Arrival, reception and transfer to your hotel.Day 2. (Thursday) Panama City - Gatun Lake - Portobelo - Colón (Breakfast & lunch)
An early start after breakfast in your hotel, takes you the Panama Canal Railway Train Station at Corozal, the starting point of your "trans-continental" rail journey. In newly restored, air-conditioned passenger cars, you will travel along the historical route that was the first rail link from the Atlantic to the Pacific in the Americas.
Portobelo was the final Caribbean terminus of the two trails that crossed the jungles of the isthmus, Camino Real and Camino de Cruces. Here, sailing ships would begin the trip back to Spain, escorted by enough firepower to repel most, but not all, pirate attacks as they attempted to sail on past the West Indies. In its heyday, Portobelo was a complex of batteries and forts that guarded the entrance to this beautiful inlet, perhaps the most heavily fortified of the Spanish control points along the coasts of the Americas. Nevertheless, this strategic and heavily fortified harbor was not enough to keep out the fleet of ships commandeered by Englishman Edward Vernon, who captured and destroyed the forts in 1739. Joined by your guide, we'll take an intimate look at the outstanding features of this important historical site as well as the Church of the Black Christ. We return to Colon in time to take the train back to Panama.
Today we will visit the ruins of "Panama Viejo," the first city founded in the isthmus by the Spanish. Passing through Altos Del Golf, an up market residential neighbourhood, we continue on to visit Casco Antiguo, the colonial city of Panama, built in 1673. The architecture of this area is exquisite and includes French, Italian and Spanish styles. Here you will see the Golden Altar, also home to the "Flat Arch", famous for showing the US engineers that Panama was not subject to earthquakes thereby influencing the decision to build the canal in Panama.
We will walk around the French Plaza, a monument to the French canal effort and take a panoramic look of the modern city from this vantage point where you can also see the ships that are anchored in the bay awaiting their turn to transit the canal. Next, a visit to the Independence Plaza and the Inter-Oceanic Canal Museum where you will learn the history of the Panama Canal construction.
Lunch at Flamenco Island in Amador. Our final stop will be at the Miraflores Locks where you will experience the operation of the Panama Canal at first hand and enjoy an audiovisual presentation that describes how ships pass through this engineering wonder. Typical Show and dinner.
Early in the morning you will be picked up from your hotel and transferred to Port Amador in Flamenco Island. Once the Panama Canal Authority Pilot, who will guide us through our transit, has boarded the boat we will follow our companion vessel for the transit of the Miraflores Locks (by Canal standards, we are a small vessel, and for reasons of economy, rarely transit the locks alone). These locks raise the boat to the level of the Miraflores Lake that we will cross until we reach the Pedro Miguel Locks here our boat will be raised to approximately 85 feet above sea level so that we can cross through the center of Panama. After exiting Pedro Miguel, we enter the narrowest section of the Canal known as Gailard (or Culebra) Cut. This was the most difficult part of the excavation during the construction of the Panama Canal as it cuts through the continental divide; we will arrive at Gamboa where the Panama Canal Dredging Division has its headquarters and where you will be able to observe the impressive machinery used here to keep the canal in navigable condition.
Please note: One Saturday per moth is a Full Canal Transit. The full transit takes about 10 hours.
This fascinating, authentic cultural excursion leaves from your hotel at 8:00AM. A short bus ride takes us to our starting point within the Tropical Rainforest of the Chargres National Forest. Then we will take motorized dugout canoes up the Chagres River where we will meet the passionate and friendly people of the Embera-Drua community and learn about their indigenous culture and traditions. We will lunch in their typical thatched huts.
You will also have the chance to take a tour with the "Medicine Man" who will explain the use of plants as natural medicines. The village lies above a beautiful tranquil natural pool and waterfall in the river, perfect for a refreshing swim before we return to the city. You will also be able to purchase some of their incredible handicrafts. The Embera Indians are master artisans in Panama, known for their fine baskets and high quality woodcarvings. In addition to crafting objects for sale, skilled woodcarving has many traditional uses in the Embera culture, including fabricating hunting weapons, canoe, paddles, household furnishing and ceremonial objects. The Embera have recently expanded their carving skills to tagua, known as "vegetable ivory", and have created a unique and imaginative art inspired by the plants and animals of the rainforest. The Embera artisans carve the tagua with hand tools and polish the tagua with a series of fine abrasives; no varnishes or lacquers are used. The natural colour or tagua is ivory white with a dark brown skin with other natural shades of brown and gray. Others colors are produced by dying the tagua with natural extracts of plants and earth, using the traditional methods for dying basket fibers. Only high quality India inks are used on those pieces with inked "jaguar" details. Some of these carvings have won UNESCO prizes in native handicraft competitions.
After breakfast transfer to the International Airport for your return flight home.