Go on scenic roads exploring volcanos, waterfalls, highlands and beaches of Panama.
This adventurous road trip features extensive panoramic views and a leaves lot of flexibility for you to explore. At the Tocumen International Airport of Panama at the appropriate time for your international flight arrival. You will be returned for your departure flight. A hat, sunglasses and bathing suits are recommended. For further information, contact us! This program can be tailor-made for your needs and interests.
Surf classes and surfboard rentals can be organized for you and days can be added at each destination. Details Itinerary Starting Location Photos. Prices per person based upon a minimum of 2 participants. I had a seat up front. I asked him why the chicken buses — the gringo nickname for the converted US school buses that dash around Guatemala — went so fast?
Panama Road Trip
The rest of the time we chatted about the road improvements. The driver said the Taiwanese were responsible for the widening and landscaping of the highway, which was constantly beset by landslides during the rainy season. A little later we noticed that one of the chicken buses had pulled over. Presumably it was the leader of the race. And of course, the loser had raced past to get to the next stop first.
All for a few quetzals. It seemed like a rather absurd way to run public transport. Then, we turned a corner, the clouds parted and there was a volcano — a mighty cone not 35km from the highway.
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It was Pacaya, smoking, still very much alive. A hiker in Antigua had told me you could feel the earth was hot beneath your feet in some places. The first leg, through the Guatemalan highlands, was a classic Latin American combination of distant drama — not only Pacaya but the even more impressive Agua and Fuego volcanoes — and chaotic, colourful towns hugging the roadside. Densely forested mountains and rich farmlands filled the spaces in between. Colourful colonial buildings in Antigua, Guatemala Shutterstock Soon I was deep inside the sprawl of Guatemala City, an ideal place to see through a bus window.
Drab suburbs and manic markets can fascinate at a safe remove.
The world’s greatest road trips
At the main terminal I hopped on a bus heading south through a region cultivated with maize, wheat, coffee and sugarcane plantations. Barberena and Cuilapa looked like thriving agricultural towns, farmers trucks coming and going, street vendors jostling for space. Tourism so often thrusts travellers into curated places, but being on the road you see the lot. El Salvador I could feel the mountains and volcanoes pressing in as soon as I crossed the border into El Salvador.
As well as a chain of cone-shaped volcanoes — around which the great highway winds — there are crater lakes on both sides, some of them huge and beautiful. The highway was heavy with lorries carrying fuel, food, scrap metal for recycling, cattle. Because everyone works along or just off this road, the soft-shoulders and verges were throbbing with men carrying machetes and coffee beans, fruit stalls, coconut vendors, school kids, bicycles and tuk-tuks, pickups and even the odd donkey.
I saw some men selling live iguanas, illegally, holding the panic-stricken lizards by their tails. I had a private guide in El Salvador, and a chance to see a bit more of the country.
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We spent a night at El Imposible, a national park named for its terrifying chasm, down which passing pack animals and muleteers would frequently fall to their certain death. I went birding at dusk and dawn and saw a mottled owl and a rare white hawk, before rejoining the highway to the capital. San Salvador was a sprawl of a city, visibly Americanised in its layout, fast-food outlets and strip malls. I saw the huge mural in front of the main gallery, known as the Monument to the Revolution, commemorating the uprising that toppled President Salvador Castaneda Castro.
Street food in El Salvador Shutterstock Suchitoto was far more my size of city.
It has plenty of colonial buildings, and the plaza was a busy social spot with a funfair by day and fireworks at night. After a few beers, I watched as local men ran around wearing horse-shaped frames that were adorned with rockets and Catherine wheels. The village of El Mozote, in the north-eastern highlands of the country, was the site of the worst single massacre of the civil war.
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Some 1, civilians were killed, and only or so have been accounted for; many of the slain were children. I happened to be in town for the interment of some recently discovered remains. While it is largely uneventful, I did catch a mellow, shrimpcoloured sunset over the Gulf of Fonseca — a stretch of water that provides Honduras with a port on the Pacific. The land seemed to open out wondrously in Nicaragua. Here the volcanoes were far away and huge tracts of dead-flat farmland flanked the roadside.
Tobacco, banana, sorghum and pineapple were planted everywhere; people dried coffee beans out on the pavement or even the road — traffic is rarely heavy off the main highway. It powered me up a serious hike, a real knee-wobbler up a rocky track to the top of the Maderas volcano. Sadly it was cloudy on top, but there were dozens of hummingbirds whistling around the cool mist to compensate. Staying at an ecolodge lower down the slopes, I had time to reflect.
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