Panama is a relatively young country in the grand scheme of things but what it lacks in history, it more than makes up for in scenery. Settled by the Spanish in the mid-1500s, Panama's importance stems in large part from the Panama Canal. This modern engineering marvel connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, making Panama one of the most vital maritime nations in the world. However, there's more to this surprising Central American nation than just its canal, making Panama a burgeoning attraction on the continent.
As much a functioning piece of infrastructure as it is a tourist attraction, the Panama Canal nevertheless remains popular with visitors. The most obvious way to explore this 77-kilometre shipping canal is on one of the many boat tours which meander along portions of its length. Along the way you'll see stretches of the Panamanian countryside and may even experience one of the canal's many engineering feats at work, as its elaborate lock system empties and fills accordingly to elevate ships to the appropriate height.
Bocas del Toro
Nestled on the southern tip of Colón Island off the coast of mainland Panama is the picturesque resort town of Bocas del Toro. Surrounded by the crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea, the town is one Panama's most popular destinations. Renowned for the variety of marine life which swim placidly off shore, Bocas del Toro attracts scuba diving and fishing enthusiasts from far afield. Its colourful houses and waterfront promenades are equally attractive, making this pretty island town one of Panama's must-visit destinations.
Panama boasts a lush tropical landscape and nowhere is that more true than in the verdant hills surrounding Boquete. This scenic mountain-top village is located in the midst of the Panamanian highlands and many hikers visit to climb the 3,475-metre tall dormant volcano, Volcán Barú. On a clear day you can see both the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans from atop its peak, while the plantations surrounding this dominating peak are said to produce some of the finest coffee in the world.