From Painted Hats to historical itineraries, new routes to explore a truly authentic Panama

The tourist proposals seek to discover the sites visited by the conqueror Núñez de Balboa and showcase rural handicrafts.

Panama City, July 29, 2013. - Panama is promoting tourist itineraries to introduce visitors to the rural areas and unexplored, wild landscapes in the country. To follow in the footsteps of Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the discoverer of the Pacific Ocean, or take in the craft and culture of the countryside are the new tourist options for this Latin American destination.

Tour of rural crafts and culture

The Painted Hat Route traverses the province of Coclé, bringing tourists and visitors closer to the crafts, culture, and cuisine of the territory. Sponsored by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the tour highlights the painted hat, completely handwoven out of natural fibers from reeds, palm fronds, and a plant similar in appearance to the aloe vera. The dark color for the characteristic stripes is obtained from the chisná plant, whose leaves are boiled along with the fibers to be dyed.

Through this promotional initiative, rural artisans can promote their countryside's scenery and pleasant weather, while showcasing the tourist attractions of handicrafts  and agricultural products. The route passes through such villages as Vaquilla, Pajonal, and Membrillo, the only place in Panama where artisans carve soapstone, as well as El Águila and Machuca. These communities are connected by a main road that leads to various other villages where visitors can stop to really sense the rural culture.

Retracing the route of the discoverer of the Pacific Ocean

Panama provides a tour through history and into adventure for those who enjoy expeditions and charged emotions. In 1513, now 500 years ago, Vasco Núñez de Balboa discovered the South Sea when he crossed the isthmus of Panama. Realizing the existence of the Pacific Ocean changed our knowledge of ​​the planet's geography and inaugurated a new era of trade on a global level.

The presence of Balboa can be felt as soon as you arrive at Panama City or navigate the Pacific Ocean among the nearly 200 idyllic islands that make up the Las Perlas archipelago, of great marine wealth. Nevertheless, the complete tour will take you into El Darién, one of the most impenetrable jungles on the planet, without any marked nor even frequently used trails, for which it is best to go accompanied by a professional guide. The humidity and high temperatures, along with bugs and beasts, remain formidable obstacles in this territory populated yet today by the indigenous tribes Guna and Emberá Wounan.

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Photo: Andrés Villa