Tour route for Lent

What better time than this period of solemn penance to go on a religious tour of the region's most important churches.

For Catholics, Holy Week is a time for reflection; for tourists, it is the ideal moment to visit colonial churches, observe golden altars and learn a little more of the history behind the Spanish conquest.

It is also an advantageous season because the pleasant summer weather makes it easy and enjoyable to go on a trip. Just hop into a car, take a drive down the Pan-American Highway and stop at the towns along the way.

Visit the church dedicated to St. John the Baptist in Penonomé, erected in the second half of the 16th century. Roads radiate out of the city center and towards the mountains, where you can stop at other towns like Churuquita or La Pintada. The region is famous for its orange groves and the artisans who weave the finest traditional Panamanian hats.

The next stop along the Pan-American Highway is Natá de los Caballeros, where the Spanish colonizers built the first church in the countryside of Panama. Named after the apostle St. James, its architecture is singular and contains a spectacular image of Christ.

Further along, the town of Pesé is famous for its celebration of the Passion of Jesus at 10:00 p.m. on Good Friday. Another option for the same event is at Río de Jesús, in the province of Veraguas.

Yet another place with popular religious celebrations is Parita, where its church dominates the large town square. The Santo Domingo de Guzmán church is noteworthy for its hundred-year old altars. 

A good recommendation for Easter Sunday is to visit the town of Guararé for its procession of saints, a traditional activity that begins in the central park, next to the church Virgen de Las Mercedes.