Panama an Eco-Wonderland
What places are calling your name for 2012? Whatever your mood, Traveler magazine has a recommendation for you—from the romantic hills of Croatia to the perfect beach in Thailand.
As a bridge between continents, Panama, 51 miles sea-to-sea at its midpoint, only looks slight. The Panama Canal, which capitalized on the Central American country’s slim waistline to become a literal nexus of global trade, will expand with two new sets of locks, one on the Pacific side of the canal and one on the Atlantic, designed for massive, 13,000-container cargo ships, due to be completed in 2014. World traders occupy gleaming new hotels that modernize the colonial capital.
Panama, nature and indigenous culture are abundant. The canal-bordering tropical lowlands of Soberanía National Park ring with the cries of howler monkeys and the chatter of toucans. The cool, flower-filled highland town of Boquete sits in the shadow of the country’s tallest volcano. Embera women paint their bodies and create elaborate neckpieces (above). At the offshore Coiba National Park, where a maximum of only 40 overnight visitors are allowed, divers share the pristine waters with scientific researchers and whale sharks.
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