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It was Juan de Balboa who became the first European to see the Pacific Ocean in 1513. And it was the thin stretch of land we know as Panama that he crossed to reach it. Panama's geographic location and shape have been strategic elements in its development as a nation: its narrowness prompted the U.S. to build the Panama Canal, allowing passage between the Caribbean and Pacific.

Today, the Canal is Panama's best-known attraction, though the land has much more to offer. Few, for example, are aware of its fifteen hundred islands; nor of the lovely alpine town of Boquete, near Volcán Barú. And with its thriving modern capital, Panama City, only a stone's throw away from the ancient ruins at Panamá Viejo, Panama promises visitors a wonderfully varied travel experience.


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