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Trek the Panamanian Camino Real
Take on a challenging trek through near-uncharted jungle terrain, following in the footsteps of conquistadors and pirates.
Long before the Panama Canal there was the Camino Real, linking Caribbean to Pacific across the skinny Central American isthmus. With a width of just 77km at its narrowest point, Panama has always been an obvious candidate for a shortcut between the seas either side of the Americas.
The trail dates back nearly 500 years, although the indian footpaths over which the conquistadors laid their cobblestones are much older still. This Camino Real or 'Royal Road' was to act as a conduit for loot plundered from the Inca Empire, allowing the Spanish to siphon vast quantities of gold, silver and precious stones from ocean to ocean in a near-continuous river of riches. Inevitably, it did not go unnoticed by pirates. The original terminus on the Spanish Main, Nombre de Dios (‘Name of God’) was completely destroyed and Henry Morgan even followed the trail all the way to the Pacific side and sacked Panama Viejo for good measure. By the late 17th century the road was closed, and soon reclaimed by the irrepressible green grasp of the rainforest.
Following the lost treasure trail of the Spanish is still a supremely adventurous prospect – it takes eight days, plenty of exertion and a tolerance of mud, wilderness camping and jungle creepy crawlies. But if you're up to the challenge, it's an enormously rewarding trek weaving through dense forest and passing numerous remnants of the route's dramatic history. There's plenty of wildlife to spot but make sure you also keep your eyes peeled for the glint of long-forgotten jewels: it's said that many treasures dropped by the Spanish have yet to be found...
Activity Rating: challenging
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Real Latin America Experts
Lina Fuller - Travel Consultant
Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.
Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Consultant
Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.
Ben Line - Travel Consultant
Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Manager of the Tailor-made Department.
Carrie Gallagher - Travel Consultant
A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Escorted Groups team.
Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Consultant
Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our Sales team.
Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Consultant
Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made team.