’re visiting Panama as a tourist or moving there as an expat, here are some of the features that make up the country’s individual spirit that you should not miss:
1. Panama City. As the most vibrant, cosmopolitan, urban center in Central America, Panama City is the only capital city in the region that is a true pleasure to hang out in. While the other capital cities in Central America are places to escape from, Panama City is a place to escape to.
2. The Panama Canal. One of the seven modern wonders of the world, no one will ever forget standing feet away from a massive supertanker as it passes through the Miraflores Locks. The Panama Canal is fascinating for its story (the story of the Canal is the story of Panama itself) and also for its beauty. Lake Gatun, a man-made lake, flooded to build the Canal, is an oasis of nature all by itself.
3. The San Blas Islands. This archipelago runs along the top of Panama in the Caribbean Sea. It is an anthropologist’s dream. Home to the Kuna people, visiting these islands also means visiting the Kuna. It’s well worth checking out.
4. The Darien. People tell you it’s dangerous and that’s no joke. Before even thinking about entering, you need to find guides you can trust. But the Darien is one of the most remote, isolated places in the world. And for that reason alone, you should put it on your Panama bucket list.
5. Volcan Baru. Panama’s highest peak at almost 11,400’ is a must-do in Panama. Situated in the far west of the country close to Costa Rica, it’s not a difficult climb. You need to be fit, yes, but you don’t need to be a mountaineer. This mountain is particularly special because, on a clear day, you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans from one spot.
Month-by-Month Guide to Costa Rica (When to Come for What)
There is never a bad time to be in Panama. The city never sleeps and the weather is always hot. What more can you ask for? But if you have a preference, here’s what’s going on where and when in Panama.
- January. One of the four months where it’s expected to be dry, January is a great time to be in Panama. If you’re a fan of raves and EDM (electronic dance music), the Day After Festival has been kicking off over a mid-month weekend for a couple of years, now. January 9th is also a public holiday for Martyr’s Day, which remembers the students killed while protesting the US presence in the 1960s. There is also an annual jazz festival in Panama City and Boquete holds one of the biggest and best flower shows in the world – the Feria de las Flores y del Cafe.
- February. Latin America always gets into carnival mood in February and Panama is no exception. Towns all over the country party like crazy people. But Panama City, in particular, goes nuts, as everyone gets under the hoses of the fire trucks spraying water and gets soaking wet while dancing. For a more traditional festival, the towns on the Azuero Peninsula like Las Tablas also put on a show.
- March. The city of David in the west of Panama is the place to be as it holds its annual technology show. This also combines with musical and cultural events in the town.
- April. Easter is the big thing here – it either happens in April or March. Religious parades take place throughout the country. After that, people get out to the beach or the mountains to relax and spend time with their families. Boquete also hosts its annual Orchid Festival during this month. Collectors from all over the world flock to the mountain town.
- May/June. Not much happens during these two months in Panama. The rains have started and they’re at a stage where they’re super refreshing, close to the start of the season. At some point in late May or early June, the two-week Corpus Christi festivities kick off in the town of La Villa de Dos Santos on the Azuero Peninsula. The town dresses up as angels and devils representing good and evil and do battle with each other on the streets through orchestrated dancing and acting. This goes on for two weeks and after the forces of good win, everyone has a big party.
- July. Another Azuero town, Las Tablas, has its patron feast day on the 22nd, called the Pollera Festival. Polleras are the traditional dresses worn by Panamanian women. People come from all over the country to check out and exhibit the best dresses, after which a “Pollera Queen” chosen.
- August. There will be a party on somewhere. If not, hang at the beach or enjoy Panama City!
- September. The Bocas del Toro is where it’s at this month as the islands celebrate the International Festival of the Sea.
- October. The Festival de Cristo Negro (Festival of the Black Christ) is a special one in Panama. It takes place in Portobelo, where people from all over Panama come to pay homage to the wooden effigy of Christ in the Iglesia de San Felipe. It’s the one time of the year that the effigy gets taken out of the church and paraded around to music. This is Panama’s most religious event.
- November. November is independence month in Panama and everyone gets patriotic. November 3rd and 4th are Independence Day and Flag Day, and then November 10th is the Call For Independence Day. After that, November 28th celebrates the original independence from Spain. All these events call for parties and days off from work. The biggest ones are on the 3rd and 4th when parades march through every town and city in the country. Up in the highlands of Volcan, an arts and culture festival also kicks off around the end of the month.
- December. As in the rest of Central America, the Christmas Holidays are a family time. People get to the beaches or the mountains if they can to enjoy this special time of year together. It’s also the time of year when the rain starts to stop and the weather gets sunny again.