Panama is a strategically vital country uniting two oceans, but its potential interest to the leisure visitor has perhaps been underplayed. Most have heard of its history, chequered with the movement of plundered gold, dodgy dictators, straw hats (these actually come from Ecuador) and, of course, the monumental feat of engineering which is the Panama Canal.
Fewer are aware of the abundant and diverse wildlife populating unsullied tropical rainforest and the intact, even flourishing, indigenous cultures which have survived the switchback ride of its history.
Much of the country’s interior is almost impenetrable, which makes an expedition cruise which passes both through the canal itself and along the little republic’s jungle-stifled shores the best way to discover its hidden charms. On this holiday, you spend a couple of days discovering the highlights at either end of the canal before setting sail to traverse it.
(Some departures travel southwards through the Canal from Colon to Panama City. The holiday is effectively the same as the one here, but in reverse).