Five reasons to visit Panama this summer

Panama has become, in this 2012, a fashionable destination. Its rich and varied culture, native fauna and flora and the diversity of landscapes and possibilities that the country offers to all types of tourists and pocket books make Panama a destination with an enormous magnetism and full of secrets to discover.

View the sunrise on one ocean and see the sunset over another, walk through a 'desert' in a tropical country or visit one of the greatest engineering feats of the world, the Panama Canal, are just some of the attractions the country offers.

We will provide details for each of the reasons to visit.

1. Today in the Pacific, tomorrow in the Caribbean

Crystal clear waters, coral reefs, thousands of aquatic species or enjoy a sunrise over the Pacific and sunset over the Caribbean. The Panama isthmus   covers an area of 75,517 km2 and has hundreds of kilometers of beach on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.

On the Pacific coast, just one hour from Panama City, is a series of beaches named Punta Chame, Gorgona, Coronado, Rio Mar, Santa Clara and Playa Blanca, the most popular spots for tourists and locals. Although those who want to be get further off the coast will find an authentic paradise and a haven of peace at Pearl Islands, just 50 km from the coast.

However, those who prefer to explore forts with pirate stories or practically virgin islands inhabited by indigenous communities should discover Bocas del Toro, another paradisiacal archipelago characterized by its colorful architecture of wooden houses, wide porches and raised stilts over the Caribbean Sea.

2. Vibrant and pure nature

Coiba Island in the Pacific is one of the most extensive marine parks in the world, providing 7% of Panama's natural reserves. Its geographic isolation has made this destination to be practically virgin, both for forests and seabed. A day on the island is a treat for the senses of the more adventurous traveler.

Those who want to be surprised should not miss Sarigua National Park, an area in the Azuero Peninsula that has experienced a salinization process that gives it a desert aspect. Once a pre-Columbian settlement, about 11,000 years old, it now attracts exotic flora and fauna with small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and migratory birds.

In Chiriquí, in the northern part of the country, after a thrilling climb up Barú Volcano and at an altitude of 3,500 meters, it is possible to view the two oceans that bathe Panama: the Atlantic and Pacific. In the Highlands there are coffee plantations, vegetable fields and extraordinary landscapes. The National Park named after Barú Volcano is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has   biodiversity that is unique to the world and a contrast of landscapes that tell the story of its last eruption.

Just two hours from Panama City is Antón Valley, in the central province of Coclé, regarded as the place of eternal spring in Panama. It is a paradisiacal place with a pleasant climate where hikers will find trails, exuberant vegetation, abundant waterfalls, and endemic species like the golden frogs and square trees. The Valley is in the crater of a volcano, which is why there are so many hills and volcanic rocks around the area.

3. Air connections

Its location on the American continent has made Panama the largest platform for air connectivity in the Americas, with over 60 direct flights throughout the continent, but also with Europe, served by Iberia, KLM, Avianca, Condor, Delta and United. Up to a dozen airlines unite Spain with the Latin American country throughout the year. There are direct flights or with stopovers, for all budgets.

4. Multiculturalism and hospitality

A mixture of peoples, Panama is a melting pot. Africans, Europeans, mestizos, mulattoes and up to seven indigenous groups that still maintain their language and customs: the Gunas (in San Blas, Caribbean), the Embera and Wounaan (Darién Province), Ngobe and Bugle (in Chiriquí, Bocas del Toro and Veraguas) and Teribes and Bokotas (Bocas del Toro). Handicrafts, textiles, sculptures, music and native cuisine constitute the business card of a country that receives tourists with open arms.

5. Panama City

Panama City, evidence of the development the country has experienced in recent years, has been ranked by The Economist magazine as the city with the fifth largest economy in the world and a unique shopping destination full of stores in shopping malls where you can find all kinds of items for all budgets. To this can be added the urban development of the city, a skyline worthy of admiration, and a wide availability of luxury hotels with representation from the major international hotel chains on the banks of the Panama Canal, a world-class work of engineering.