Re-Discovering Colon Province

By Carina Forster

The low season is here!   the time when the EcoCircuitos team explores the regions of beautiful Panama, looking for new exciting activities, tasty restaurants and nice hotels to use in our programs. All departments are working together, developing ideas and creating new exciting itineraries to our favorite places in Panama. Yesterday we explored beautiful Colon region, with its laid-back Caribbean flair, deep rainforests and colorful towns full of pirates and buccaneers history.

Crossing the country in the early morning by train, our way led along the Panama Canal from Panama City on the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean town of Colon. We quickly forgot the early hours with breathtaking views of lush rainforest, the Panama Canal and jungle lakes covered in mystic morning fog.

Being picked up by our EcoCircuitos driver Roberto at the train station in Colon, we started our road trip along the palm-fringed coast line to the colorful town of Portobelo. The charming little village does not only offer incredible history, with once being one of the most important ports in the Caribbean Sea, but surprises with lovely remains of African culture in form of Congo dances and expressive pieces of art next to lush rainforest adventures and superb snorkeling.

Every team member has his or her own preferences and opinions; however, when it came to the Arrecifes restaurant we discovered in the town of Colon, everyone was just as excited about the delicious typical fresh seafood lunch offered next to an extensive view of the Panama Canal.

To continue our road trip deep into the jungle to the Fort of San Lorenzo, we waited for a spot between large container ships to cross the Panama Canal by ferry. Following a romantic wild road surrounded by lush rainforest, we let monkeys, birds and coatimundis cross the street. The fortress of San Lorenzo lies on the edge of steep cliffs, overlooking the surrounding coast lines with abandoned beaches and wild rainforest as far as your eyes can reach.

After a successful day of collecting inspirations, testing logistics and forming partnerships, the creative part starts, with using our experiences and ideas for developing unique brand-new itineraries.

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Weekend getaway: Historic Portobelo and Caribbean Beaches

By:  Carina Forster – Intern from Austria

Insider tipp: Last weekend I explored the charming small town of Portobelo on the Caribbean Coast which is a hotspot for Panamanian weekend retreats; however, it still remains mainly unexplored by foreign tourists. The only way of getting there- except from day tour with a tour operator EcoCircuitos Panama – involved a bumpy ride in a colorful old school bus, where happy salsa music loudly went along with the roaring old engines of the rattling bus.

It was hard to believe that this laid-back village has once hosted Central America`s most important harbor. Only the old ruins and the UNESCO forts, which are spread out all over the charming fishing village, prove of its glorious past.  If you tour with a naturalist and interpretative guide you will travel to the battles between Pirates and Conquistadors.

A short boat ride away, I found cast-away Caribbean beaches, where lush rain forests meet white sand, turquoise waters and coral reefs. And while already being astonished by the unreal beauty surrounding me, two toucans were peacefully flying over the picturesque bay, forming a scenario like in a dream.

If you are interested in this tour and many more, please contact us for more information.  We offer snorkeling tours in the Caribbean side of Portobello.  Contact info@ecocircuitos.com

The Congo Dances from Portobello: Celebrating our African heritage

 The Congo Dance of Panama is a unique and colorful celebration of dances and part of the folklore in the province of #Colon. The dance has its roots in Africa and came to Panama by way of escaped former slaves known as “Cimarrons.”  The dance has been passed on from generation to generation, and can be seen today in the province of Colon, in costal towns such as Portobello (1 ½ hours from Panama City) where the Afro-Panamanian legacy remains very much alive.  Girls and women from #Colon province during the Congo festivities.

The Congos of Portobelo today are the descendants of the cimarrones—runaway slaves who fought for their freedom during the Spanish colonial period. After escaping into the mountain hills and forest, the cimarrones built their villages (Palenques) from which they waged wars against their former enslavers.

The Congos is beautiful dance full of mystery and legends, in which men and women stage with dances, songs and sonorous drums, the ancestral drama of life, and the fight between the good and evil.

The women dance swaying their hips in an almost erotic manner, using hands and feet to mark the man limits. They wear a long skirt made ​​up of a patchwork of very bright colors fabric, a blouse with a colorful frill necklaces, flower in her hair, and bare feet. The men wear a fringed shirt and pants (made of strips of colored cloth), masks, and bare feet and dance around the women, doing their best to get close and kiss them. The rhythm of drums, singing and applause invites everyone around to participate in the Congo.

Check out the video below of a local news report about the 2013 Festival of Diablos and Congos: