47 Chapters
Medium 9781628872460

8 MACHU PICCHU & THE INCA TRAIL

Nicholas Gill FrommerMedia ePub

8

machu picchu & The Inca Trail

The stunning and immaculately sited Machu Picchu, the fabled “lost city of the Incas,” is South America’s greatest attraction, drawing ever-increasing numbers of visitors from across the globe. The Incas hid Machu Picchu so high in the clouds that it escaped destruction by the empire-raiding Spaniards, who never found it. It is no longer lost, of course—you can zip there by high-speed train or trek there along a 2- or arduous 4-day trail—but Machu Picchu retains its perhaps unequaled aura of mystery and magic. From below it remains totally hidden from view, although no longer overgrown with brush, as it was when it was rediscovered in 1911 by the Yale archaeologist and historian Hiram Bingham with the aid of a local farmer who knew of its existence. The majestic setting the Incas chose for it, nestled in almost brooding Andes Mountains and frequently swathed in mist, also remains unchanged. When the early-morning sun rises over the peaks and methodically illuminates the ruins’ row by row of granite stones, Machu Picchu leaves visitors as awestruck as ever.

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Medium 9781628872545

2 SUGGESTED PANAMA ITINEARIES

Nicholas Gill FrommerMedia ePub

2

Suggested Panama Itineraries

Panama is home to a staggering array of natural landscapes, each beautiful in its own way, and each offering attractions and excursions that appeal to different kinds of people. Scuba-diving fanatics or anglers seeking to reel in boatloads of billfish, for example, might plan their entire journey to Panama around their sport. Multisport resorts have been popping up around the country, too, providing guests with a home base and roster of activities as varied as kayaking, hiking, scuba diving, and mountain biking. These range from pricey, boutique-style lodges boasting “rustic elegance” to destination megaresorts, with 300 or more guest rooms.

Whatever your passion or desire, Panama has it all: a thriving metropolis; endless stretches of pristine, hyperdiverse rainforest; legendary sport fishing; scuba diving in the Caribbean and Pacific (even diving both oceans in 1 day, if you wish); white-water rafting and trekking through rugged mountain highlands; cultural encounters with one of the country’s seven indigenous groups; a round of golf on a world-class course; a river cruise on a dugout canoe; or boating the Panama Canal. Of course, there are also plenty of relaxing spots for travelers who just want to kick back on a chaise longue or spend their afternoons strolling along the beach.

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Medium 9781628872545

11 PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO PANAMA

Nicholas Gill FrommerMedia ePub

11

Planning Your Trip to Panama

Panama is just starting to take off as a major tourist destination, and many areas remain deliciously free of crowds while offering the same pristine wilderness and action-packed adventure as its more popular neighbor, Costa Rica. Panama is but a thin squiggle of a country, but it has a wealth of diversity packed within its borders, from lush rainforests to sultry beaches to craggy mountain peaks—all of which can be reached by a short drive or flight. The Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean are so close to each other that you can swim in both in 1 day. If you’re a nature lover, consider that Panama is a land bridge between North and South America, and hundreds of wildlife species—more than 900 species of birds alone—meet here at the isthmus, providing a rich environment for eco-travel.

Panama is a safe country, too, and Panamanians are some of the friendliest people in Latin America. So many residents speak English that it could almost be called Panama’s second language. And in comparison to Costa Rica’s, Panama’s infrastructure and capital city are decidedly more modern, and travel budgeting is easier considering that the country’s national monetary unit is the U.S. dollar.

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Medium 9781628872545

5 AROUND PANAMA CITY

Nicholas Gill FrommerMedia ePub

5

Around Panama City

This chapter’s focus is on a sizeable region around Panama City, including the Panama Canal, the Canal Zone, the Central Caribbean Coast (including Colón and its surroundings), and the Gulf of Panama. At first glance, it seems like a lot of ground to cover, but these destinations can be reached by a short drive, a puddle-jump flight, or a boat ride from the city, and some attractions are even close enough to visit by taxi. With its high level of services and amenities, Panama City is an ideal base from which to explore this region, and many travelers, especially those with limited time, plan their entire trips around this area, owing to its surprisingly diverse range of attractions.

Exploring the Region    A trip to Panama wouldn’t be the same without visiting one of the engineering marvels of the world, the Panama Canal. There are several ways to do this: at the viewing platform in Miraflores, on a jungle cruise or partial canal transit, or at the Gatún Locks near Colón.

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Medium 9781628871807

4 REYKJAVÍK

Nicholas Gill FrommerMedia ePub

4

Reykjavík

R eykjavík, the world’s northernmost capital, is more cosmopolitan than you can shake a martini at, yet the city also clings affectionately to its parochialism. Greater Reykjavík is home to more than half the country’s population, and almost all visitors to Iceland pass through the city, many venturing no farther than the city limits before heading back to the airport. Reykjavík has become a destination in itself. Whether you’re packing hiking boots, fishing rods, or zoom lenses, it’s easy to fill a long weekend or a whole fortnight in Reykjavík.

For most of its history, Reykjavík suffered a backward reputation among European cities, but this has only intensified its heady sensation of newfound wealth and authority. Thirty years ago, no one even dreamed Reykjavík would become an international arbiter of hipness, especially in music and nightlife.

Despite its reputation for wild nights, Reykjavík by day is the most subdued of European capitals. Its cosmopolitan edge seems at odds with its squat, boxy architecture. It almost feels wrong to leave the world’s problems so far behind: Iceland’s urban life is virtually free of crime (aside from some artful graffiti), homelessness, and pollution. Reykjavík is committed to sustainable development, with aggressive tree planting, home heating and electrical systems powered by underground hot springs—that faint egg smell in bathrooms is a natural by-product—and a few buses running on hydrogen fuel (look for steam emissions from the roof). One night a year, since 2006, the entire city turns off all lights for 30 minutes simultaneously. Sleepy children stand outside gazing up at the night sky alongside their parents: Reykjavíkians paying tribute to the romance of their town’s original, natural state.

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