Our recommendation to visit Panama
Our recommendation to visit Panama and neighboring countries
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Panama Travel advice
Events and festivals in Panama
The cultural variety marks the popular festivals in Panama, which are distributed throughout the year. However, there are festivities that stand out above others because of their traditional origin and their peculiar colour.
When you start preparing your trip to Panama, make sure it coincides with one of its main popular festivals such as the National Festival of the Pollera, the Festival of Diablos and Congos, the Manito Ocueño Festival, or the Carnival, among many others.
There are many events which you will want to attend because of the festivities in Panama because their tradition and folklore are worthy of being admired. Pay attention to the dates and take good note of the following events in Panama.
Panamanians, in addition to celebrating the New Year and the Day of Kings, host one of the most emblematic popular festivals in Panama in January: the Flower and Coffee Fair. If you want to participate in this celebration, you have to visit Boquete, in the province of Chiriqui.
In February, the popular festivities in Panama are distributed in different provinces, we start with the Soná Fair from 10th to 19th February, to continue in Veraguas from the 16th to the 18th with the Chitrá-Calobre Fair and the Santa Fé Fair. The month culminates with the Carnival, one of the festivities of Panama with the most colour and tradition. Villa de Los Santos, Las Tablas, Penonomé, Chitré, Aguadulce and Ocú are the most famous places to enjoy the Panamanian Carnival.
The first of March is Constitution Day, a particularly important day in Panama, marked by parades and official activities. But it is from 3rd to 6th March when one of the most spectacular popular festivals of Panama takes place: the Festival of Diablos and Congos of Chepigana.
During the month of April, we will find more typical festivities of Panama, such as the celebration of the District Foundation of Boquete in Chiriquí, or the International Fair of Azuero in Los Santos. At the end of the month, we will be able to attend another of the many events in Panama such as the Camarón Arriba Fair, in Santa Rosa de Bugaba.
On 20 May, in the province of Coclé, its main festivities are held, the Foundation of the District of Natá, and at the end of the month, on the 26th it is the province of Chiriquí which celebrates its Foundation in style.
During the month of June the Festival of Corpus Christi is celebrated in Panama, a festival into which, although it is of religious origin, Panamanians have managed to incorporate their more ancestral traditions and popular symbols. Travel to Villa de Los Santos to participate in several days of events and celebrations with dances, theatrical performances and characters such as the clean devils and dirty devils. You can also see the dance of the Torito, a traditional dance of the indigenous cultures of Panama.
July is the month which hosts one of the popular festivals of Panama par excellence, the National Festival of the Pollera. In Las Tablas, in the province of Los Santos, Panamanians demonstrate their great value as artisans, with the contest of polleras, a beautiful piece of traditional women's clothing, where jewellery is the main attraction.
If you visit the country from 11th to 14th August, you will discover one of the most traditional popular festivals in Panama: the Manito de Ocú Festival. The purpose of this festival is to pay homage to the Ocueño peasants and their native customs. Among the events of the festival, the celebration of peasant marriage with a couple chosen at random draws attention.
In September we have even more festivities and events in Panama such as the Palmira Festivities in Colón, or the Sea Fair in Bocas del Toro. But it is the National Mejorana Festival in Guararé which we suggest as one of the popular festivals in Panama which you cannot miss. The most indigenous folkloric traditions come together in this Panamanian festival.
During the month of October, Panamanians celebrate different regional fairs, such as the Tigre Island Fair in San Blas, from 12th to 14th October. Also in Guna Yala, the Rio Tigre Fair is celebrated on the same dates. But if there is a popular party in Panama to be highlighted in October, it is undoubtedly the Feast of the Black Christ in Portobelo on the 21st. This is a celebration which attracts thousands of pilgrims from all over the country and exalts religious fervour.
In Panama, the Day of the Dead is also celebrated, as in other countries with Catholic influence. In addition to this celebration, Villa de Los Santos celebrates its Foundation on 1st November. Other notable events are the Colmón Fair in Macaracas and the Panama Independence Day on 28th November.
To end the year with more festivities in Panama, and before the celebration of Christmas, Panamanians worship the Virgin of Guadalupe on 12th December in Veraguas and celebrate the Feasts of Saint Lucía in Coclé.
As you see, Panama is a non-stop of popular festivals, events, and festivities throughout the year. Don't miss the occasion and make your trip coincide with any of them; you won't regret it.GO TO EVENTS
Food in Panama
To talk about what to eat in Panama, we must first take into account the ethnic and cultural melting pot of the country. The Hispanic culture, along with the African, the Amerindian and the Afro-Antillean, are the source from which Panamanian cuisine is derived.
In the gastronomy of Panama, you will discover that rice is the basis of many of its typical dishes. Other ingredients used are corn and plantain, as well as meat, fish and seafood depending on the geographical area you visit. Other typical Panamanian foods are roots and tubers, such as yam, otoe, ñampí, cassava and potato.
With all those ingredients, they prepare some very tasty typical dishes which you have to eat in Panama. Then, you will know the most emblematic dishes of Panamanian cuisine and its ingredients.
As we already anticipated, rice is the main ingredient of the cuisine of Panama, and one of its culinary expressions is the guacho. During your trip, one of the typical dishes to eat in Panama is this dish based on rice and green beans, cooked in a thick soup of vegetables, meat, yucca, yams and coriander.
Rice with Pigeonpea
The difference between this dish and the previous one is that it is based on white rice with coconut. There are two ways to prepare it, either add the fresh pigeonpea (bean stick) or fry it with garlic and onions before adding the rice. This touch of coconut makes it differentiate from the guacho for its flavour.
Other rice dishes typical of Panama are rice with seafood, rice with chorizo and chili, rice with pork and vegetables and the famous fututiao rice (rice prepared with onion, garlic, coriander, salt, pepper, chili and bacon).
Another typical dish to eat in Panama and many other countries in Latin America, is the sancocho. This dish consists of a very seasoned vegetable soup, to which different types of meat and tubers are added.
Other popular soups of Panama's cuisine are beef soup, beef leg soup, bean soup and seafood soup.
This typical Panamanian dish is a seafood soup whose origin is Anglo Afro-Antillean. To prepare the dish, a seafood or fish soup is cooked with vegetables and tubers, to which spices, sweet peppers, green bananas and coconut milk are added. A delicacy which you must try during your trip.
Lovers of pork cannot fail to try this typical dish of Panamanian cuisine. The saus consists of a plate of pickled pork legs with spicy sauce. Its origin comes from Afro-Antillean tradition and you can try it mainly during the festivals of Bocas de Toro and Portobelo.
Mondongo a la Culona
With this bizarre name, Panamanians baptise a culinary invention, which is a mixture of flavours with an exceptional result. Prepare a broth with beef tripe, chorizo, onions, chilli, coriander, garlic, tomatoes, peas and carrots. It is seasoned with salt and pepper and served with white rice.
As in other regions of Latin America, tamales are also prepared in Panama. To make the Panamanian tamales chicken, corn, tomatoes, capers, onions, coriander, peppers and banana leaves or Bijao are used. Its flavour is slightly reminiscent of Mexican tamales because of its spice.
To prepare patacones, green plantain is used, which is flattened and fried, giving rise to a kind of delicious fried banana pancake. In other Latin American countries they are known as tostones, tajada or tachinos.
It is the turn of the devotees of fish and seafood with one of the tastiest typical dishes of Panama: ceviche. Its flavour is sweet and sour at the same time, and to make them, Panamanians marinate fish and seafood with lime. Panamanian ceviche is served with cookies or fried bananas.
We continue with the fish, this time to prepare delicious fried cobo fillet, a dish to eat in Panama, as soon as you arrive in the country. To make this dish, small pieces of cobo fillet marinated with pepper, salt and lemon are used. Before tossing them into the pan, they are spread with a mixture of eggs, corn flour, ground biscuit, bread crumbs and wheat flour. They are served with hot sauce or lemon.
To finish, we go to the desserts, with varieties as suggestive as Bocados de la Reina, Suspiros Panameños, Bienmesabe, Marshmallow, Mazamorra, and many more besides. The variety of desserts in Panama is almost endless, so we would have to help it down with a typical drink like Chicheme (fermented corn) or palm wine to digest everything.
And up to this culinary trip for the best of Panama, prepare your taste buds and dare to try gastronomy in which fusion is the norm.GO TO GASTRONOMY
Shopping in Panama
Everything there is to buy in Panama is directly related to its rich blend of cultures. Panamanian handicrafts are extremely varied, which will make it easy for you to find more than one souvenir to take home with you.
This Central American country is home to the most diverse mix of ethnic groups in the world. Panamanians are descendants of indigenous people, black slaves, Spaniards, North Americans, Arabs, Italians, French, and a very long etcetera. There are also populations of Chinese, Colombians, Hindus, Mexicans, Jews, Greeks and Venezuelans, among others.
It is calculated that 70% of the population is mixed race, which creates a rich cultural variety resulting in some very unusual traditional products. In this sense, handicrafts are one of the things to buy in Panama in order to understand its ethnic diversity. Let’s see which the most famous traditional products are.
These creations are famous throughout the world, and you will see them in most of the country’s markets. A mola is a square piece of material which has been embroidered by hand, representing geometric figures, animals or other traditional indigenous symbols. Its success is not just due to the colourful patterns but also to their use, as they can be turned into rugs, tapestries, cushion covers, tablecloths, etc.
There is no doubt that the molas are one of the most representative traditional products to buy in Panama. The quality and variety of their designs vary from one place to another, but if you want to find the best molas, visit the region of Kuna Yala.
Panamanian hats are another of the most sought-after souvenirs by travellers, both for use during their visit and for taking home as a souvenir. You will find hat stalls practically throughout the country, and because of this, their price and quality will vary from one place to another.
Coclé, Acuero and the region of Ngöbe are the main nuclei for hat makers. If you want to find a true Panama hat, visit one of these places and pop in to see how they are made in a completely traditional way.
Panamanian artisans make fine bags of vegetable fibres known as chácaras or cebaderas. The fibres they use to make them are mostly agave leaves which they decorate with natural dyes.
These little bags have drawings of vibrant colours with vertical or horizontal designs, making simple but very attractive patterns. If you want to give a traditional Panamanian product as a gift, you may have found the perfect one. To get the most authentic hand-made ones, visit the ethnic region of Ngöbe Buglé.
Handicrafts made from fruits and seeds
The different indigenous ethnic cultures in the country have been making handicrafts with palm and pumpkin seeds for centuries. The fine and intricate works with palm seeds have become true works of art, so much so, that you will find them in many jewellery shops adorned with precious stones.
For its part, the fruit of the pumpkin is used to make decorated pots which are one of the most original products to buy in Panama. The province of Colón is the place to buy this kind of handicraft, as well as the figures sculpted from coconut fibre.
Another product used by craftsmen to create bags, belts, shoes and other accessories is leather. Ciudad de Panamá is where the production of these handicrafts is concentrated, and these could become the perfect souvenirs to buy in Panama.
The leather used is mainly cow hide, although more recently they are incorporating snake and lizard skin. The latter are grown in vivariums and most skins are exported.
Belmont or soap stone, comes from the province of Coclé, where the artisan sculptors create all kinds of figures that you will find in many of the markets throughout the country. With the soft rock, they create beautiful statuettes of animals which will be the perfect souvenir to buy in Panama.
Visit the town of Membrillo, where apart from discovering the town and its marvelous people, you will be able to watch from close up how the artisans work this unique stone.
Gold and silver work and jewellery
Gold and silver are materials used to make elegant jewellery with intricate designs. One of the main uses for this material is the making of jewellery that accompanies the Pollera Panameña (Panamanian skirt). The gold is embossed or worked into filigree or Arabesque and forms part of this traditional feminine attire.
Working precious stones is another element used to make the polleras. Los Santos and Herrera are the places where you can find the best gold and silversmiths and jewellers in the whole country.
Other handicrafts to buy in Panama which you will find in any market are hammocks, bead bracelets and necklaces, wicker or naguas (geometric designs) lampshades.GO TO SHOPPING
Panama tourist attractions
More information about Panama
Situated on the isthmus between Central & South America, the country of Panama is famed for its impressive canal, which slices through the centre of the country, linking the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans; it is considered an amazing feat of engineering and an essential shipping route which allows ships to pass between oceans without having to travel around the bottom of South America. Panama shares borders with Costa Rica and Colombia and is known to have many cultural influences from the Caribbean. A population of 4 million calls the country their home, half of which live in the capital, Panama City. This capital city is a metropolis of skyscrapers, although it has successfully retained parts of its old-world charm, seen in its historic Old Quarter. The cityscape contrasts with the jungle which covers an impressive 40% of the country and aside from the big cities and jungles, Panama has various beach and island destinations including the San Blas Islands and Bocas del Toro, at the tip of Isla Colon in the Caribbean Sea, known for its wildlife and Star Fish Beach. The town of Boquete, situated on the Caldera River, is another destination to visit on a tour of Panama for its coffee plantations and hiking trails.
The country has a long and diverse history and a holiday to Panama is the perfect way to learn about the country’s story. Before Europeans arrived in the 14th century, Panama was populated and settled by various groups of indigenous people such as the Cueva, Chibchan and Guaymí people. Because of the country’s prime location between two great continents, it has historically been home to a wide mix of people, ensuring that Panamanian culture is a rich and colourful melting pot of traditions and beliefs. With the arrival of colonist and Spanish conquistadors, Panama grew in importance as an essential crossroads and marketplace for Spain’s empire in the New World. The Spanish influence on the country has left its mark in the architecture, culture and language, although deadly infections, brought from Europe, tragically killed a large proportion of the indigenous population. After Spanish rule ended in 1821, Panama was closely tied to its Colombian neighbours, until it became independent in 1903. The USA later collaborated with Panama to begin building the iconic canal, which was completed in 1914.
Owing to its unique position between continents, Panama has a wonderfully diverse landscape, ranging from volcanic jungles to white sandy beaches. The Cordillera Mountains form a central spine through the country and the tallest mountain, Volcan Baru, is an impressive 3475 metres high. The country’s main river is the River Chagres and the general climate is tropical, with little seasonal variations throughout the year. Panama is famously one of the most biodiverse places on earth, home to a wide array of animals such as jaguars, pumas, colourful frogs, wild cats, sloths, hummingbirds and parakeets, and its coastline is known to be a great place to witness the migration of humpback whales between July and October. With numerous national parks in which to witness this biodiversity, a package holiday to Panama is the perfect choice for nature lovers. The Parque National Metropolitano, located close to Panama City is a good place to start, and the Boquete Cloud Forest offers visitors the opportunity to see the elusive Quetzal bird in the wild. Another unmissable nature reserve is the Darien National Park, home to amazing wildlife and hidden inside the infamous Darien Gap Rainforest, an impenetrable territory separating Panama and Colombia.
Panamanian culture is a fabulous mix of African, Native American and Spanish influences, with a big focus on dance, folklore and music, such as jazz, blues, reggae and salsa. For an insight into the most authentic culture of Panama, untouched by outside influences, the region of Guna Yala is home to an indigenous community known as Gunas who still practice many unique indigenous traditions unseen elsewhere in the world. Of course, the iconic woven straw hat is a traditional symbol of Panama’s culture that is widely worn by local men, whilst the ‘Pollera’ is the typical dress worn by Panamanian women. Families are at the heart of Panamanian culture, as is maintaining a rich social life, as seen in action in the busy cafes and bars throughout the major cities, where friends and family can be seen sharing drinks and hearty meals together. A holiday to Panama will open your eyes to a friendly and laid-back culture where you can happily sit on a cafe terrace or along the boardwalk and watch the world go by.
Passport with a minimum of six months validity.
No visa is required for stays of up to 30 days.
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US Dollar and Panamanian Balboa.
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