Trek the Panamanian Camino Real
Take on a challenging trek through near-uncharted jungle terrain, following in the footsteps of conquistadors and pirates.
Long before the Panama Canal there was the Camino Real, linking Caribbean to Pacific across the skinny Central American isthmus. With a width of just 77km at its narrowest point, Panama has always been an obvious candidate for a shortcut between the seas either side of the Americas.
The trail dates back nearly 500 years, although the indian footpaths over which the conquistadors laid their cobblestones are much older still. This Camino Real or 'Royal Road' was to act as a conduit for loot plundered from the Inca Empire, allowing the Spanish to siphon vast quantities of gold, silver and precious stones from ocean to ocean in a near-continuous river of riches. Inevitably, it did not go unnoticed by pirates. The original terminus on the Spanish Main, Nombre de Dios (‘Name of God’) was completely destroyed and Henry Morgan even followed the trail all the way to the Pacific side and sacked Panama Viejo for good measure. By the late 17th century the road was closed, and soon reclaimed by the irrepressible green grasp of the rainforest.
Following the lost treasure trail of the Spanish is still a supremely adventurous prospect – it takes eight days, plenty of exertion and a tolerance of mud, wilderness camping and jungle creepy crawlies. But if you're up to the challenge, it's an enormously rewarding trek weaving through dense forest and passing numerous remnants of the route's dramatic history. There's plenty of wildlife to spot but make sure you also keep your eyes peeled for the glint of long-forgotten jewels: it's said that many treasures dropped by the Spanish have yet to be found...
Activity Rating: challenging
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Hannah Donaldson - Travel Expert
Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is a much valued Travel Expert in our Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tours sales team.
Heloise Buxton - Travel Expert
Heloise started her Latin American journey as an exchange student in Santiago, Chile. With extended summer holidays this was the perfect opportunity to backpack through Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.
Maggie Wilson - Travel Expert
Maggie visited Latin America on her first backpacking trip when she was 19. Since then, she has taken every opportunity to travel, and has managed to explore a lot of the region in subsequent trips.
Ben Line - Travel Expert
Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.
Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Expert
Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tour sales team.
Juliet Ellwood - Travel Expert
After graduating with a degree in Anthropology and History and having been fascinated by Latin America since childhood by the book featuring photos of Nazca, Juliet first visited the region in 2003. Since then, Juliet has visited the majority of countries in Latin America but has particularly extensive experience with Peru, a country she loves for many reasons but not least, its incredible archaeological richness and delicious food!