Panama is a beautiful country brimming with history and diversity, and this 7-day itinerary offers an exciting sampling of its many charms. You'll explore the capital, from its quaint colonial streets to its famous canal to its more modern attractions. Then venture out into the countryside, where you'll learn about the customs of indigenous locals, meet rainforest wildlife, and tour the Caribbean beach town of Portobelo.

Highlights

  • Sail down the Panama Canal
  • Explore Panama City's historic beauty
  • Spend time with the Embera indigenous community
  • Encounter wildlife in the Gamboa Rainforest
  • Visit the Caribbean outpost of colonial Portobelo

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Panamá Panama City
Day 2 Full Day Panamá City Tour Panama City
Day 3 Panama Canal Partial Transit Tour Panama City
Day 4 Emberá Village Tour Panama City
Day 5 Rainforest Day Trip Panama City
Day 6 Portobelo Expedition by Train Panama City
Day 7 Depart Panamá City Panama City

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Panamá

Welcome to Panama City!
Welcome to Panama City!

¡Bienvenidos a Panamá! Your guide will meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel in Panama City. After settling into your accommodations, you'll have the rest of the day to explore this vibrant city on your own. 

Wander around Casco Viejo, where you'll find pastel-colored colonial buildings and old world charm. Take a stroll along the waterfront on the Cintra Costera. Visit the fish market to try fresh, delicious ceviche. Or perhaps stop by the city's most famous museum, the Biomuseo, to learn about the country's incredible biodiversity.

Day 2: Full Day Panamá City Tour

Explore the colonial ruins of Panama la Vieja, the capital's old town
Explore the colonial ruins of Panama la Vieja, the capital's old town

Start your day with a tour of all of Panama City's major attractions. Enjoy a guided stroll around Casco Viejo, also known as Casco Antiguo, the city's historic neighborhood. Founded in 1670s, this UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts a vibrant mix of old and new, plenty of beautifully-crafted churches, art galleries, and some of the best restaurants in the city.

Then head to Panama la Vieja, where you can explore the impressive ruins of Panama's first Spanish city, founded in 1519. Next, make your way to the Panama Canal, where you can watch the Miraflores Locks in action. You'll also stop by Calzada de Amador, a boardwalk-like narrow strip of man-made land connecting three tiny islands to the mainland. The bountiful activities on offer here — from museums to cycling to artisan markets to nightlife — make it a major attraction. Plus, it has some of the best views of the city.

Day 3: Panama Canal Partial Transit Tour

Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal
Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal

Today you'll visit the mighty Panama Canal. One of the most important waterways in the world, the canal cuts across a 50-mile-long (80 km) isthmus, or strip of land, and connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Your guide will join you on a boat tour of the most important parts of this modern world wonder, including the curvy, snakelike Gaillard Cut, which has tons of geological and historical value. You'll cross the Pedro Miguel locks, the Miraflores locks, and then pass under the impressive Bridge of the Americas to end your cruise in the Flamenco Marina.

The afternoon is yours to explore at your own pace. If you're a coffee fanatic, this is the place to splurge on a $9 cup of smooth Geisha coffee — one of the most sought-after brews in the world. Or take to the nature trails of Metropolitan Natural Park, a wildlife refuge in the city where you can spot tropical birds, reptiles, and maybe even sloths!

Day 4: Emberá Village Tour

Enjoy indigenous beats in an Emberá village
Enjoy indigenous beats in an Emberá village

Today you'll journey to the dense jungle surrounding the Chagres River to reach a village where the indigenous Emberá people have lived for centuries. Start with a one-hour paddle down the river in traditional hand-carved cayucos, or canoes. Then immerse yourself in the music and dances of the Emberá in a setting that feels as though you've traveled back through time. 

Your native guides will show you the incredible biodiversity of the area, and you'll learn about the mystical rituals they practice and the medicinal plants they use as homeopathic remedies. The women of the village are well-known for their beautiful handmade baskets, and today, you'll join them in weaving the palm fronds dyed with natural colors. 

Then, feel free to paint designs on your body using the natural dyes of the jagua fruit. It has been used by indigenous peoples as body ornamentation or for healing purposes for hundreds of years. Though the color is temporary, it darkens to a blue-black color over a few days and will last for a week or two, so decorate wisely! Enjoy a traditional meal of fresh fish and bananas with your new friends before returning to the city.

Day 5: Rainforest Day Trip

See if you can spot a capuchin monkey in the jungle
See if you can spot a capuchin monkey in the jungle

Head back into the jungle today for an excursion to the Gamboa Rainforest. Get ready to spot tons of wildlife as you travel by aerial tram from the shade of the forest floor up through the lush undergrowth and the sun-drenched canopy up above. You'll see vibrant birds and butterflies, as well as sloths and monkeys. Listen for the howler monkeys' call among the natural rhythms of the rainforest. 

Once you reach the top of the canopy, climb over to the observation tower for panoramic views of the rainforest set withing Soberanía National Park. If you look closely, you can even see the narrowest part of the Panama Canal. 

Back on the forest floor, you'll take a 20-minute ride through the heart of the Canal to reach the labyrinthine jungle islands of Lake Gatun. Here you're likely to spot capuchin monkeys, toucans, caimans, crocodiles, turtles, and more. A trained naturalist guide will make sure you get the most out of this unique experience. 

Day 6: Train Excursion to Portobelo

The ruins of a colonial fortress in Portobelo
The ruins of a colonial fortress in Portobelo

Board the train for a one-hour ride from Panama City to the sleepy Caribbean town of Portobelo for the day. Go back in time to this laid-back, beach community that is steeped in colonial history. It's the kind of place where you might see some of the locals riding their horses or herding livestock.

Though it may be difficult to believe now, Portobelo was once Central America's greatest Spanish port. You'll visit some of its five remaining colonial fortifications, and learn about the legend of the Black Christ, the town's most important spiritual figure. If you have time, check out the area's beautiful beaches.

Day 7: Depart Panama City

Farewell, Panama!
Farewell, Panama!

After breakfast, say goodbye to beautiful Panama. Check out of your hotel and make your way to the airport for your return flight.