Panama has so much going for it as a holiday destination although there are many misconceptions about the tiny Central American country. Nevertheless, the combination of lush tropical landscape fringed with white sandy beaches on the Caribbean side and the Dubai-like skyline of Panama City on the North Pacific side of the country, continues to draw tourists in their droves year-on-year.
Here we take a closer look at Panama - ranked as the most popular retirement destination for US citizens for more than a decade – and see if we can't dispel some myths about this incredible tourist hotspot.
- Panama is the only place in the world where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific and set on the Atlantic.
- The Panama Canal contributes more than a third to the country's economy, with revenues set to increase once expansion works to the 100 year-old structure have been completed. The Panama Canal is by far one of mankind's greatest feats, literally separating two continents the canal allows ships voyaging between New York and San Francisco, saving them 7,872 miles of travel.
- Panama was the first Latin American country to adopt the US currency as its own and as dollar strength continues to soar against all major currencies is positively impacting the country's economy.
- With a population of around 3,300,000, Panama is placed at number 131 among 193 nations of the world and has the smallest population in Central America.
- The lowest toll ever paid to use the Canal crossing was $0.36 which was paid by Richard Halliburton when he swam the canal in 1928. I wonder where he put his change!
- The Panama hat actually originates in Ecuador and acquired the name because they were shipped from Ecuador to Panama before being sent to their destinations worldwide.
- Panama City is the only capital city in the world that has a rainforest within the city limits, having the second largest rainforest in the Western hemisphere.
- The official language of Panama is Spanish, although many Panamanians are bilingual with English being the most common second language.
- Contrary to popular belief, Panama is a democratic republic. Elections are held every five years and the last presidential ballot was won by Juan Carlos Varela in May 2014.
- Until 1821, Panama was a Spanish colony having been originally settled in the sixteenth century. Panama gained independence from Spain and joined the Republic of Gran Colombia in the same year, along with Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. The republic was dissolved in 1830 and after a few twists and turns, Panama finally achieved independence on November 3rd 1903 with assistance from the US.
- The highest ever toll paid for the Panama Canal crossing was $376,000 which was levied by the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship in 2010.
- Panama holds multiple world records in the field of bird-watching as it is home to more birds than the US and Canada combined.
- Costing nearly $8m, the Panama Canal Railroad was the most expensive railway ever built and the oldest in the world, bringing passengers from Panama City to Colon and back.
- The Volcán Barú is an active stratovolcano and the tallest mountain in Panama, at 3,474 metres high. It lies about 35 km off the border of Costa Rica.