Panama is the most southerly country in Central America and is bordered to the North by Costa Rica and to the South by Colombia. The Darian gap separates these two countries which has no land crossing. The capital Panama City, whose metro area is home to nearly half of the country’s 3.6 million people.
Panama was inhabited by several indigenous tribes prior to settlement by the Spanish in the 16th century. Panama broke away from Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Nueva Granada, Ecuador, and Venezuela named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When Gran Colombia dissolved in 1831, Panama and Nueva Granada remained joined, eventually becoming the Republic of Colombia. With the backing of the United States, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, allowing the Panama Canal to be built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed for the total transfer of the Canal from the United States to Panama by the end of the 20th century, which culminated on 31 December 1999.
Panama has the second largest economy in Central America and is also the fastest growing economy and largest per capita consumer in Central America. In 2013, Panama ranked 5th among Latin American countries in terms of the Human Development Index, and 59th in the world.
Since 2010, Panama remains the second most competitive economy in Latin America, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index. Covering around 40 percent of its land area, Panama’s jungles are home to an abundance of tropical plants, animals and birds – some of them to be found nowhere else on the planet.
The Panama Canal is the jewel in it’s tourism product, however the country is also blessed with Caribbean beaches, exotic tropical jungles, Pacific surf, colonial history and a 21st Century capital city. Panama City is connected exceptionally well to North and South America and the only country in the region to enjoy good airline connectivity with Europe. Tourism figures have exploded in the last few years and Panama represents a great vacation on it’s own right or in conjunction with one or more countries in the region.