Country Guide » About Panama
Much of the Western half of Panama is composed of rugged, steep mountains of volcanic origin, including Panama´s highest point, Barú Volcano at 11,401 ft (3,475 m) high. Cordillera de Talamanca, a mountain range between Costa Rica and Panama, is among the most well-known ranges, and features the first binational biosphere reserve, as well as several national parks. The upland plains erode into hills and valleys, and form a soft coastal area comprised largely of plains with rolling hills. Both Caribbean and Pacific coasts are lined with lowlands, and there is a number of offshore islands. Panama has 1,550 miles (2,490 km) of coastline.
There are over 1000 islands off the Pacific Coast, 378 islands and cays in the San Blas Archipelago, and another 250+ islands, cays and islets in the Archipelago of Bocas del Toro. Coiba is the largest island in Central America, off of Panama´s Pacific Coast at 503 square kilometers.
Panama generally enjoys two seasons: dry and rainy. The dry season, Panama´s ¨summer,¨ lasts from December to April while the rainy season (winter) takes place the remaining portion of the year. Summer entails hot sunny days with mostly blue skies, cool nighttime breezes, and starlit skies. Winter mostly means warm days with hazy skies and short, refreshing bursts of afternoon downpours and/or thunderstorms. Temperatures and conditions vary according to the region. The Azuero Peninsula, for example, is a large peninsula in Southern Panama that has a unique less humid climate with little rainfall, nicknamed Arco Seco, ¨Dry Arch.¨ It features a dry rainforest on the West Coast and a long dry season. A man-made desert lies in the Northeastern portion of the peninsula, called the Sarigua desert, formed from the constant grazing and cultivation of the land for thousands of years.
The Republic has dense vegetation, marked with rainforests and mangrove swamp lands, and supported by a generally tropical climate with abundant rainfall. Between Panama and Colombia, the Eastern part of the country, lies the Darién Gap, the largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere outside the Amazon Basin, 160 km (99 mi) long and about 50 km (31 mi) wide. This nearly impenetrable jungle creates a break in the Pan-American highway, the otherwise complete road extending from Alaska to Patagonia.
Almost 500 rivers flow across the length of Panama, with Rio Chagres and Rio Chepo being the two most well-known, and the Chucunaque River being the longest situated in Darien. Sitting in an estuary in Panama, where a freshwater river or stream meets the ocean, is definitely a unique experience of nature that one can easily enjoy.