Day 1 Arrive in Panama City and transfer to your hotel
This thriving cosmopolitan metropolis sits at the Pacific end of the Panama Canal. The city dates back to 1519 when it was a settlement base for transporting Peruvian gold back to Imperial Spain. Its subsequent wealth made it a frequent target for pirate raids. These days, soaring skyscrapers, sparkling banks and smart modern offices overshadow forts, Spanish convents and sumptuous French-style mansions, reminders of its colonial heyday.
Day 2 Partial transit of the Panama Canal
Today you have a partial transit of that most astonishing feat of engineering, the Panama Canal. It’s a short drive to the Port of Balboa and Miraflores Locks, where the boat is raised 17m above sea level. The next set of locks is even higher; you will be 26m above sea level before entering the Gaillard Cut where the Chagres river flows into the Canal.
The canal’s construction involved the creation of the largest man-made lake in the world - Gatún - which is where you will disembark before returning to Balboa by bus.
Day 3 Guided excursion in Panama City
You’ll have a guided tour of the ruins of Old Panama City (Panama Viejo), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the first city founded by Europeans on the Pacific coast of the Americas and the starting point of the Spanish trails which crossed the isthmus to the Caribbean.
The city was attacked and looted by English pirate Henry Morgan in 1671. Visit the Old Panama Museum, climb up the Cathedral tower, and stroll among the stone walls and the remnants of what was once considered the richest city in the Americas. Continue to Casco Viejo where you will visit the Inter-oceanic Canal museum, housed in the former headquarters of the French canal-building effort in the 1880s. The restored museum displays the historical development of Panama from its Spanish colonial days to the completion of the canal in 1913.
This is followed by a walking tour of Casco Viejo, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to the Presidential Palace, the cathedral, the National Theatre, the French plaza and other landmarks which are a testimony to the city's rich history, culture and heritage. From the top of old city's wall you can enjoy views of the Pacific Ocean dotted with fishing boats and the massive ships lined up waiting to cross the Panama Canal, with a backdrop of the skyline of modern Panama City.
Day 4 Fly to David and transfer to highland Boquete
Boquete is a small provincial town set in a valley within the craggy, verdant Chiriquí Highlands. It enjoys a pleasant mountain climate and the surrounding area is both very beautiful and extremely fertile: benefiting from rich volcanic soils crops such as citrus fruit, strawberries coffee, flowers and vegetables thrive in a European style system of small-scale farming. The town itself has a few quaint old buildings and some good restaurants.
A highlights holiday in Panama wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a coffee farm. Boquete is to coffee what Bordeaux is to wine. Over several years, Panama's coffee has been rated the best coffee in the world. Finca La Milagrosa is a small (5ha) 100% organic farm. The family-run operation was started using a roasting machine cobbled together spare parts from an old Mitsubishi car, but its produce is award-winning, hence the name, Milagrosa. The coffee is destined for Europe and the US but you’ll have a chance to try some.
Day 5 At leisure in Boquete
There are several activities available from your accommodation, including cycling and water rafting. Not far away from Boquete is the starting point of the Sendero Los Quetzales from where you can walk (7-8hrs) over the mountains to Cerro Punta, the best area to spot the resplendent quetzal - the colourful bird which is a Central American icon.
You can also hike or be driven up the slopes of Panama’s only (extinct) volcano, Barú, or luxuriate in the nearby hot springs.
Day 6 By air and water taxi to Bocas del Toro islands
Your holiday will be rounded off with some beach-time. Off the northwest coast of Panama close to the border with Costa Rica lies the archipelago of Bocas del Toro.
The undeveloped islets of white sand beaches fringed by palms and reeds, with rocky outcrops and reefs ideal for snorkelling and diving, provide a marvellously laid-back hang-out for a few days. The islands shelter profuse wildlife - especially tropical birds, frogs and butterflies - and are blessed with splendiferous sunsets.
Days 7-8 At leisure in Bocas del Toro
At leisure on the islands.
You can sunbathe, snorkel, stroll along dazzling snow-white beaches, sip a cool drink and survey a scene of unbridled tranquillity.
Day 9 Fly back to the mainland and transfer to Gamboa.
Set on the edge of Gatún Lake, the small town of Gamboa was for