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The San Blas Islands: an unspoilt paradise in Panama

Credit: Visit Panama

Credit: Visit Panama

Off the Caribbean coast of Panama, the San Blas Islands, also known as Guna Yala, are a Central American treasure trove. It’s no coincidence that two of the main protagonists in the world-famous series La Casa de Papel go into hiding in this archipelago paradise: these islands offer an authentic experience, far removed from tourist resorts and modern conveniences.

 

A trip off the beaten track

Credit: Promtur

Credit: Promtur

The journey to the San Blas Islands is an adventure in itself. There are several options available to travellers, from flying from Panama City to one of the archipelago’s small airstrips, by sailboat or 4×4 from the capital, then boarding a traditional rowboat to reach the archipelago.

Although only around forty of them are inhabited, the majority of the islands offer immaculate beaches and palm trees swaying in the sea breeze.

 

The cultural wealth of the Gunas

The San Blas Islands are jealously guarded by the Gunas, an indigenous community that has managed to keep its traditions and culture safe from outside influences. The Guna women, proud guardians of their heritage, walk around dressed in molas, colourful traditional outfits, and wear multicoloured beadwork around their legs and forearms. At the heart of each inhabited island, the Congreso, a large council chamber, regularly welcomes the community for traditional ceremonies and community discussions.

 

Natural beauty and biodiversity

Credit: Autoridad de Turismo de Panamá

Credit: Autoridad de Turismo de Panamá

One of the islands, Pelicano, is a true jewel of the archipelago. Surrounded by an immaculate coral reef, it is home to an abundance of marine life, from multicoloured fish to rays and turtles. The crystal-clear waters and white sandy beaches provide an idyllic setting for snorkelling, swimming or simply relaxing.

 

 

When to visit and what to take with you?

Credit: Azzedine Rouichi

Credit: Azzedine Rouichi

The best time to visit the San Blas Islands is during the dry season, from December to March. However, even during the rainy season, the islands are spared from hurricanes. For those wishing to visit the San Blas Islands, it is essential to be prepared for a rustic experience. There is no electricity or internet on most of the islands, and accommodation is simple, often in the form of traditional huts. Travellers are also encouraged to adopt an eco-friendly approach, taking their rubbish with them and using reef-friendly products.

 

The San Blas Islands offer a unique experience, combining natural beauty, cultural richness and adventure. For those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the modern world and connect with nature and authentic culture, this is a must-visit destination in Panama.

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