Monday, May 12, 2014

Why Your Best Option Is To Travel From Panama To Colombia By Boat

By Eliza Mendoza

If adventure is your middle name, your bucket list probably includes traveling from North America and Central America to South America, maybe even all the way from Alaska to Patagonia. It's an epic journey that provides a range of unforgettable experiences and it's not that difficult to accomplish. Some people even do it by cycling, biking or driving down. When planning for your trip, however, you may have to consider the option of getting from Panama to Colombia by boat.

Between Alaska and Patagonia the main road is the Pan American Highway. However, this highway also includes the Darien Gap. The name for this stretch comes from the fact that it's literally a break in the highway which ends in Panama's Yaviza town and then starts again in Colombia's Turbo, less than 100 miles away.

Travelers are advised not to attempt the crossing of the Darien Gap over land. It is extremely dangerous. The road hasn't been completed here because the terrain is so inhospitable, with thick jungle and real risk of deadly tropical diseases, not to mention attacks by local wildlife. Because the area is so remote and few people set foot here, it has become a refuge for armed guerrillas from Colombia and for criminals, especially those working in the drug trade. Robberies, kidnappings and killings are very common here and travelers are often targets.

There are alternative ways to cross the Darien Gap. The easiest and most convenient is to fly. If you're very adventurous, which you probably are if you're undertaking this journey in the first place, flying may feel like a cop-out though.

A great alternative is to take the boat instead. If you're on a very tight budget, you may even be able to find opportunities where you can work on board in exchange for your voyage. More common is to book a passage on a yacht that specializes in taking travelers across. There are several companies that offer this service and the fare is usually more or less the same as what a plane ticket would have cost you.

The great advantage of sailing across is that most of the travel packages include the San Blas Archipelago in the itinerary. This remote group of islands in Panama offer you the perfect chance for a beach getaway without the crowds. Go snorkeling or diving, swim or work on your tan on the pristine stretches of sand. If you're fascinated by indigenous cultures, you'll love San Blas too because the people who live here are mostly Kuna, a unique and fascinating culture.

You may think that the crossing sounds easy enough except for the question of what to do with your bike or your car. This doesn't have to be a complication, though. Several companies offer a service that transports your mode of transport across on a cargo ship. You'll even be able to have a bicycle or a motorcycle flown across.

Finding an operator that will take you from Panama to Colombia by boat is very easy. Many advertise in Panamanian hostels but you can also look online. The crossing is usually quite safe and while it might be rough during the windy dry season, there is almost no risk of hurricanes.

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