San Blas Islands, Panama
On Panama's Caribbean side are the 375 islands of the beautiful
San Blas archipelago. While most isles are the domain of sea
turtles and palm trees, 40 are inhabited by the Kuna, who live in
traditional thatched-roof communities and ply dugout canoes. One
of Panama's most prized native crafts is created here: the
colorful hand-stitched appliqués called molas, representing birds
and nature in abstract and geometric designs.
Begun in 1881 by Ferdinand de Lesseps, builder of the Suez Canal,
the "Big Ditch" connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. During
the 58-mile crossing, our ship rises 85 feet through a network of
locks, canals and lakes set in a valley flanked by two mountain
ranges. The entire passage takes about nine hours, a journey of
spectacular scenic beauty.