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Trek the Panamanian Camino Real

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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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Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    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 Head of Sales.

  • Evie Oswald
    Evie Oswald - Travel Expert

    It's hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Expert

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia and beyond to Antarctica.

  • Mary Anne Nelson
    Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Expert

    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 Holidays and Group Tour sales team.

Meet the team