5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites that reveals Panama’s cultural and natural wonders

Did you know that Panama has 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites? Well if you didn’t, check this out!

Three Natural Sites

Since 1981: Darien National Park

This incredible National Park in the Eastern part of Panama, on the borders of Colombia, is home to an extraordinarily rich flora and fauna. It has a variety of habitats from tropical forests, mangroves and swamps, wetlands and beaches. Two of Panama’s indigenous tribes the Wounaan and Embera have their home in this incredible park. It has 169 identified mammals, to name some of them: the near threatened jaguar, the endangered tapir, bush dog and the capybara. Darien National Park has a lot to offer if you are in love with nature and incredible biodiversity!

 

Since 1983: La Amistad National Park and Talamanca Range- La Amistad reserves

The Talamanca Mountains are enclosed by this breathtaking national park and reserves. It is considered to be the tallest and wildest mountain range in Central America. There are numerous ecosystems and landforms, such as rivers, valleys and lakes which were shaped by glaciers. Also in this national park you can find an incredible amount of different animals: 215 mammals including the Puma and Jaguar and abundant bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species. Don’t miss this incredible biodiversity and unique scenery!

Since 2005: Coiba National Park

This unique island  once was a penal colony and along with other 38 smaller islands and its surrounding marine area is the Coiba site National Park. Abundant marine life such as whales and tiger sharks has its home in the surrounding marine area. The variety of endemic flora and fauna on this wonderful island is due to years of separation from the Mainland. You really should discover the natural beauties of the island, but always in a sustainable way!

Two Cultural Sites

Since 1980: Portobelo-San Lorenzo Caribbean Fortifications

The forts of Portobelo and San Lorenzo, listed as endangered, were constructed by Spanish colonialists to protect the first town of Panama Ciy which had become a very significant trade center. The forts continuously suffered attacks by pirates. It really is an incredible site, as it provides very important information about the defense system which was used in the 17th and the 18th centuries!  Don’t miss the site for the real Pirates of the Caribbean.

 

Since 1997: Panamá Viejo Archaeological Site and Historic District of Panamá

The Panama Viejo Archaeological Site and Historic District of Panama dates back to the 16th century, and is the oldest European settlement along the Pacific coast. In 1673 it has been burned to the ground, so it was located in Casco Viejo.

Significant information on various aspects of the social life, communication and the economy can be read through the ruins. Numerous Churches, medieval houses, the presidential palace and the Salón Bolivar are cultural landmarks in the historic district. Follow the the steps of the Spanish empire in Latin America in this beautiful site and book a historical tour with us.

Panama has so much to offer – besides of an incredible nature and biodiversity, our beautiful country has a very significant history. Our local guides will take you through an unforgettable cultural, historical and natural experience through our beautiful country! For tours or more information contact annie@ecocircuitos.com or visit our website http://www.ecocircuitos.com.

Adventure, Conservation and Education

EcoCircuitos is specialized in educational travel experiences. Our guides are experts in their field and provide in-depth insights and understandings from culture and history to biodiversity. These understandings foster authentic travel experiences as well as responsible encounters between travelers and nature, biodiversity and local people. Contact us and experience the real #Panama.

10 Reasons to visit Panama

There are many reasons to visit Panama. You have probably already thought of the Panama Canal, which is one of the world’s most famous feats of modern engineering. Maybe you have considered the exotic jungles or the weather, which is warm year round. But there is much more to discover in Panama.

El Biomuseo abre sus puertas al p˙blico el 2 de octubre de 2014.
Biomuseo Panama

 1. The Wildlife

There is an incredible number of animals living in Panama. Roughly 230 types of mammals sound impressive? and more than 1000 bird species for comparison! And then we still have not counted the reptiles, amphibians and insects…

And many of those animals are really not that hard to find.  There are butterflies as large as my entire hand. I can see Iguana from my office window. I watch pelicans catch fish in the bay on my way home from work. There are sloth, monkeys, toucans and who knows what else living within the boundaries of Panama City. So imagine what you might encounter in more remote spots…tiny brightly colored frogs, ocelots, anteaters, multicolored birds, you name it! The biodiversity here is amazing, and, nicely enough, dangerous or venomous animals are extremely rare.

 

2.  The Climate

Panama is tropical and warm all year round.  You are in an endless summer here.  You won’t need to pack too much and you’ll be able to enjoy the tropical climate throughout your vacation.

3. The cultural diversity

The Panamanian cultural diversity consists of seven indigenous groups which includes the Caribbean and Latin American sub-cultures with influences of the Spanish conquistadores. Today, the country’s population is made up of Chinese, Jewish and Arab neighbors living door to door with retired US citizens, European business people and travelers from around the world.  Everyone adds to Panama’s melting pot, making the country a bit more colorful.

 

 4. The different places to be

Well, you probably know that Panama has rainforests. Jungle excursions are a definite option here. Or, for a slight change of scenery, try the cloud forest in the highlands, where the mossy trees are covered in fog and where wild orchids flourish. But that is not all the country has to offer. There are mountains, cloudforest where world-famous coffee is grown, mangrove swamps, even a desert (imagine that, in a tropical country!). And then, of course, we have the coast, 2500 kilometers of it to be precise. Numerous beaches and islands in the Caribbean Sea and on the Pacific coast are waiting to be explored. Think crystal-clear water, white sand and the occasional coconut tree – we have it. Coral reefs? Have those too. And it’s all within easy reach. A few hours driving or a short flight is all it takes to change between these different places. There is even a national park inside Panama City! Sometimes it feels like there is a lifetime of exploration waiting for me in this country.

 

5. Is Affordable

Panama currency is the US Dollar (officially know as the Balboa).  It is an incredible affordable place to visit.

6. Is Safe

Panama is one of the safest countries in Latin America.  Crime is very low and there is even a tourist police.

7. The things to do

I do not even know where to start on this one. Adventure? There is river rafting, rock climbing and wilderness expeditions in the jungles of Darien, to name just a few…of course, there is kayaking as well, mountain biking, horseback riding, any kind of outdoor sports really. Or maybe you like golf? Tennis? Sailing? I personally love the great surfing and diving spots that can be found in both oceans, and the wonderful beaches. And when I had enough activity, there are so many hidden island retreats and luxurious spa options that help me disconnect from the world for a bit…

 

8. Panama City and Casco Viejo

Panama City deserves a visit. Shopping malls, little art galleries and amazing restaurants wait there. Every weekend brings a new event, a festival, a concert or an exhibition. The beautiful Casco Viejo, the colonial style old quarter, which is actually UNESCO World Heritage, is always worth a visit.  I love the combination of old and new Panama City offers, traditional crafts and modern art, old buildings set against the backdrop of the modern skyline…I think it would take me a lifetime to discover all Panama City has to offer.

 

9. An International hub  

Panama is an airline hub that connects Central America with the rest of the world. Almost every major airline flights to Panama today:   United, Copa, American Airlines, Delta, British Airways, Air Canada, Lufthansa, KLM, Air France, Iberia, Turkish Airlines, Avianca, Aeromexico among others.

10. Amazing Gastronomy

Panama’s local cuisine infused with fresh local produce, seafood and other unique ingredients are competing against other great well known culinary destinations in Latin America.  Panama offers a wide choice of restaurants to suit everyone’s taste and budget. From great cuisine and international chefs to real Panamanian food experience.   I love to eat out and here are my suggestions to make your gastronomic experience in Panama City unforgettable.

There are a million more things that I could talk about, but I do not have the space here…best discover it for yourself. The one thing I can promise, whatever you like to do, Panama is definitely worth a visit.

Expedition to Darien and Guna Yala

Adventure, Conservation and Education

By Raffaele Capomolla

The Darien – A region of Panama, that is still unexplored, with an incredible biodiversity, stunning wildlife and a breathtaking beauty. The Darien is not just a place to go and see, but place you will admire, where you will literally feel the nature, which will offer you an unforgettable experience. I had the chance to accompany a group of biology students from the St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas through an adventure in Panama’s treasure of wildlife. The adventure started very early in the morning in Panama City, where we were picked up for a long drive to El Real in the Region of Darien. Once arrived there, we had to hike for 2 hours until we arrive to place called “Rancho Frio”, where we would overnight in tents and hammocks, exposed to nature, in the middle of this beautiful, virgin rainforest. The next day we went on a trail in the area, which beat all our expectations – we saw the impressive harpy eagle, a powerful and very beautiful prey bird. To finish this great trail our extraordinary local guides took us to a wonderful waterfall to have a swim and eat a snack in the middle of nature. We were impressed of what the Darien gave us to see; amazing birds, snakes, insects and amphibians. The region of the Darien is also habitat of the Jaguars; unfortunately, we didn’t see them, but that’s nature is – unpredictable.

Our next part of the trip was an incredible, cultural experience. We went to the Mogue indigenous community, where the “Embera” have their houses made of wood. We literally got to experience their way of living, their old traditions, their typical food and their language. We were impressed of the simplicity of their lives, with no electricity, no internet, just using the nature in a sustainable way.  I was touched of the answer of an Embera when I asked him: “How much meat do you eat? Do you kill animals for food every day?” And he replies: No, because if we kill a lot of animals in a short time, we won’t have enough”. It seems ridiculous, but this is something a lot of people nowadays still don’t realize – Such a simple and obvious answer, but too many people still continue to eat meat every day. We stayed a night in one of those rustic but very authentic houses of the Embera.

Guna Yala, San Blas Cultural Expedition

The last part of our trip was in the beautiful Archipelago of San Blas, called “Kuna Yala” in indigenous language. Not only we enjoyed the typical Caribbean, crystal-clear waters of the Atlantic ocean, but also the culture of this indigenous community, which had to fight a lot for their territory. We slept in comfortable, rustic cabanas and had fresh seafood every day. The Kunas are very organized and very proud of their culture, which they always transmit to future generations. I was picking up a coconut that fell from a palm tree and was first a little confused when a Kuna asked me to pay for the coconut I just found on the sand. But then I understood as he explained to me that the coconut is a very important and sacred object in their daily lives, because the coconut is still used as a payment method for goods. We had then the chance to visit the village and the Museum of the Kunas, where Mister Delfino explained us everything about the history, the culture and traditions of the kunas.

If you are planning to come to Panama, don’t miss the chance to visit the incredible, natural beauty of the Darien and the marvelous clear waters of San Blas. You will have it all in one – Nature, Culture and Adventure! The EcoCircuitos Team and our naturalist guides will be happy to organize this adventure for you. Just contact us!

info@ecocircuitos.com or annie@ecocircuitos.com

10 Best things to do in Panama City

There are a lot of reasons to visit Panama. You have probably already thought of the Panama Canal, which is one of the world’s most famous accomplishments of modern engineering. Maybe you have considered a tropical island or beach, or just the climate, which is warm all year round. But there is a lot more to Panama: read here some of our staff picks to do in Panama City.

1.  Visit Seafood market and walk or bike Cinta Costera towards the Casco Antiguo neighborhood while eating a fresh seafood ceviche.
2.  Take a tour at the Biodiversity Museum and hire of our naturalist guides for an introductory rainforest tour in the Metropolitan Park

3.  Bar hopping in Casco Viejo at night and don´t miss the Jazz Bar in the American Trade Hotel

4.  Historical City Tour– walking Panama la Antigua and learn about the Pirates and Conquistadors and the Canal zone era

5.  Kayaking the Panama Canal in the Gatun Lake and a visit to a local Wounaan community for handcrafts shopping

6.  Visit the Contemporary Art Museum and take a Art Cultural Tour with a local panamanian artist

7.  Hike, bike or wildlife observation at one of the many trails of the Soberania National Park

8.  Go on a historical trekking the old 8-mile Camino de Cruces Trail takes you through primarily tropical forest

9.  Ride the Transcontinental train towards the Atlantic side in one day: The Pirate trail and Panama Canal

10.  Enjoy the local gastronomy (tasajo empanada, carimañola, tortilla, yuca frita, and the seafood of Panama).

Jazz Festival in Panama

By Juliette Darmon

For the 14th edition, the Jazz Festival takes place in Panama City, from the 10th to the 14th of January 2017.

This celebration is a cultural project where the creativity, exchange, talent and inspiration made of this event a real international reference which welcomes more than 20 thousand people each year.

For 2017, the festival is proud to dedicate the event to the famous singer Violeta Green, for its contribution. Thanks to the help of the government, private companies, non-governmental organizations and a large public, the capital of Panama becomes the backdrop of world jazz for 4 days.

It is the most important event of the year that the Danilo Pérez Foundation undertakes.

So book your tickets online NOW, join this event and enjoy the 25 artists of this festival!

Few words about the Panama Jazz Festival’ story:

Everything began in 1965 when Danilo Pérez Urriola (father) decided to use the music for young people in troubles, in the province of Colón. He wrote a thesis about how the music can help these young to practice their creativity and becoming good citizens.

Afterwards, his son, the famous jazz pianist Danilo Pérez Samudio, decided to create some free music classes for young people and, after some studies in the United States, he became a prominent Jazz figure and established the famous music program Jamboree Juventud de Panamá in 1980.

After various helps in some Jazz programs and many concerts and master classes in Panama and all over the world, he decided to start the International Jazz Festival in 2003. He also finally founded the Danilo Perez Foundation in 2004, in order to organize educational events and doing of these programs, a sustainable project that can reach all the country.

He wants to make of this event, a real international jazz festival of the highest category. The first year, the Festival welcomed over 8 thousand people and more than 200 music students.

On the 11th edition, the Festival attracted more than 25 thousand people and over 2 thousand students from all over the world.

Since its beginning, they have counted more than 220 000 persons worldwide.

The Panama Jazz Festival is made of music lessons during the week from 9am to 4pm, followed by various concerts in different parts of Panama City.

From 4 to 6pm: Afternoon family concerts

From 7 to 11pm: Concerts in the Ateneo Theater

From 9pm to 2am: Jam sessions at Danilo’s Jazz Club

The music lessons are made up of instruments, composition, folklore, classical music, improvisation, musical therapy, and many other topics directly linked to music.

The professors who teach the lessons are the best students and teachers of the music schools, in partnership with the festival.

Furthermore, since the 11th edition, the total amount announced in grants during the Panama Jazz Festival, exceeds 3,5 billions of dollars.

Take part of this unique moment that is this Panamanian Festival.

Simple amateur or a big fan of Jazz, you will spend such a good time listening the 25 artists, dancing with your friends, meeting people and sharing your passion for music.

More than just a Festival, go to learn more about its story, enjoying the knowledge of its teachers and so more…

You won’t be disappointed, that’s for sure!

Educationa and Academic tours

What is Authenticity?

Take as an example a photo you took of an indigenous woman in colorful clothes during your travels and imagine looking at it at home. Imagine knowing this woman’s story, having experienced her every-day life and the beauty of her culture and traditions. Imagine the difference it would make, if you would have taken the photo just when seeing this woman on the street on coincidence, without knowing anything about her. The only thing you would personally take out of this encounter is a nice photo, without the possibility of broadening your mind and knowledge.

The key in an authentic travel experience lies in interpretation and interaction. There is a difference between seeing something and understanding something, not only with cultural encounters, but also with wildlife watching, bird viewing or walking through an unknown ecosystem.

EcoCircuitos Academic Tours

EcoCircuitos is specialized in educational travel experiences. Our guides are experts in their field and provide in-depth insights and understandings from culture and history to biodiversity. These understandings foster authentic travel experiences as well as responsible encounters between travelers and nature, biodiversity and local people.

With being one of the most biodiverse places on earth, Panama hosts world-class biological and geological experiences. With its numerous indigenous communities, colonial towns, ancient ruins and the Panama Canal, the Isthmus it is also a top-spot for historians, anthropologists and architecture lovers. What is less known, is Panama’s extensive art scene; from numerous galleries in the capital, Afro-Caribbean remains and indigenous handicrafts to artisans dating back to colonial times.

Biodiversity Tour San Edwards University

Last week, our expert guide Fabio Trujillo led the Biology class of San Edwards University from Texas on their Academic trip through Panama for 15 days. The excursion started in the rainforest area around Panama City, continued to the cloud forest-covered highlands of Chiriqui and ended in the Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro. With a focus on interpretation, the students gained holistic understandings of the different ecosystems, without losing the fun-factor through outdoor adventures like zip lining and snorkeling.