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Signature Panama: Canal, wildlife and beach

10 days from £1679pp

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Signature Panama: Canal, wildlife and beach

10 days from £1679pp
 

Private Journey

 
Playa Cacique

Contadora beach

4 days from £312pp

Contadora is the most notable of the Pearl Islands with a current population of around 250 inhabitants. This was where the Spanish counted the pearls which were harvested from the other islands in the archipelago; hence the name of the island, which means 'counter' or 'book-keeper' in Spanish.

The islands produced pearls of many colours and sizes, and during the many years when pearls were harvested from the waters around the islands, the indigenous population would converge on Contadora to count their pearls and sell them to the Spaniards.

Today, Contadora is home to several small hotels, a clutch of restaurants, eight beautiful beaches and many luxurious holiday homes. The island´s roads area paved and most visitors and inhabitants travel around in golf carts (if not walking) and private planes. You will be met at the ferry terminal by a representative of your guesthouse and escorted to the accommodation.

Gerald´s Bed & Breakfast has just eight well-appointed guest rooms.  The restaurant is one of the best on the island (there are currently 5) with a varied menu including German specialties – the proprietor is German. The roof top terrace has a small swimming pool and offers views of the Pacific Ocean. Playa Larga, one of the island´s most beautiful beaches is just 3 minutes' walk away and it is also within walking distance of the ferry´s usual landing place.

Day 1: Your ferry ride to Contadora island takes about two hours.

Days 2,3: Enjoy days at leisure on the island's white sand beaches or book optional tours such as trips round the island, snorkelling, dolphin and humpback whale-watching (July – Oct), deep sea fishing, diving, and early morning nature walks. The island is indented with pretty sandy bays, while inland you'll find verdant woodland. The island's tiny airstrip runs down across spine.

Day 4: Continue your holiday or transfer to the airport for your international flight.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

Breakfast daily.


Pollera making

Panama's Cultural Heartland - The Azuero Peninsula

4 days from £777pp

Panama’s cultural heartland, the Azuero Peninsula, has a heady mix of indigenous heritage, contemporary Spanish-inspired culture and cattle-raising. The region certainly sits slap bang in the centre of the country, on the Pacific side. The Azuero Peninsula has a rich history dating back to pre-Columbian indigenous groups, with many artefacts and ceremonial sites uncovered by archaeologists. The indians did not survive the Spanish invasion though, and nowadays there is a distinctly Hispanic tradition, best observed in the region’s festivals and colonial architecture.

Day 1: It’s a 4hr shared road transfer from Panama City to Chitre, capital of the Herrera province.

Day 2: On today’s guided excursion you will be introduced to the cultural traditions of the Azuero Peninsula. Visit a family house where grotesque devil masks are made; a local drum maker who uses razor sharp chisels to hollow out cylindrical cuts of wood and call in on a potter who has been spinning his wheel manually for decades. At the home of a maker of pollera dresses - introduced by the colonial Spanish - sometimes it is a man who was does the sewing. In each place you have the chance at trying your hand at the craft yourself.

Day 3: Urracá, 'the Lord of the Wind, Rain and Thunder', was a chieftain who resisted the invasion of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, defeating them on several occasions. Exploring  Urracá's territory you visit his statue before continuing towards San Francisco de la Montaña where you visit the church, a 1727 jewel of baroque art with hundreds of hand-carved altar pieces demonstrating a fusion between Spanish Catholicism and indigenous culture. Continue to the San Juan river canyon and La Yeguada lagoon for a short hike through the forest and a swim in the waterfall.

Day 4: Return to Panama City to continue your holiday or to the city’s airport for your international flight.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

Breakfast daily.


weaver

San Blas and the Kuna Indians

3 days from £622pp

Spend a few days combining relaxing beach-time with an insight into one of Panama’s most distinctive cultures, that of the semi-autonomous Kuna (also known nowadays as Guna) indians.

San Blas is a necklet of hundreds of coral islands lying off the Caribbean coast and stretching 200km to the border with Colombia, ranging from tiny islets with a cluster of palms to larger, inhabited islands. The Kuna, farmers, fishermen and traders, are notably spiritual and maintain a deeply traditional lifestyle here. The Kuna, famous for their  are famous for their bright molas, a colorful textile art form used in the blouses of the Kuna women's national dress, which is worn daily by many Kuna women. It’s a fascinating lifestyle with which you will have the privilege of getting acquainted.

Day 1: Take an early morning 50min flight by light aircraft to Playón Chico airstrip. You’ll be staying at Yandup Lodge, with simple, understated but comfortable bamboo-constructed beds with bright fabrics, a ceiling fan, private bathrooms (no hot water - this is the tropics) ,and a hammock on the veranda. The dining room overlooks the Caribbean, as almost everything does, and all meals are served en famille.

Day 2: Spend time alongside the Kuna and enjoy relaxing on the pearly white beaches, where the glass-clear water invites you to snorkel out to the coral reef.

Day 3: Return by canoe to the airstrip and fly back to Panama City to connect with your flight home or continue your holiday.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

Lunch and dinner day 1, full board day 2, breakfast day 3.


Bogotá, Colombia

Bogota

3 days from £290pp

Founded in 1598, the effervescent capital Bogotá sits on an upland Andean plateau. It’s a city of striking contrasts; skyscrapers and colonial single-storey houses, fast highways and cobbled lanes with chaotic traffic and the occasional mule cart.

There are humble homes clinging to the mountain-sides and affluent tree-lined residential boulevards; crowded alleys and green, wide and shady parks; a cultured middle class jostling with workers and their families from all over Colombia.

The night scene is lively with music clubs, bars and cafés spilling out on to the pavements.  You can’t really understand Colombia without a visit to this agreeable city.

Day 1:  Plaza de Bolivar is a good starting point for your guided city tour, with its statue or the Liberator, baroque cathedral and a clutch of  government buildings. It’s in the heart of the Candalaria district which is the literary and artistic heart of Bogotá with theatres, libraries and universities. Here, many of the the original Spanish colonial buildings with their heavy tiled rooves, wrought iron grills and carved wooden doors have been restored. It’s a pleasure to stroll through the cobbled lanes.  On the fringe of this district is the Museo de Oro, one of the best collections of gold artefacts on the continent, beautifully displayed.

Day 2: Just 90mins' drive from Bogotá the little town Zipaquirá’s fame lies in the subterranean salt cathedral - an enormous church built within a mountain at site of a salt mine. This unique place of worship has a magical feel, with high ceilings, carved pillars and huge stone statues. After your visit, you continue to the crater lake Guatavita, was a sacred place for the Muisca indians and is steeped the mythology of El Dorado. The excursion lasts about eight hours.

Day 3: Continue your holiday or transfer to Bogotá airport for your international flight.


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