Visit the Panama Tourist Bureau (IPAT) website. The Bureau is responsible for all promotion and development of the country's tourist resources: http://www.atp.gob.pa/.

In addition, we invite you to check our Quick Guide to find hotels and tourist services, as well as museums, natural parks, archaeological sites, art galleries, and other things.

Places of Interest

In Panama you will find plenty of surprises around each corner and when you least expect it. Here are some classical tours in Panama city for you:

Visit the Panama Canal: The Miraflores Locks Visitor Center is just across from the City of Knowledge. For $5.00 you can get on the balcony and see this 19th century technological feat at work. Paying $8.00 includes a visit to the different exhibitions. See the permanent exhibitions on the Canal located there. If you are a retiree or you are older than 55 (women) or 60 (men), you will pay half the rate. http://micanaldepanama.com/

If you don't want to miss anything, you can take a look at Gatún Locks, or why not join an excursion by boat all along the Canal, from one ocean to the other one. You can do that with: Canal & Bay Tours, Isla Flamenco, Calzada de Amador, Terminal Building, office Nº5, Telephone: 314-1349 / 1350 / 1351.

See Mi Pueblito: This tourist complex is located on the slopes of Ancón hill. Its three sections -interior, Afro-Antillean, and Indian— seek to show the charms of traditional small towns in the country. There is often a cultural event schedule that you may find interesting. Why not go? After all, it's close by.

Walk Along Amador Causeway: Walking along the Causeway is a bit like traveling into Panama Bay. It also gives you a chance to get a unique view of the city. You will plainly see the contrasts between traditional and modern Panama. When you get to Naos, Perico and Flamenco islands, you can decide whether you would like to go in and see marine beauties (see: Museums: Punta Culebra), or eat at one of the attractive restaurants on the islands (see Restaurants). There are bicycles and tricycles for rent. There is always something to do at Amador Causeway.

Walk Around the Old District: You will enjoy the aroma of history, of architecture, of the past and nostalgia of a people. In just a few blocks, you can see museums, colonial churches, historic ruins, French architecture of the late 19th century, children still playing with marbles, and real time Panamanians. You can take a guided tour with the tourist operators or at the Old District Office: it is a place full of history which was declared Heritage of Mankind by UNESCO in 1997.

For further information: Oficina del Casco Antiguo, Tel 228-5314 / 3664 / 3329.

Walk from Santa Ana Park up to Plaza 5 de Mayo: Since you have chosen to visit the Old District, take the chance to see the only pedestrian avenue in the city. But before that, stop at Santa Ana Park and see with your own eyes what all those historical pictures show in museums and documentaries. You will be stepping on the earliest of Panama's districts. The human movement there will tell you that you are in a place of constant popular movement. Go down the pedestrian area. (Do not stray from it if you are not familiar with the district.) You will find yourself at the most representative open-air shopping center in Panama. At the end of your walk, you will arrive at Plaza 5 de Mayo, the very spot that Héctor Lavoe sang about so many times. Behind the majestic School of Art of the National Culture Institute, a handicraft market awaits you, with craftspeople from all over the country, typical food, and polite people. The rest of the story is up to you.

Old Panama Archaeological Site (Heritage of Mankind): These are the ruins of the first Panama city, founded in 1519 by Pedro Arias de Ávila and destroyed with the arrival of Henry Morgan, the English pirate, in 1671. Another unforgettable outdoor tour. Ideal for taking pictures and climb the Cathedral tower, and climb the newly restored Cathedral tower. See archaeological sites.

Seaside Resorts and beaches

You will hardly ever be far from a beautiful beach in Panama. Panamanian coasts offer broad areas of white sand in the Pacific and underwater landscapes in the Caribbean area.

Under "Hotels" you will find information about beachside hotels for a cozy weekend by the sea, but if you prefer fresh water, Panama gives you a chance to bathe in the crystalline rivers in the interior of the country. Although they are fewer and fewer due to growing urbanization, clean rivers are not hard to find.

Here's a piece of information that will help you choose better: the farther it is from cities, the better. You can find the rushing Tuira and Chuchnaque rivers in Darien, the smaller but crystalline Mamoni river in Los Santos, or the magical Chorro Macho falls of Valle de Antón.

Off the Pan-American highway, you will eventually find riverside resorts with more comfort for bathers. Visit them and have a good time.

Popular Holidays and Festivals

Fairs: Fairs are regional events that people look forward to, particularly in the summertime (January-April). They feature various attractions. They have in common the exhibition of local agricultural, industrial and handicraft products. They are a good chance to get in touch with the most authentic folk manifestations and taste the cuisine from the provinces. In addition, they are a great excuse to see the different regions of the country and enjoy the warmth of their people. Find the national fair schedule in this IPAT website http://www.visitpanama.com.

National holidays: In addition to public holidays (see holidays), there are also regional festivities during November. National holidays in Colón, Aguadulce and Chitré are very popular. People look forward to November 28 because of the competitions of groups known as "independent bands". The most numerous gathering takes place in La Chorrera (in the west of Panama province), but competitions in Betania (Panama) and Boquete (Chiriquí) are also well known.

Patron Saint's Festivities: Pay attention to announcements on the radio and TV -they will tell you where and when the next patron saint's festivity, i.e. celebration in honor of a town's patron saint, will be held. These events are usually a display of the most characteristic features of country men and women, and you will hardly come back without an interesting anecdote. The religious service and procession are just the beginning. You can go into a toldo and dance to the rhythm of a folk musician, sample food cooked on firewood, dare to ride a wild bull, or just spend a pleasant afternoon listening to elderly people tell stories about goblins and witches.

Mardi Gras: Panamanians call it "the people's feast". For four days, the whole country is filled with celebrations that begin very early. You have the whole country to choose activities that look amazing to newcomers. You will be splashed with a tank car hose and, before you know it, your body will be dyed by unknown hands that will push you onto a colorful fantasy car. At the top of the peculiar vehicle, you will see a smiling, crowned female figure. When this happens, you will know that you are in a culeco (an organized parading group). Don't try to analyze it, just let yourself be swept away by the slippery feeling of wet bodies and jump. You won't regret it.

In the evening, your adrenaline spent, you can take a shower, get dressed and go watch a show of lights, allegoric floats and exuberant costumes. This is usually how Mardi Gras is experienced in the provinces. Some towns have been famous for organizing the best celebrations for decades, namely: Las Tablas, Chitré, Santiago and Penonomé. If you are attracted to folk manifestations and quieter festivals, a little town called Ocú is the ideal place to spend these holidays. The traditional "tamborito" rhythm is played from house to house, and local people wear traditional attire. There are also queens, floats and culecos. In other words, a unique balance of tradition and frenzy.

The capital city organizes a parade with popular groups and floats sponsored by companies and various associations. In the evening, there are shows by national and international artists. One thing you will not miss is music. There are tropical bands playing dance music: bolero, calipso, salsa, reggae, merengue or bachata.

Ask a travel agent. There are special Mardi Gras packages to the capital city and/or the interior. Accommodation in key areas, such as Las Tablas or Penonomé, quickly run out.

Other Popular Events

Dancing and cantaderas: There is more, much more, to experiment in Panama. Two events that take place every weekend are the typical dances with accordion bands and Cantaderas, gatherings of traditional décima singers. A décima consists of 10 improvised (yes, you read correctly: improvised) octosyllabic verses, with strict rules in terms of style, metric and rhyme. These events are only announced on some radios (La Tipik), on fabric billboards hung along roads, and in dancing clubs called "Toldos". They won't be hard to find. The Pan American highway, towns and even the capital city are filled with such billboards. Go with a friend and have a different experience.

Rumbas (evening events): If you want to find out about the night life and events in bars and discos in the capital city, the following websites are very practical and complete: La Cáscara, dealante.com, cocoas.net.