Panama Golden Isthmus Odyssey

Engage the wildlife and explore the environs of the Panama Canal watershed
Overview

overview

Panama will surprise you at every turn with its narrowing of the continents which concentrates species, cultures, weather, and even transportation.  The Panama Canal is a wonder, but a small one in comparison to the species diversity, rich environments, and the amazing people who will lead your trip. With seven Indian tribes, Spanish heritage, and international orientation, Panama offers a combination of worldy awareness and a world lost in time.  Its 940 recorded bird species are just a hint of the great wildlife contained in its rainforests. On this tour, visit the Panama Canal, sanctuary islands, Smithsonian tropical studies areas, western highlands, cloud forests, and markets. This is a very complete taste of Panama with the full flavor of natural and cultural diversity.

itinerary

itinerary

  • Day 1: Panama
    Welcome to Panama!

    On arrival to Tocumen International Airport, you are met by a JOURNEYS representative and transferred to your hotel in Panama City.

    Lodging
    Victoria Hotel & Suites (or similar)
    Show on a map
  • Day 2: Jungle Boat Adventure
    Gatun Locks

    Early in the morning, you will be picked up at the lobby of our hotel by our naturalist guide for a 45-minute drive to the town of Gamboa, where the Chagres River meets the Panama Canal. Board an expedition boat and depart on an adventure that will include a voyage across Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal, passing by gigantic cargo ships that contrast with the natural surroundings. Along the way, look for green iguanas and three-toed sloths resting on tree branches, crocodiles, ospreys in the hunt for peacock bass, snail kites, and keel-billed toucans, among other wildlife. Gatun Lake was formed as part of the Panama Canal in 1914. At the time of its creation, Gatun Lake was the largest man-made lake in the world with a surface of 165 square miles. The flow of all the rivers within the Panama Canal watershed is contained in Gatun Lake to provide water for the operation of the lock system. More than 52 million gallons of fresh water are used for every ship that transits through the Panama Canal from one ocean to another. Your expedition boat will travel very close to rainforest-covered islands (former hill tops) in Gatun Lake to search for white-faced capuchins, mantled howler monkeys, Central American spider monkeys, and Geoffrey’s tamarins. Enjoy a picnic lunch on a small island with extraordinary views of the Panama Canal and the natural surroundings. Return to Gamboa in the early afternoon and head for Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal where you will learn about the canal's history, operation, and expansion currently underway. 

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Victoria Hotel & Suites (or similar)
    Show on a map
  • Day 3: Chiriqui / Boquete
    Coffee is grown everywhere.

    Take a short drive to Albrook domestic airport in order to catch a scheduled flight to David, capital of the Chiriqui province. Chiriqui is known as “Panama’s breadbasket” and contains some of the most breathtaking highland scenery in Central America. Then proceed along the western side of Baru Volcano where you'll spend your day on Janson's estate. Enjoy a typical lunch with freshly brewed coffee overlooking the beautiful mountain range of Baru Volcano and the surrounding valley. In the afternoon, you will learn about planting, harvesting, processing, roasting and packaging of world famous coffee Del Fino and Geisha, grown on the Janson's coffee farm. Late, choose options such as exploring the estate via 4x 4, hike to incredible vistas, kayak on the lake and or take a motorized lake float. Then proceed to the quaint accommodatons and its countryside dotted with flower, fruit, and produce farms, coffee plantations, and lush tropical cloud forests. The afternoon is free to relax, stroll through the town on your own or enjoy the spa services at the hotel. 

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Hotel Bambito (or similar)
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  • Day 4: La Amistad International Park
    Hike through the dense, green forests

    Shared with neighboring Costa Rica and recognized in 1982 as a World Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site, La Amistad is located at a point on the Central American natural land bridge where flora and fauna from North and South America reach their greatest species mix. With great ranges in altitude, precipitation, soil type, and temperature, biodiversity is at its best. Spend the morning hiking and exploring La Amistad in the area of El Retoño in search of the resplendent Quetzal, the silvery-fronted tapaculo, the Andean pygmy-owl, the barred becard, and the black and yellow silky flycatcher, among many other western highland birds. After lunch at a local restaurant,  you will descend on a scenic road through some rice, corn and sugar cane fields.

    En-route you will have a unique opportunity to experience a century-old tradition at a local Trapiche, a formerly horse-powered sugar mill, where the delicious raspadura blocks are made. The farmers also produce chesse and traditional sweets that are available for purchase. Mid-afternoon you proceed to the quaint town of Boquette on the Eastern side of Baru volcano where you will stay at a small charming mountain for the next nights. the rest of the afternoon is open to relax.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Boquete Tree Trek Mountain Resort (or similar)
    Show on a map
  • Day 5: Boquete
    Look for many species of birds

    Get your adrenalin pumping early in the morning with a canopy tree trek on a zipline that allows you to see the rainforest from fourteen different platforms while smoothly soaring in the heights of the cloud forest. Glide through the trees and encounter a world you'll love discovering. Native species of flora and fauna can be observed. Marvel at the sight of a great variety of orchids, trees, and wildflowers found throughout the area. Put your feet on the ground for a lunch served at the mountain tree trek restaurant, which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding cloud forest. In the afternoon,you will have the opportunity to enjoy natural hot springs that are known for their healing properties. The hot springs are located within a private farm about 60 minutes driving from Boquete outside a small town of Caldera, which means boiling pot. The nearby Caldera River itself serves as a refreshing cool off after bathing in the hot springs. Some of the thermal pools are surrounded by man placed stones which give them a touch of intimacy and privacy. The temperatures in these natural pools range from 38ºC - 46ºC.

     

    Dinner tonight will be at an exquisite restaurant in town, together with your guide.

     

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Boquete Tree Trek Mountain Resort (or similar)
    Show on a map
  • Day 6: Volcan

    In the morning, check out and then explore Boquete and its major interest points. Its countryside is dotted with flower, fruit and produce farms, coffee plantations and also lush tropical cloud forests. From different hill tops and look out points you will have extraordinary views of the town set in the mountain valley at 1060 meters above sea level. Drive by the local houses and farming areas, walk through the historic town center and learn about important facts on the founding of Boquete and its historial buildings, beautiful blooming flower gardens and a scenic drive by local coffee farms, waterfalls and the cloud forest of the Volcan Baru National Park to admire its abundant flora and fauna. After lunch you return to David for your flight back to Panama City. Transfer to the Melia Panama Canal Hotel for dinner and overnight.  

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Melia Panama Canal (or similar)
    Show on a map
  • Day 7: San Lorenzo National Park / Panama City
    San Lorenzo National Park

    On July 10, 1668, the legendary privateer captain Henry Morgan and a small army of corsairs and buccaneers attacked, overwhelmed and captured the city of Portobelo. Follow the steps of this historical town, which was famous for its trade fairs during the 17th century. During colonial times it was one of the most important strongholds of the Spanish Main in the Americas. You visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and colonial fortifications Forts San Geronimo and Santiago de la Gloria. After lunch in town, you head out by boat in the afternoon to one of the beautiful white-sand tropical beaches that are found nearby. You will have the opportunity to snorkel in the Caribbean waters surrounded by beautiful tropical fish and a lot of marine wildlife around the coral reefs. Return back to your hotel in Colon and enjoy dinner at the hotel.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Melia Panama Canal (or similar)
    Show on a map
  • Day 8: Embera Indigenous Village
    Celebrate with the Embera Indians

    Board a motorized piragua (dugout canoe) and travel up the Chagres River to the Embera indigenous village of Embera Drua. The boat journey goes through the rainforest of the 320,000-acre Chagres National Park, which is the largest of the national parks protecting the Panama Canal watershed. Along the Chagres River, search for little blue and green herons, great egrets, anhingas, neotropical cormorants, Amazon, ringed, and green kingfishers, along with keel-billed toucans and ospreys. At the Embera village, enjoy dancing and music, and learn about Embera customs and their relationship with nature. There will be handicrafts available for sale and an opportunity to be painted with the traditional jagua, a natural dye the Embera use to adorn their bodies. After a traditional Embera lunch,you will experience a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience history in the making by observing close-up the Panama Canal Expansion works on the new Gatun Locks. Panama embarked on a major project to expand the Panama Canal a decade ago. The US$6.25 billion project, due to be completed in early 2015 will give the waterway the needed competitive advantage to operate successfully for at least another century. The Panama Canal will celebrate its 100th anniversary on August 15, 2014. The return to Panama City will be on the Trans-Isthmian train. The railway follows a similar route as the original train built to transport 49ers coming from the East coast of the United States across the Isthmus to continue their journey by boat to California during the Gold Rush. The route was diverted when Gatun Lake was formed to give way to the Panama Canal. After a 1-hour train ride you will be transferred to your city hotel. Dinner together with your guide at the hotel´s restaurant.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Clarion Victoria Hotel and Suites (or similar)
    Show on a map
  • Day 9: Partial Panama Canal Transit
    The canal is currently undergoing expansion.

    Drive to Gamboa and embark a ship for exploring the Panama Canal. The ship will first enter Gaillard Cut, the narrowest section of the canal. The ship will reach Pedro Miguel locks, where the vessel wil be lowered 30.8 ft into Miraflores Lake. After traveling nearly two kilometers, arrive at Miraflores locks, where the trainsition from fresh water to salt water takes place in the locks chambers. Due to the Pacific OCean's extreme tidal variations, Miraflores locks miter gates are the tallest of the locks system. In two steps, the vessel will be lowered 55 ft into the Pacific Ocean. Then, sail under the bridge of the Americas before disembarking at Flamenco Island. Here you will enjoy a brief sightseeing tour on the Amador Causeway. Your farewell dinner will be at a local restaurant with your guide.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Clarion Victoria Hotel & Suites (or similar)
    Show on a map
  • Day 10: Panama City/Onward
    Saying farewell

    Transfer to Tocumen International Airport for onward flight. 

    Meals
    Breakfast
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Price and Date Details

Price and Date Details

Dec 26, 2014-Jan 4, 2015
Feb 20-Mar 1, 2015
Mar 20-29, 2015
Jun 19-28, 2015
Jul 17-26, 2015
Aug 14-23, 2015
Dec 25, 2015-Jan 3, 2016
Or Privately on Request
Land Cost:
$3,550
domestic flights in Panama included Holiday surcharges apply
Single Supplement:
$650
The single supplement is applicable if a roommate is not available or if single accommodation is specifically requested. While single accommodation is not available on all trips, we will try and honor this request whenever possible.
Need to Know

Need to Know

Duration:
10 days
The number of days, or duration, in a destination corresponds with the itinerary as published. This is the time period covered by the land cost. The total number of days includes the time required to travel between the USA and the destination country.
Comfort Level:
2
comfortable & delightful hotels
Group Size:
4-12
The stated range indicates minimum required for guaranteed departure and maximum accepted on the scheduled dates. Exceptions can often be made for private departures.
Activity Level:
2
comfortable & delightful hotels

Resources

Trip Extensions

Trip Extensions

San Blas

Duration: 3 days

Add the San Blas Islands for 2 nights!  Located along the northeastern coast of Panama, in the Caribbean Sea, the San Blas are home to the Guna Indians who have been granted regional autonomy. Learn about Guna traditions, relax on the beach, snorkel... read more

Panama Canal Transit

Duration: 1 days

Passengers aboard a ship crossing the Panama Canal will have the opportunity to see one of the modern wonders of the world in operation.

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