We took the tour of Panama offered by General Tours (seven days) at the end of January when the weather was simply gorgeous. The first nights we were in Panama City at the Intercontinental. which was a business hotel with an amazingly large swimming pool. The tour offered a visit to the Mira Flores Lock the first day so we had the opportunity to see the canal from land and watch ships go through. The next day we boarded a small ship (with about 300 people) and did a full transit which took the entire day. Food on the ship was so-so but I did not expect more. Experiencing the canal was a dream. Hard to believe it is 100 years old and works as well as when it was built. (Our ship almost got stuck when there was a rudder problem, but it was repaired quickly.) The canal transit ended in Gamboa, and we then continued on to the rain forest where we stayed at the Gamboa Rain Forest Resort.-- a beautiful resort where jungle animals can be seen in the area of the hotel. We took a boat to the National Geographic Island where research is going on and hiked through the rain forest, which was quite enjoyable. After the rainforest, we took a canoe tour through Mario Tours to see the Embera Indians and their indiginous culture (though how indiginous it is at this point, I am not sure.) The tour continued with a trip back from Gamboa on the Panama Transcontinental Railway which followed the canal and offered more views of the canal and the ships passing through it. Our last two nights were at the Intercontinental Miramar (a beautiful hotel which offered more views of the canal and ships waiting day and night to enter the channel for the canal. The tour offered good value for this experience and I would recommend it. The canal is being widened with the addition of new locks which are supposed to open next year. If you have an interest in this man-made wonder, this is the perfect trip.
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