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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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Real Latin America Experts
Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant
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 an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.
Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Consultant
Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.
Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant
After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.
Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Consultant
Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our Sales team.
Evie Oswald - Travel Consultant
It’s hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.
Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant
Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.