Explore The Beauty of Panama

       The Isthmus of Panama has been a part of human civilization for approximately 10,000 years with indigenous groups such as the Ngöbe-Buglé, Naso, Wounaan, and Embera nations as its earliest inhabitants. In the sixteenth century was when the country began to change due to Spain’s conquest, but, fortunately, many of the indigenous languages have survived and the peoples of the Embera nation have endured and are accessible to tourists and other visitors. Furthermore, the Central American country sits between Costa Rica and Colombia and borders the North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. In this tropical region, the climate supports lush vegetation and extravagant biodiversity that has become part of the booming industry of ecotourism.

        The country became famous, especially to the Western world, in the 20th century with the completion of the Panama Canal. Many tours are available that highlight the canal and surrounding sites such as Old Panama, Casco Viejo, and the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. Condor Tours & Travel is offering such tours for 2015 & 2016 with accommodations at the Radisson Summit Hotel, Melia Panama Canal, and Country Inn and Suites Amador. There is one date left in December and there are dates available in January, February, April, June, and August next year.  The tour will showcase the Chagres River and national park, the Embera nation, Madden Lake, Soberania National Park, and the city of Portobelo.

        The Chagres River has historically been a trade route for commodities such as jewels, gold, and rare metals and is the only river on Earth that flows into two different oceans. What is most amazing about this river is, the amount of gold that has been transported through its waterways is greater than the amount of gold that has passed through every other river on Earth, combined. Furthermore, during the construction of the Panama Canal, the Chagres was flooded in order to create Gatun Lake and several small islands that were once the tops of rolling hills. Its surrounding tropical forest is home to hundreds of bird species such as blue and green Heron, the Great Egret, neo-tropical Cormorant, Red-Lored Amazon Parrot, and the Keel-billed Toucan.

        Along the river and inside Chagres National Park you will find the people of the Embera Nation. This indigenous population is comprised of several groups and the largest of these is located in the province of Darien, which is situated between Panama and Columbia. Approximately 750 Embera peoples live along the Chagres River and provide visitors with a welcoming and friendly atmosphere, river tours, and hiking tours to see waterfalls and their country’s lush vegetation. Their communities primarily operate as port-style towns where they are situated along the river’s banks and have relied upon the river as a trade and travel route. This tradition continues today where their community achieves commercial attention from the many tourists who wish to explore their culture and lifestyles.

        Another port city, to where visitors often travel, is Portobelo. This port city of approximately 3,000 inhabitants is located in the Cólon Province and was established during the Spanish colonial period. Today, fortifications from that era remain as well as Fort San Lorenzo, which is located nearby. The fortifications at Portobelo and San Lorenzo were created in order to defend trade ships and other cargo transport vessels. These sites are frequented by tourists and history buffs alike where these travelers get a glimpse of the country’s history and how people once lived and maintained their livelihoods.

The Wonders of Peru

Many of us learned about historic sites such as Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu in history and geography classes but have never visited them, or even the country in which they reside: Peru. Located in Western South America and bordering the South Pacific Ocean, this country is home to some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring tourist sites and vacation hot spots in the world. It is most famous for Machu Picchu, which is located in the Andes Mountains, but is also home to the Temple of Coricancha, The Cathedral and Church of The Society of Jesus, and the Racchi Ruins of the Inca Empire.

Machu Picchu stands almost 8,000 feet above sea level in the tropical mountain range of the Andes. The urban structures were built on the mountains during the height of the Inca Empire and, with a breathtaking view, one can also explore Inca architecture and culture. The archaeological site is comprised of approximately 200 artifices and structures that were used for agriculture, religious ceremonies, and the study of astronomy. This site is located in the lush rain forest of the Amazon basin and overlooks the Urubamba Valley.

Other famous Peruvian archaeological complexes can be found at Qenko and Puca Pucara. Qenko is located in Peru’s Sacred Valley of Cusco and is believed to be a site of religious rituals and ceremonies that were held in honor of the sun, moon, and stars. The site was constructed from the use of natural rock formations and Inca building techniques. Around the complex are zigzagged corridors and winding underground tunnels that are believed to have been used by the ministers and priests of the holy sites.

Puca Pucara is more obscure because its history is primarily a matter of speculation. Historians believe the site was built during the reign of the Inca Empire’s ninth ruler and, given its location, was used as a military compound or resting facility for military personnel, nobility, and hunters. Furthermore, the stone walls are shaped irregularly, which have led some to believe that the site was built quickly in order to respond to a rapidly emerging threat. However, what is known is that the grounds were comprised of canals, plazas, individual rooms, and luxurious baths.

In addition to Peru’s archaeological sites, the country contains magnificent civilizations that are still around today. In Lake Titicaca, the people of the Uros Nation continue with their amazing cultures and lifestyles. These people are famous for living on floating reed islands and having a strong reliance on the lake’s totora reeds for not only the ground they walk on but also other aspects of their society. These reed islands were constructed to escape the aggression of the Colla and Inca people and the most authentic of these sites can only be accessed by private boat.

Last but not least is Lake Titicaca, which is as well-known as the Amazon River and was considered by the Incas to be the birthplace of the sun. This vast water body lays almost 13,000 feet above sea level and the civilizations of the Pukara, Collas, and Tiwanaku left an indelible mark with their rich histories and cultures. On the Peruvian side of the lake, a popular town to visit is Puno. This city has been designated as an economic zone by the Peruvian government and has been named Peru’s folklore capital because of its strong relationship with cultural and artistic expression, especially dance.

New Tourism Opportunities in Cuba!

      Rich in history, diversity, and vacation hot spots, Cuba is a great place to explore the world and relax with friends and family. The country has many attractions such as the Valley de Los Ingenios, Palacio Brunet, and Plaza Vieja. Fortunately, with the newly relaxed travel ban, Cuba is now more accessible to Americans, US travelers can spend money more freely when in the country, and the categories for approved travel have been expanded.  With these new freedoms, travel packages have become available to accommodate US tourists.        

        Popular destinations are Havana and Trinidad because of their history, atmosphere, and beauty. With four plazas, many different restaurants, and bars, Havana is one of the country’s most popular cities and was founded in 1514. Havana once had the largest port in the region and its original walls still stand. You will also find Revolution Square, Colon Cemetery, and Las Terrazas de Cojimar. In Old Havana, one of the most popular parts of the city, is a blend of neoclassical and Baroque sites such as La Plaza de Armas and Catedral de San Cristóbal.

        Trinidad, located in the central province of Sancti Spíritus, was founded in the early 16th century in honor of the holy trinity. The city was also a launching point for the conquest to the American continent. Many of its buildings such as the Palacio Brunet were built during the 18th and 19th centuries during the height of the city’s sugar trade. Popular attractions are the Che Guavara Memorial, Tren Blindado, Iznaga Tower, and El Malecon. Many Americans know this city through the works of Ernest Hemingway who wrote about the fisherman’s bar, Las Terrazas de Cojimar, in The Old Man and The Sea.

       Last but not least, travelers often visit two of the most popular beaches in the world: Varadero and Santa Clara. Varadero was once frequented by Al Capone and has always been appealing to those with Champagne tastes. There you will find not only powdery beaches and beautiful blue water but also mansions turned into museums. This town is also a great place to explore the outdoors because of its many caves and forests. Santa Clara is also known for its powdery beaches and clear blue water but there you will also find Spanish architecture from the country’s colonial period. Both destinations are world renowned and should definitely be on anyone’s itinerary.     

       As Cuba and the US continue to warm relations, travel to Cuba will become even easier and popular. Many airlines like JetBlue and US Airways already have flights from Orlando, Miami, Tampa, and New York to Cuba. If you haven’t been on a vacation in a while then Cuba would be a great place to relax, sightsee, and rejuvenate your spirit. There are many more attractions and the experience will be life changing. Get out there and take advantage of this new opportunity to visit this absolutely wonderful place.

The Panama Canal: History & Tours

      Built in 1914, the Panama Canal has experienced numerous renovations over the years and more than a million ships have crossed it since the first ocean-liner made the journey in August 1914. The latest addition has been named the Panama Canal Expansion and is the largest construction project to date. Based upon years of research and countless studies, the project has been assessed and evaluated for the economic demand for a larger canal, total construction costs and economic benefits, environmental impact, and the best engineering solution for the expansion. Construction started in 2007 and with a total cost of $5.2 billion, once completed, the Panama Canal will have wider and deeper waterways, a greater water supply, and a third set of locks for larger ships.

        Though these new additions are expected to increase the economic viability of the canal, we cannot forget that the canal has also been an attraction for many tourists. On guided tours, visitors learn about the canal’s history, see the Gatun Lake and the engineering prowess of the canal and its Gatun Locks. What are also available to tourists are surrounding cities such as Gamboa and tourist attractions such as the Panama Canal Railway, and Chagres National Park. Most guided tours accommodate for breakfast and lunch and bilingual guides are always available for visitors to have the best possible experience. A visit to the Miraflores Locks, Colonial area of the city, and Panama Canal Museum is generally a part of guided land tours.

        Specific vacation packages that are available are the Panama Canal Centennial, Historical Panama Canal Expansion Tour, and a guided tour of the Panama Canal and New Locks Expansion.  The Panama Canal Centennial is an eight day and seven night vacation package with a canoe expedition through the Chagres National Park, walking tour through the Soberania National Park, a voyage across the Gatun Lake, a visit to the Gatun Locks, forts Geronimo and Santiago and the city of Portobelo, and other activities such as a tour of Panama City and the UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

       The Historical Panama Canal Expansion Tour is a seven day and six night tour that includes a trip to the ruins of Portobelo, Old Panama, Casco Viejo, the Miraflores Locks, and the Gamboa Rainforest Resort with the option to take a Jungle Boat Tour on Gatun Lake or a day trip to Chagres River and visit the people of the Embera Nation. Breakfast, lunch, and lodging accommodations are provided for most of the trip.

      The guided tour of the Panama Canal and New Locks Expansion is an eight day and 7 night vacation package. Visitors will be located less than five minutes away from the City of Knowledge and Panama Canal. The vacation package starts with a bus ride across the Isthmus of Panama that is destined for the new locks and Gatun Locks. Later, travelers will see the Miraflores Locks, Goethals Monument, new Church Towers and fortress, an aerial view of the Gamboa Rainforest, and a tour to see the people and culture of the Embera Nation.