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PANAMA WITH A&KPanama, as returning clients regularly remind us, is enjoying a new moment in the sun. The spotlight is shining brightly on its ageing charm, exquisite nature and yes, on the famous canal that transformed global shipping routes and enjoys its 100th birthday this year.
To get the most from this small Central American nation that blends azure seas, mist-shrouded highlands and snaking rivers with pristine tropical wilderness, you need to be in the right hands. A&K hands. We use the very best guides with fabulous local knowledge, and enviable contacts, along with top-notch 4WD vehicles - you'll thank us on wilder roads - and offer seamless travel to surrounding countries.
Take an Abercrombie & Kent luxury Panama holiday in 2014 or 2015 and you'll explore the pristine San Blas Archipelago on the Caribbean coast, whose white powder beaches come with translucent lagoons and waving palms. Around 60 of its nearly 400 islands are home to the fiercely independent Kuna Tribe, who still fish from wood canoes, trade coconuts and sport colourful local dress. Their simple rental rooms are a rustic alternative to a private luxury catamaran cruise.
To the Northwest, near Costa Rica's border, the Bocas del Toro islands' coral reefs are a stage for excellent snorkelling, diving and fishing. Within their two national parks - La Amistad and Bastimentos - you'll find prolific birdlife and fresh water turtles, while the century-old wood houses of Isla Colon have a laid-back Caribbean vibe.
But Panama allows A&K to offer two very different coasts. Across on the Pacific, you'll find Panama City, juxtaposing Spanish colonial ruins and a tranquil old town - its cathedral spires are inlaid with mother of pearl - with a dazzling modern skyline (don't miss the view from the Amador Causeway). And, of course, there's the canal's southern entrance and the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks where you can see cargo ships negotiating the narrow strait.
And last, but definitely not least, there's Simca. The private island, owned by philanthropist Jean Pigozzi, can be rented as part of the exclusive Geoffrey Kent Private Collection. With its stunning property, an acclaimed collection of African art and 270 acres of untouched jungle, plus unbelievable game fishing along the Hannibal Bank, Simca's a distillation of the best of Panama - a small country that, in A&K's expert hands, has an awful lot to offer.
Best time to be there
December to March is generally considered the dry season. Temperatures rise in April and the rains arrive on the Pacific side from May to November. The Atlantic side has no specific dry season but there is less rainfall between March and September.
GMT -6 hours
Not required for UK passport holders
Yellow fever if arriving from an infected area
I have never been compelled to write to a company to tell them about my booking experience, but I feel that in this instance I must. I spoke to both Robin Spanner and a representative from another travel company. The next day, Robin sent me a full tailor made itinerary whilst the other rep sent me a link to one of the standard holidays on their website. Needless to say, Robin had already won my custom and confidence.
- GB, London