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Package details include
Both man-made and natural assets enrich Panama, the bio-diverse bridge between North and South America. From its tropical rainforests and exotic beaches to the eighth wonder of the world, the famous canal, Panama is packed with opportunities for discovery. Go from the 21st century powerhouse of Panama City—ironically, also the oldest European city in the Americas—to an abundance of pristine ecosystems filled with precious flora and fauna.
With a comfortable balance between touring and free time, this independent getaway also includes three days in the paradise of Bocas del Toro. Considered the "Galapagos of the Caribbean," the archipelago of islands, cays and islets is one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth.
Begin your adventure in high style with a partial transit of the renowned Panama Canal. Completed in 1914 and one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, the canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through a series of locks.
Experience this masterpiece of civil engineering firsthand as you travel by boat toward the Pacific through two sets of locks, the Pedro Miguel Locks, which drop 30 feet, and Miraflores, which descends another 60 feet.
Also spend a day discovering Panama City. Wander the lanes of the historic Casco Viejo district (Old Quarter), founded in 1519 and the first European city established on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. A city tour includes highlights such as the San Francisco of Assisi Church, the Bolivar Palace and the National Theater.
Spend an optional day spotting wildlife in a nearby rainforest or visiting an indigenous Embera village before heading to Bocas del Toro. Located on Panama’s northern Caribbean coast, Bocas del Toro is a magical destination with white sand beaches and some of the largest rainforests in Central America. The archipelago has 9 main islands, 52 cays and thousands of islets. Home to a UNESCO World Heritage site and Panama's first National Marine Park, Bocas del Toro is rich in biodiversity. The critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtle nests here as well as green, carey, caguama and baula turtles. Enjoy snorkeling the reefs where you may encounter tiny red frogs in the trees nearby and see bottle-nosed dolphins frolicking off the coast.
• 7 nights accommodations: 4 nights in Panama City and 3 nights in Bocas Town
• Meals - Daily breakfast and 3 lunches
• All on-tour transfers and transportation plus round-trip flights between Panama City and Bocas del Toro
• Panama City sights - Full day partial boat crossing on the Panama Canal plus city tour of Panama City
• Bocas del Toro sights - Snorkeling and hiking expedition in Coral Cay, Dolphin Bay and Cayo Zapatillas
• Optional tours - Choose from 4 tours on Day 4 (at additional cost)
Note: Additional nights in Panama are available, subject to availability. Please inquire at time of booking.
Day 1 – Arrive in Panama
Arrive at Tocumen International Airport where you will be met and transferred to your Panama City hotel. Nestled in the heart of Panama City’s bustling Financial District, the intimate 125-room upscale Bristol Hotel is a short walk from notable Panama attractions, including the Panama Canal, Casco Viejo, Panama Viejo, Metropolitan National Park and the Bio-Museum designed by Frank Gehry.
Accommodation: Bristol Hotel, Deluxe room - 4 nights
Day 2 – Partial Panama Canal Crossing
Today you’ll have the chance to see this engineering marvel from a whole new prospective as we board a boat and pass through the different locks of the canal. Lunch will be served aboard the ship.
We enter the canal at the north end of Gaillard Cut, where the Chagres River flows into the canal. The Gaillard Cut (also known as Culebra Cut, because its curves resemble a snake) is one of the main points of interest for visitors because it was carved through the Continental Divide and this section of the Canal is full of history and geological interest. The vessel will sail the Cut's 13.7 kilometers on the way to Pedro Miguel Locks. Before reaching Pedro Miguel Locks, at the southern end of the Cut, you will see the new Centennial Bridge which crosses over the Canal.
Next, we enter Pedro Miguel Locks, which is one of the two sets of locks on the Pacific side and here the vessel is lowered 9 meters in one step. You will then enter Miraflores Lake, which is a small artificial body of fresh water that separates Pedro Miguel from Miraflores Locks, the latter being the final set of locks before reaching the Pacific Ocean. At Miraflores Locks the vessel is lowered 18 meters in two distinct steps.
Day 3 – Panama City Sightseeing with Lunch
Today's City and Canal Tour will show you the most important sights of Panama City and the Panama Canal Area. You will have the opportunity to visit Panama La Vieja (Old Panama) situated just northeast of downtown Panama City. The city was founded by Pedrarias Davila in August of 1519, and is the oldest European settlement on the Pacific Coast. You will visit Casco Antiguo, past monuments such as the Plaza Bolivar, the San Francisco of Assisi Church, the Bolivar Palace, the National Theater and “Las Bovedas Promenade,” which has one of the most spectacular views of Panama City.
The tour also includes a visit to the Miraflores Locks, three locks that form part of the Panama Canal, to see the daily operations of the waterway. As part of this tour, participants will visit the “Causeway,” a group of three islands linked to the main land by the breakwaters of the Panama Canal. The U.S. Army used this area for the defense of the Panama Canal due to its strategic location. Today the causeway has been turned into one of the most exquisite fashion centers in the Americas, with international fine cuisine restaurants, great bars, shopping areas and the new Flamenco Cruise Terminal.
Day 4 – Free Day or Optional Tour
Enjoy a free day in Panama City or select a full day tour from the four options below for an additional cost:
• Gamboa Rainforest Aerial Tram and Gatun Lake Boat Tour - Take a full day tour with lunch on the first and only tram in Panama. Experience the magic of the virgin rainforest of Gamboa, ascending some 280 feet from the shadowy forest floor through the dense undergrowth and up to the sun drenched canopy with its thousand shades of green that are only interrupted by the vibrant colors of flowering trees. Colorful birds and butterflies are abundant here, and you might also encounter sloth tor white-faced capuchin monkeys and hear the howler monkey cry out in the distance.
Then we will take a boat trip through the Panama Canal waterways to visit what once were mountains but became islands when the area was flooded to form the Gatun Lake. This area is a sanctuary for Panama's native flora and fauna. You can easily spot monkeys, toucans, alligators and turtles. We will finish the trip with lunch at Los Lagartos restaurant which has wonderful views of the Chagres River.
• Portobelo Historical Tour - This full day tour with lunch begins with a trip by train or by road from the Pacific Ocean to the calm waters of the Caribbean Sea. After leaving the Panama-Colon road and reaching the town of Portobelo, enjoy beautiful green landscapes with spectacular views along the coast and sea. Portobelo is a sleepy town full of colonial history where you will feel transported in time. Here you will find five colonial fortresses where cannons still point to the bay. Portobelo is also home to the Black Christ image, which according to a legend, has supernatural powers that prevent the Christ being taken away from the town. Other attractions are the Custom House built in 1640 and the Hospital Chapel founded in 1597.
• Valle de Anton with Hot Springs - Begin this full day tour with lunch with a two-hour drive through rural villages and rolling green hills to the west of Panama City. Arrive at the picturesque town of El Valle, nestled in the crater of a giant extinct volcano. To enter the crater, we will pass over its edge with spectacular views of the fertile, mountainous area. This is a peaceful town, surrounded by lush forests and jagged peaks with sparkling creeks adding to the beauty of the valley. Situated at 1000 meters above sea level, El Valle enjoys a fresh and cool climate and is known as the land of eternal spring.
During the tour, participants will have the opportunity to visit the Botanical Garden El Nispero, El Macho waterfall and the hot springs. After lunch, enjoy the chance to shop at the local handicraft market.
• Embera Indigenous Village - This enchanting full day tour with lunch takes us deep into the dense jungles of Chagres where the Embera Indians have lived for many years. Begin with a ride up the river in canoes, the Embera’s traditional hand carved boats. Upon arrival in the village, observe the ancient Embera’s dances and music that have hardly changed since Christopher Columbus arrived in the 1500s. The natives will invite you to explore the surrounding areas which are teaming birds and wildlife. Trek through virgin jungle and sparkling waterfalls.
The Emberas will also give you a glimpse into their mystical rituals and their amazing knowledge of medicinal plants and natural pigments. The Embera women are known as one of the world’s finest basket makers, and you will watch them create beautiful objects made out of palm leaves and dyed with natural pigments. You could also have your body painted with a natural fruit dye called Jagua, used by the Indians for body decorations as well as for its health-giving properties. Before returning to civilization, the Emberas will invite to a traditional lunch of fresh fish and plantains and you will have the opportunity to purchase some of their gorgeous handicrafts.
Day 5 - Transfer to Bocas del Toro
After breakfast and hotel check-out, transfer to the domestic airport for your flight to the Bocas del Toro islands. Upon arrival, you will be met at the airstrip in Bocas Town and transferred by car to your hotel. The beachfront Hotel Playa Tortuga resort is an ideal place for visitors to discover the crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches and infinite tropical beauty of one of the most beautiful archipelagos in the world. The afternoon is free to explore the town with its quaint restaurants and shops.
Accommodation: Hotel Playa Tortuga Hotel, Standard room - 3 nights
Day 6 - Full Day Tour to Cayo Zapatillas and Coral Cay
Please note that snorkeling equipment is not included but can be rented at the lodge. We recommend that you bring your own masks and snorkel. The tour goes out a 9:30am and returns at 4pm.
Begin your exploration at Cayos Zapatillas, the islands you have most likely seen on websites and brochures of the Bocas area. These two mangrove islands, ringed by golden sand beaches and coral reefs teeming with life, fall inside of the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park. The local legends say that the Zapatillas (or slipper) Islands were created by the feet of God as they touched down from the heavens. These islands are also important ecological sites for the critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtles that nest on their shores. The islands are also favorite nesting spots for green, carey, caguama and baula turtles.
Continue to the bay of Almirante, also known as Dolphin Bay because it is one of the few places in the world where you can see the bottle-nosed dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in its natural mangrove swamp habitat. The dolphins frequently traverse the trail left by boats and sometimes get close to swimmers and play with them. The dolphins also prefer this area of calm waters to have their offspring.
On to Cayo Coral (Coral Key). The canal that runs between Bastimentos Island and Popa Island also connects Almirante Bay with the ocean. It owes its name to the beautiful coral formations located in shallow waters, ideal for snorkeling. In its clear waters you can observe a variety of tropical fish species under the sparkling sun. Visit the extraordinary Red Frog Beach, part of the Marine National Park of Bastimentos. The beach owes its name to a small frog of approximately 2-3 centimeters, of red vibrant color, which can be found between the leaves of the surrounding area. Conclude your tour with a 45-minute hike in the forest behind the reef, where you can see a garden of tropical trees, a water well boasting the tree that never dies and a coconut plantation.
Day 7 – Free Day
Enjoy a free day today exploring the surrounding area or just lounging on the beautiful beaches.
Day 8 – Depart Panama
This morning, check-out of your hotel and transfer by domestic flight to Tocumen International Airport for your return flight home. Please book flights to depart in the afternoon.