Golden Isthmus Odyssey

Travel Idea:

Golden Isthmus Odyssey

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Length of trip:

10 days

Approximate price of this trip per person:

from $ 3095

Best travel dates to go:

Any time.

Detailed Description of this trip:

Panama is a fascinating nation that welcomes visitors fervently. With seven Indian tribes and its Spanish heritage, it is a country of cultural and historical significance. Its 940 recorded bird species are just a hint of the great wildlife that its rainforests contain. On this tour, visit the Panama Canal sanctuary islands, Smithsonian tropical studies areas, Kuna Indians, western highlands, cloud forests, and markets. This is a very complete taste of Panama with the full flavor of natural and cultural diversity.

Trip Itinerary:

  • Day 1 - Panama City

    On arrival to Tocumen International Airport, you are met by a Journeys representative and transferred to your hotel in Panama City.

    Food and Dining

    Enjoy a welcome cocktail and briefing with the naturalist guide.

  • Day 2 - Panama

    Panama Canal Jungle Boat Adventure/Chiriqui Highlands.
    Private Car Service

    Early in the morning you will be picked up at the lobby of our hotel by our naturalist guide for a 45-minute drive to the town of Gamboa, where the Chagres River meets the Panama Canal.


    Here you will board an expedition boat and depart on an adventure that will include a voyage across Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal passing by gigantic cargo ships that contrast with the natural surroundings.


    Along the way, you will have the opportunity to spot green iguanas and three-toed sloths resting on tree branches, crocodiles, ospreys in the hunt for peacock bass, snail kites, and keel-billed toucans among other wildlife. Gatun Lake was formed to give way to the Panama Canal in 1914. At the time of its creation it was the largest man-made lake in the world with a surface of 423 square-kilometers. The flow of all the rivers within the Panama Canal Watershed is contained in Gatun Lake to provide water for the operation of the lock system. More than 52 million gallons of fresh water are used for every ship that transits through the Panama Canal from one ocean to another. Your expedition boat will allow for close approximations to rainforest-covered islands (former hill tops) in Gatun Lake to search for white-faced capuchins, mantled howler monkeys, Central American spider monkeys, and Geoffrey’s tamarins.

    Food and Dining

    You will enjoy a picnic lunch on a small island with extraordinary views of the Panama Canal and the natural surroundings.

    Commercial Flight

    Return to Gamboa and drive to Albrook domestic airport to catch our scheduled flight to David, capital of the Chiriqui province. Chiriqui is known as “Panama’s breadbasket” and contains some of the most breathtaking highland scenery in Central America.

    Private Car Service

    Transfer by van to the western side of the Baru Volcano to the town of Volcan. (B,L,D)

  • Day 3 - Panama

    La Amistad International Park & World Biosphere Reserve.

    Shared with neighboring Costa Rica and recognized in 1982 as a World Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site, La Amistad is located at a point on the Central American natural land bridge where flora and fauna from North and South America reach their maximum species mix. With great ranges in altitude, precipitation, soil type, and temperature, biodiversity is at its best.


    You spend the morning hiking and exploring La Amistad in the area of El Retoño in search of the resplendent Quetzal, the silvery-fronted tapaculo, the Andean pygmy-owl, the barred becard, and the black and yellow silky flycatcher among many other western highland birds.


    After lunch at a local restaurant, you will visit Finca Dracula, home to over 1,500 orchid species.

    Private Car Service

    On your return ride to the hotel, you will stop at the Janson’s Coffee Estate and have an interactive experience with coffee.

    Food and Dining

    Here the experts will explain all the processes that coffee beans go through. This is no ordinary coffee. Shade grown and scrutinized, Janson’s Coffee is world renowned. Enjoy a fresh brewed cup of coffee while watching the spectacular sunset over the Baru Volcano, the highest peak of the country, at 3,475 meters above sea level. (B,L,D)

  • Day 4 - Boquete

    Sitio Barriles/Boquete.

    On the way to Boquete you will first visit Sitio Barriles, an archeological site of the extinct Barril culture that once lived on the slopes of the dormant Baru Volcano. Here the site guide will interpret the writings on the stones (petroglyphs) and enlighten you on the history of this culture.


    Proceed to the eastern side of Baru Volcano to the quaint town of Boquete with its countryside dotted with flower, fruit, and produce farms, coffee plantations, and also lush tropical cloud forests. At the entrance to Boquete, you will stop atop a bluff where you will have an extraordinary view of the town set in the mountain valley at 1,060 meters above sea level with the Caldera River running through it. This afternoon feel free to visit this quaint town. (B,L,D)

  • Day 5 - Panama

    Finca Lerida Cloud Forest.
    National Parks

    This morning you explore Finca Lerida, a privately owned preserve in Boquete, in the buffer zone of Baru Volcano National Park. At an elevation of 2,286 meters you have an opportunity to look for the elusive resplendent Quetzal, the three-wattled bellbird, the black-faced solitaire, the volcano hummingbird, the long-tailed silky flycatcher, and the prong-billed barbet in their cool habitat of orchids, bromeliads, and wild avocados.


    You will hike through lush vegetation and arrive at the Collin’s shade-grown coffee farm where lunch will be served. (B,L,D)

  • Day 6 - Panama City

    Commercial Flight

    After a leisurely breakfast you will travel to the city of David to board our mid-morning flight to Panama City.


    Upon arrival visit the Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Institute Tupper Center, where you will have lunch and visit the bookstore.


    Afterwards visit the Panama Canal’s Administration Building to admire the beautiful murals painted by William B. Van Ingen which depict the monumental labor involved in the building of the waterway.


    Continue with a visit to Miraflores Locks, the first set of locks on the Pacific Ocean side of the canal and Casco Viejo, a colonial city. (B,L,D)

  • Day 7 - Panama

    San Blas Islands/Dolphin Island.

    Located along the northeastern coast of Panama in the Caribbean Sea, the San Blas Islands are the home of the Kuna Indians. Determined to protect their unique culture, the Kunas were granted regional autonomy forming the “Comarca” (autonomous territory) of Kuna Yala where to this day an indigenous congress rules. Kuna women spend countless hours stitching the very colorful reverse appliquéd cotton “molas,” part of their daily wear. Essentially, the Kuna are fishermen, but they also farm coconut, corn, rice, cocoa, yucca, and other staples.

    Commercial Flight

    You will depart by small plane to San Blas at the crack of dawn today. To enhance the interaction with the Kuna travelers, you will go without the naturalist guide.


    A representative of Dolphin Lodge will greet you upon landing at the airstrip and transfer to the lodge on a motorized dugout canoe to check in and have breakfast.


    Dolphin Lodge is located on Uaguitupo (Dolphin) Island, about five minutes from the Achutupo airstrip via dugout canoe. Owned and operated by a Kuna family, the accommodations at Dolphin Lodge are rustic but comfortable, traditional Kuna-style huts with cozy beds, indoor bathrooms, and a hammock on the front porch. Meals are served in the Bohio dining room overlooking the Caribbean Sea.


    Visit the Kuna village of Achutupo in the company of a local guide that will provide you with an excellent opportunity to learn about the Kuna culture and their traditional ceremonies. Visit the communal house of “Sahilas” (Kuna chiefs) where the chiefs are responsible for enforcing the law of the community as well as offering advice on other aspects of life - including marital problems! Learn about the building of the typical Kuna house, their economy, the traditional “mola,” and the processing of sugar cane into the alcoholic drink known as “chicha.”


    Return to the lodge to relax at one of the hammocks and to have lunch.


    Later this afternoon you will go snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea to look for stunning marine life. (B,L,D)

  • Day 8 - Panama City

    Panama City/Chagres River & the Embera Indians.
    Commercial Flight

    After breakfast you board the plane bound for Panama City.


    Upon arrival, meet the naturalist guide and board a van for the trip to El Corotu on the shores of Madden Lake. The main reservoir of drinking water for the cities of Panama and Colon, Madden Lake also supplies 40% of the water required for the operation of the Panama Canal.


    Here, you will board a motorized piragua (dugout canoe) and travel up the Chagres River to the Embera indigenous village of Embera Drua. The boat journey takes you through the rainforest of the 320,000-acre Chagres National Park, which is the largest of the National Parks protecting the Panama Canal Watershed.


    Along the Chagres River, you may be able to spot little blue and green herons, great egrets, anhingas, neotropical cormorants, Amazon, ringed, and green kingfishers, along with keel-billed toucans and ospreys.

    Arts, Crafts and Antiques

    At the Embera village you will be greeted with dancing and music. Learn about Embera customs and their relationship with nature. There will be handicrafts available for sale and you will have a chance to be painted with the traditional jagua, a natural dye the Embera use to adorn their bodies.


    After a picnic lunch visit the nearby waterfall where you can take a dip in the crystal-clear waters of the Chagres River before heading back to Panama City. (B,L,D)

  • Day 9 - Panama City

    Partial Panama Canal Transit.
    River or Barge Cruise

    Early this morning you will be picked up at the hotel for the 15-minute drive to the port of Balboa, where you will board a boat which will take you on the world famous journey through the Panama Canal. Cruise through Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks, Gaillard Cut at the Continental Divide, and the narrowest part of the Panama Canal, until you arrive at the town of Gamboa, home to the canal’s dredging division, an important part in the functioning of the canal.


    At Gamboa you will disembark and drive back to the hotel in Panama City with a stop on the way at the Balboa handicraft market for some last minute shopping.

    Food and Dining

    Tonight enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

  • Day 10 - Panama City

    Panama City/Onward.

    Transfer to Tocumen International Airport for your onward flight. (B)

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