Tips when Traveling to Guna Yala/San Blas

 The San Blas Archipelago / Guna Yala is home to the Guna people. This province consists of numerous small islands and keys and part of the mainland. It is known picturesque scenery that consists of white deserted sandy beaches with palms, transparent blue waters, seafood and the colorful Guna culture.

For EcoCircuitos it is important to manage expectations to all destinations, but particularly San Blas Archipelago/ Guna Yala territory.  We would like to highlight the following:

  • Very rustic, it is not a luxurious destination nor a snorkeling or diving destination. It is a cultural destination.
  • Lodging is rustic with basic amenities
  • Take precautions for mosquitos, chitras, bats and other rodents
  • Be flexible, you will be on Guna time
  • Remember everything in this area of the country is operated by the Gunas under their rules and regulations
  • Tours can change due to climate and weather conditions

Flying to Achutupu or Playon Chico: Domestic flights to San Blas are operated in small planes that seat around 12 people and have the strict check in baggage limitations. Each person is allowed to check in 14kg and can carry a small bag. Don’t be surprised if the airline representative asks to weigh you as well.  They are very conscious of how much weight the planes can carry. This flight is approximately 30 minutes long.

When flying to Achutupu or Playon Chico it is possible your plane could make multiple stops, be sure to listen to the captain at each stop when he announces the name of the area. If you do not hear name of the stop, please ask the captain.

Achutupu Airstrip: When you arrive to Achutupu you will see an airstrip and a small one room concrete structure. Your host will be waiting for you to transfer you approximately 15 minutes to your lodge.

Playon Chico: When you arrive to Playon Chico you will see the airstrip and a long walking bridge that connects the airport area to the Playon Chico island. A representative from the lodge will be waiting for you to take you to your lodge, which is less than 10 minutes away.

Arriving by car to Carti (Please remember your passport): From Panama City to the coast of San Blas it can take approximately 3 hours. You will travel east along the Pan American Highway passing the Tocumen International Airport in the direction towards Darien. You will pass through one checkpoint. Eventually you will veer to the right and travel down a windy and curvy road that will take you through the Guna Yala Territory to the coast. There will be two check points, one will be a police check point and the other will be to pay Guna tourism taxes. The road is like a roller coaster and we recommend travellers with that are sensitive to motion to take motion sickness medicine just in case.

Once you arrive to Carti you will be met by your local host and will be transferred by boat to your lodge, this boat transfer could take approximately 20 minutes.

To take: enough cash ($100 max each for two nights/ three days, better to take more than less just in case. Also useful for some Kuna handcrafted products to buy on the island), a mosquito net, mosquito spray, toilet paper, shower gel and shampoo, sunglasses and high protection sun cream (the sun is really hard in the tropics), hat, towel, snacks and water, raincoat and camera/ gopro of course! Better to wear long clothes during the night.

*After reading this document and you still have questions or would like more details, please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com or marketing@ecocircuitos.com

     

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Beyond the Panama Canal

Beyond the Panama Canal, you could find yourself in lush tropical rain forests of the Canal Watershed or walking through the maze like streets of Casco Antiguo between the colorful colonial buildings and art shops and gourmet restaurants. You may also find yourself on a deserted island watching tropical fish weave through your toes. This is just a touch of what you will find in Panama. The country’s rich history is just like the fine detail you will find in a Guna indigenous mola.

In a diverse country like Panama, it comes as no surprise that travel and tourism are well developed. Tiny locally owned luxury boutique hotels coexist with many of the world’s big names in the hospitality sector, such as Waldorf Astoria, Trump, Hilton or Marriott.

Escape the winter and let yourself be surprised by Panama. Encounter traditional indigenous settlements less than two hours from the city’s international banking district, watch the incredible wildlife along the Panama Canal while huge cargo ships cross from ocean to ocean in the background, spend the morning in a state-of-the-art convention center and the afternoon on a perfect beach. Whatever you are looking for, you can find it here.

Suggestions: Stay in the colonial district of Casco Antiguo and visit nearby landmarks such as the Miraflores Locks, Panama Viejo arqueological site, the Biodiversity Museum designed by Frank Gehry and climb Discovery Centre Rain Forest tower-climb up 30 meters and gaze over the forest canopy in the Soberania National Park.

Visit the picturesque San Blas Archipelago, home of the Guna people and eat amazing seafood while learning about this vibrant culture. Then make your way to the Chiriqui highlands and search for the resplendent quetzal and drink the renowned Geshia coffee. Also make your way to the Bocas del Toro Archipelago for great snorkeling and beach combing at its best. If you have time visit the Azuero Peninsula the heart of Panama´s colonial culture and great beaches for surfing and sunbathing. For the more adventurous trek the Darien gap. Panama has something for everyone.

By EcoCircuitos Panama

Day Adventure and Cruise arrival in San Blas with EcoCircuitos

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The San Blas Archipelago and surrounding sea are the main attractions in Guna Yala—an indigenous comarca (autonomous territory) stretching more than 200 km (120 miles) along Panama’s northeast coast—but the traditional culture of the Kuna is a close second. The comarca is composed of a thin strip of land dominated by a mountain range called the Serranía de San Blas and the 365 San Blas Islands that dot the coastal waters. Although much of the world still refers to this region by its former name, San Blas, you’ll endear yourself to residents by using the name they give to their home, Guna Yala. Note that you may also see it spelled Kuna Yala, but Guna leaders voted to change the spelling from Kuna to Guna in 2010.

On January 13th we had the visit of the Variety Voyager small Cruise Ship to the islands of San Blas and EcoCircuitos Panama organize a day of adventures with our team and our local guna guides.  For more information of day tours, mini groups and incentives, please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com

How much chocolate do the Guna people eat?

guna peopleFrom STRI.org

Jeffrey Barnes, STRI short-term fellow from Dawson College in Quebec asked household heads in Panama’s indigenous community of Aligandi if they had Siagwa (cacao), and answers varied “from a simple yes or no, to an enthusiastic demonstration of their hidden stash” of cacao beans; the source ingredient for chocolate. Others showed Barnes a bag of processed cocoa powder.

Barnes found the Guna (or Kuna) people hold cacao in high esteem. It is an essential component of countless ceremonies. But, likely due to plant diseases, consumption of Siagwa beverages has remained low since mid-century. In Aligandi, a Caribbean island community, consumption of locally derived cacao beverages is less than one cup per week.

Barnes’ findings contrast with studies suggesting Guna consume up to four or five cacao beverages daily. This may have been true in the 1950s, but not today, Barnes contents. High consumption of locally derived cacao has been publicized as key to the cardiovascular fitness of the Guna and used to highlight health benefits of chocolate.

In evaluating household consumption of cacao, Barnes proposes a novel method that might help nutritionists to refine their understanding of indigenous diets – a practice that Barnes argues is easier said than done.