Panama’s territory twists in an S-curve for 480 miles, linking Costa Rica to Colombia. To the north, lies the warm Caribbean Sea. On its southern side, the sunny Pacific. Down its length, the misty peaks of the Cordillera Central slope to lush coastal plains. Woodlands cover approximately 30% of the mainland, with 1,500 islands sparkling offshore.
Trips to Panama:
Home to several Native American peoples, such as the Guaymí, Kuna, and Chocó, Panama became the first Spanish colony on the Pacific. Celebrated as “the door to the seas and key to the universe,” it served in the 1530s as the staging point for the Spanish conquest of the Inca empire, and until the 19th century it was a transshipment point for gold and silver destined for Spain. With the independence of Colombia, which once controlled Panama, from Spain, Panama came to serve as another staging point, this time for oceangoing migrants to the gold fields of California.
The tropical nation is renowned as the site of the Panama Canal, which cuts through its midsection. A central spine of mountain ranges extends almost the entire length of Panama, dividing the country into Atlantic and Pacific facing slopes. The two principal ranges, the Tabasará Mountains (Cordillera Central) in the west and the Cordillera de San Blas in the east, are separated near the centre of the country by a saddle of lower land. This depression (the Panama Canal site) divides the country again—roughly into western and eastern halves. Of the four quadrants thus formed, the southwestern has the largest number of settlements; however, the surroundings of the canal account for most of Panama’s population and commerce. The highlands and mountains in Panama are made up primarily of igneous (volcanic) rocks.