Considered the most beautiful costume in the world, the Panamanian pollera is a colorful dress that exudes splendor, distinction, and elegance. Artisans execute every detail involved in the sewing, art, design, and style of each variety, the most well known being: white gala attire (Pollera Santeña); chintz peasant dress (Pollera Montuna); with openwork darning,embroidery, or cross-stitch (Pollera con Labores); household blouse (La Basquiña); and with colorfully striped ribbons (La Pollera Tireada).
The pollera consists of two major pieces, a blouse and a long skirt, both decorated in fine cloth.
The Azuero Peninsula, comprising the provinces of Herrera, Los Santos and part of Veraguas, is where to today artisans conserve the authenticity of the delicate and laborious process of tailoring polleras.
The pollera can be made from the following fabrics:
Linen: Tela de Hilo, El Coco, La Crea de Hilo, El Holán de Motitas
Cotton: El Percal, La Tela Confusa, El Opal, El Anjeo, La Zaraza
Every Panamanian woman dreams of wearing a pollera, which makes her feel proud of the customs and traditions that enrich this isthmus.
It's important to note that the pollera can come in any color, as with the hair adornments and shoes, all depending on its style, type, and category.
Panama proudly showcases the many customs and traditions that make up its rich culture, from diverse dances to colorful clothing.
Today we will focus on the national costume called pollera and pay homage to the seamstresses and artisans who play a fundamental role in creating such important articles that have gained world renown for their beauty and singularity.
The essence of the people in each region of the country is reflected and highlighted through the history behind their individual pollera ensemble.
Known as one of the beaches with the most tourism development and infrastructure in the country, excellent hotels, supermarkets, restaurants, banks, private homes and housing projects, and all sorts of commercial services have been attracted to Coronado.
Following the Pan-American Highway and after passing the well-known hill called Cerro Campana, you will be en route to this beautiful beach with large waves. The national decree passed in 2014 makes it now part of Panama's tenth province named West Panama.
Length: 15 full days
Route: Herrera, Los Santos, Pedasí, Boquete, Bocas del Toro
This interesting itinerary hits all the attractions, both cultural and natural, and will undoubtedly be an enriching experience for any traveler. The route takes you to countryside villages where the townspeople conserve their customs and traditions. Allow yourself to unwind on a visit to postcard-perfect Caribbean islands that are awash in vegetation and replete with tropical fauna.
The "Land of Bananas" is accessible by various modes of transportation from Panama City. Direct daily flights from Marcos A. Gelabert International Airport bring you to Colón Island, in the district of Changuinola in Bocas del Toro, in about 45 minutes.
You can also get there in ground transportation, by bus or rental car. Busses depart daily from the Albrook Grand Station on a regular schedule of 8:00 pm and 12:00 am. Either the Panama- David route or the Padafront line charge approximately $25.00 for the trip. Busses go as far as Chiriquí Grande, and if you decide to stay here to rest you can find lodging at the Hotel Emperador, Hotel Buena Vista, or boarding houses.
To reach the island in car, backtrack a few kilometers to Rampala and then head towards Almirante (63 km. away) and ask for directions to a parking lot by the dock. If you travel by bus, they will drop you off directly at the dock. There you can take a speedboat and arrive at your destination of Colón Island in around 20 minutes. Boats depart from the dock all day from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Once you land on the island you can relax in an environment of singular natural beauty and a tranquil way of life. This is what has allured a variety of cultures, including Europeans and Americans, to make it their home away from home. The Caribbean-style of houses built on stilts and seaside restaurants serving an array of seafood steeped in coastal flavors are a simple way of welcoming you to enjoy your stay.
Entertainment options abound on the Bocas archipelago, from nightlife at open-air bars to island-hopping tours. The natural attractions of beaches, palm trees, birds, and a rainbow of colors play up the region's paradisiacal beauty. Be sure to include a visit to Bastimentos Island National Park, located north of Colón Island, to witness an intact tropical rainforest and a marine ecosystem that encompasses mangrove islets and coral reefs. These preserved natural areas serve as a refuge for amphibians and habitat for marine species such as the Hawksbill Turtle.
A trip to the highlands of Chiriquímeans cool temperatures, coffee, flowers, rivers, trails, and farmland with flavor-packed products such as strawberries. Get ready to see places that will enchant you, starting with the chilled waters of Caldera River that give way to the majestic "Valley of the Eternal Rainbow". Aromatic flowers in motley colors delicately dot the slopes of the towering blue mountains surrounding Boquete, inviting you to go on a hiking trip across the countryside. The scenic views, abundant trails, and pleasant climate, punctuated by a gentle rain that refreshes the fertile land, are reason enough to engage in outdoor activities. This mountainous area is situated about a 5-hour drive from Panama City and 46 kilometers from the city of David on the Pan-American Highway.
Virtual Tour of Highlands
This trip is known as a cultural tour that prominently displays the customs and traditions that reign in the countryside. The proud peasants are famous for extending their hospitality and inviting you to become a part of this great experience. The regional cuisine is prepared simply but showcases the exquisite flavor of the country's interior provinces. This route through the region of Azuero seeks to emphasize its natural attractions, folk culture, antique dwellings, and the history surrounding the villages, all of which the townspeople lovingly exhibit during the local patron saint festivals and fairs.
The Azuero Peninsula is accessible by bus from the Albrook bus station for a B/.8.00 fare. You can also take a flight from the Marcos A. Gelabert International Airport bound for the Alfonso Valderrama Airport in Chitré,located in the province of Herrera. Renting a car is another option that will allow you to go on several trips along the fascinating routes that cross the Azuero Peninsula.
Make a stop at Sarigua and see the phenomenon of salt concentration on the land, influenced by the tides. The Sarigua National Park covers an area of 8,000 hectares of “albina” or semi-desert coastal areas that hold ancient pre-Columbian settlements. Nearby is the very picturesque town of Parita, where the Colonial Plaza flanked by antique houses is preserved and serves as a venue for all the folk festivities the town celebrates.
Continuing on this same route to the province of Los Santos and surrounding areas we can visit more villages where the drum, pollera dress, patron saint festival, delicious meals, and attractions that enrich the senses are of touristic interest. This region can also be reached by taking a bus from the Albrook Bus Terminal in Panama City. The journey takes 4 to 5 hours and the bus fare is $10.00 per person.
Once in Los Santos you can visit the Nationality Museum located in Central Park that shows replicas of mud and thatch homes, a design that kept them cooler. The entire community participated in building these houses, amidst songs, dances, and meals cooked over the wood-fired stove. Only a few of this type of construction remain today in some villages.
Another notable attraction along the route is the town of Guararé, known for hosting the Mejorana Festival. Nearby, the beautiful beaches of El Puerto, Bella Vista, Mongagre, and El Rompío are extensive, flat, and quite safe for children. The capital city of Las Tablas is internationally recognized for its carnival celebrations and festival for their patron saint the Santa Librada, also known as or St. Wilgefortis or Virgin Moñona. Las Tablas also has nice beaches, such as Las Comadres, El Jobo, Uverito, La Candelaria, and El Estero, on the Pacific coast, the majority with restaurants and lodging facilities. If you are interested in trying on the typical costume, La Pollera and Montuno, you will have the opportunity to rent the dress and all its accessories and have a gorgeous photograph taken for an incomparable keepsake.
Continuing in the same direction we find Pedasí, a town that has captured the interest of investors who had faith in its virtue and beauty. As a result, today this place has a large tourism business and appealing residential projects. There are refreshing natural attractions to be explored in the vicinity. Only seven kilometers away is Iguana Island, set in a lovely seascape and site of the largest (40 hectares) and best preserved coral reef in the Gulf of Panama.
Go on historical, religious, and cultural tours, practice extreme sports, explore nature, sample typical dishes, and more.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner:
Along the Azuero Peninsula route are typical food vendors where you can sample the countryside flavor. Delight in trying a delicious tortilla breakfast, a rich stew, a refreshing tamarind beverage, or a classic dinner known as toldo of chicken and rice served with potato salad.
General Tour Activities:
Tour churches and historic villages
Vista La Pollera and take photographs (in the city of Las Tablas)
Relax on beaches
Purchase traditional crafts and dishes
Length: 7 full days
Route: Cerro La Cruz, La Laguna de San Carlos, Valle de Antón, La Pintada, Nata de los Caballeros, and Aguadulce.
We start the next tour heading to all these beautiful sites that are west of Panama City.
The first stop is 58 kilometers from Panama City, arriving at the town of Chicá. The entrance is just before Campana, turning up onto the road on the right hand side just across from the famous "Enchanted House", which is a private estate but with an aspect that makes the locals tell ghost stories. At the Ministry of the Environment (ANAM) station, you are advised to stop and record your personal information for security reasons. The entrance to Cross Hill is 3.1 kilometers down the road and marked by a curious sign that reads "FARM I'M NOT HERE". The trail to the cross is well maintained and marked, but do take care climbing up and down the rock if it is muddy and the ground wet. The hike up can take about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
The adventure continues and next we invite you to the Laguna de San Carlos, known simply as "The Pond". Surrounded by green mountains and set in a natural landscape, the lake is a good place for you to practice sport or subsistence fishing and catch a variety of fish, such as sardine, common carp, and black crappie. It is located west of the hill Cerro Picacho, in the village of La Laguna, district of San Carlos.
From the lake in San Carlos we descend to a magical valley, El Valle de Antón, that abounds in flora and fauna by virtue of its favorable climate.
Tectonic activity ages ago created what are now the tourist attractions of The Sleeping Indian and Gaital and Iguana hills that encircle the crater of a dormant volcano. Lodging options in El Valle de Antónare in hotels, hostels, cabins, or a spa center. Feel free to walk around the area and enjoy the landscapes. El Valle is blessed with hot springs that boast healing properties. Visitors also have the opportunity to observe over 100 species of animals and 180 types of plants and trees from the well-marked paths inside El Níspero, the local zoo and plant nursery. El Valle de Antón is located 125 kilometers from Panama City. Turn off onto the road about 4 kms after passing San Carlos and you will reach the town in another 28 kilometers.
Next stop is at the picturesque town of La Pintada, recognized for their handicrafts and high coffee and citrus production, especially oranges. It is here where artisans display their skills in making the traditional Pintao, or painted, hat, as well as in pottery and other crafts. To reach La Pintada, first drive to Penonomé, the provincial capital of Coclé. At Simón Bolívar Park, take the highway next to the police station and in another 15 kilometers or so you will arrive at the charming town of La Pintada.
Very close to Penonomé, some 30 minutes down the Pan-American Highway, you will find the towns of Natá de los Caballeros and Aguadulce.
Natá de los Caballeros
The main attraction in the town of Natá de los Caballeros is its Church of Natá,whose walls relate that it was one of the first cities built on the isthmus during the colonial era, and a few silver pieces from the 17th century conserved inside the church merit it being declared a National Historic Landmark. Natá is also known for its strong development in the sugar, dairy, and shrimp industries.
Visit the Santiago ApóstolBasilica and San Juan de Dios Chapel
Visit the natural springs
Yet another quaint village we encounter in our excursion along the Pan-American Highway is Aguadulce, or fresh water, named after what immediately bubbled up from a well dug by the first settlers. It is nicknamed "The Land of Salt and Sugar" for these major industries in this region. Aguadulce is situated on a vast valley some 195 kilometers from Panama City.
Visit the Salt and Sugar Museum
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Along the Pan-American Highway you can find restaurants serving international fare, as well as roadside snack stands where you can sample dishes that are typical of the region.
Each town also has shopping centers with stores selling clothing, food, and gasoline. There are banks and ATMS accessible to visitors, and travelers can spend the night in hotels, hostels, cottages, or homes for rent at a range of prices.
General Tour Activities
Go on hikes
Visit swim spots and rivers
Photograph the landscapes and sites
Buy regional fresh fruits and vegetables
Relax at spas
Purchase exotic plants
Nightlife in casinos
Length: 3 full days
Day 1: History of the Isthmus
A guided tour of the Panama La Vieja Visitor Center highlights its potential as a historical and archaeological site. The center advocates for preserving and promoting history and valuing our national and global heritage, while providing the visiting public with a high-quality service that satisfies their needs for leisure, entertainment, and education.
-Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
-Visit the Panama La Vieja Artisan Center, recently opened with over 51 booths selling handicrafts.
-Open: 7 days a week from 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Dine in the Old Town
Spend the afternoon shopping in the Multiplaza Mall. Savor an excellent cup of coffee from the famous islands or restaurants in the facilities.
Evening entertainment includes the opportunity to hear live music, enjoy performances, go dancing, or do some gambling at casinos or betting tables.
Day 2: Adventure
Adventures on the banks of the Chagres River. Visit the Emberá indigenous community.
Panama is one of few countries that offers this enriching experience to share, learn, and enjoy the culture of indigenous cultures.
Canoe up the Chagres: The ride up the river from Puerto Vigia takes you deep into the indians' historical and cultural environment. From inside the canoe you can observe the flora and fauna that are part of native traditions and customs.
Departure from the port of Vigia: 8:15 a.m.
Arrival at village: The Emberá will greet you and immerse you in their world through costumes, dancing, cooking, and giving you a tour of their territory. You will have the chance to take photographs, buy souvenirs, and discover the indigenous history and culture through the villagers's stories.
Native meal: Eat a lunch of traditional ethnic dishes, typically consisting of fried plantains with freshly caught tilapia, a freshwater fish.
Emberá Chief: Antonito Zarco
To make reservations: call 6511-7408
Bathe under a refreshing waterfall
Dance with the indians
Body painting with vegetable dyes
Photograph the Emberá
Last tour stop:
Duty-free shopping just 10 minutes from Panama City's downtown, followed by a delicious dinner on the seashore and an array of nightlife options on the Amador Causeway.
Open hours: Duty Free: 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Day 3: Beach
Relax on a charming island on the Atlantic coast of the country.
Depart from the town of La Guaira, where you can enjoy white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, a world of marine species, and mangrove forests near the coast.
The island is situated to the north and offers a view of ancient canyons, caves, and unique mazes of coral reefs.
Your choice of accommodations on the island ranges from B/.25.00 for a beach cottage to B/.150 per night in a luxurious hotel room.
Lunch/Dinner: Enjoy the local cuisine served at seaside restaurants. Traditional coastal dishes made by the Afro-Caribbeans are based on seafood and flavored with coconut.
Sunbathe and swim at the beach
Boat ride along the coast
Tour length: 1 full day (8 hours)
Visit the Miraflores Locks and Visitor Center
The Miraflores Locks provide an opportunity for all visitors to learn the history and operation of the Panama Canal and witness as ships transit through the locks. Enjoy the views of the natural landscape lining the banks of the Canal from the on-site restaurant area. A tour of the Panama Canal Museum's four exhibition halls covers these topics:
History behind the Canal
-Water: Source of Life
-The Canal in Action
-The Canal in the World
The Visitor Center has a large fully equipped theater, three observation decks, two refreshment stands, a restaurant with panoramic views, a gift shop, and a banquet hall.
Take photographs of the Canal
Dine at the restaurant overlooking the Canal
Go on a guided tour of the museum
Watch the film "History of the Canal"
Monday to Sunday, including public holidays, from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Ticket Office 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Exhibition halls, refreshment stands, and gift shop 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Restaurant: 12:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Last tour stop: Go shopping at the Mega Centro Albrook Mall, where you will find brand-name stores with competitive prices and a variety of restaurants offering both fast food and a la carte dining options.