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Portobelo and Pirates Portobelo is a port city about an hour and a half from Panama City known for its pirate history and the church of San Felipe, which houses the statue of the black Christ. In 1596, the English pirate Sir Francis Drake lost his battle with the Spanish cannons at Portobelo; ruins of five 17th century Spanish forts and a restored Spanish Colonial treasure house still remain. After exploring Portobelo's rich history, grab some food at El Palenque restaurant. Consider staying at El Otro Lado, a private retreat and trendy boutique hotel on the opposite side of Portobelo Bay. The eco-friendly San Blas Islands The San Blas Islands have some of the most beautiful beaches in Central America. These 365 islands are home of the Kuna indigenous group, who have maintained their culture and traditions for centuries! Located off the northern coast of Panama, the San Blas Islands are comprised of a group of 378 islands in an archipelago stretching over 100 square miles. Slow down and relax while you visit these islands, which the Kuna people protect and preserve. They utilize natural materials and eco-friendly resources and accommodations. Glorious Gatun Lake Gatun Lake, about an hour from Panama City, is an artificial lake to the south of Colon, Panama, which was created when the Panama Canal was under construction. The construction dammed the Chagres River, causing a flood, which became the lake. Take a boat cruise on Gatun Lake and observe sloths, crocodiles, and even capuchin monkeys along the way. You will also get a tour of the waterway, since part of the lake is used for canal transit. For cruise and registration information, visit Ancon Expeditions. Panama's indigenous roots: The Embera Indians Experience the traditional and cultural roots of Panama with a visit to the Embera Villages, an indigenous territory in Eastern Panama. The Embera Indians are one of the nine major indigenous groups in Panama. To get to the village, take a guided tour on a canoe up the Chagres River through a jungle passed thatched houses. Ancon Expeditions provide a full day tour of the entire Embera Village where you can learn about their distinctive culture. Rates start at $130 per person. ML

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