Panama sits at a crossroads, a meeting of mighty oceans and the thread from which South America dangles on the map. The Panama Canal is a remarkable feat of engineering that links the Atlantic and the Pacific, and a trip along this famous waterway is a real bucket list experience. It’s not just maritime enthusiasts who will appreciate the Canal; along the way you’ll see parrots, toucans and monkeys amongst the dense foliage that lines the route. The huge volume of trade that passes through the Canal, together with some controversial tax policies, mean that Panama is one of the wealthiest countries in the Americas, as evidenced by the soaring skyscrapers of the capital, Panama City.
But head away from the Canal and you’ll find rugged highlands thick with rainforest, spectacular surf breaks and unspoilt Caribbean island chains where indigenous groups still paddle the waves in dugout canoes. The interior is defined by cloud forest and coffee plantations, home to an astonishing diversity of wildlife including more than 900 species of bird. At the southern tip of Panama is the notorious Darién Gap, the only break in the 19,000-mile-long Pan-American Highway, where the road peters out and thick jungle separates Central and South America.