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How to travel between Colombia and Panama (Page 2)

Kuna woman © Craig FastSailing
More expensive (expect to pay around US$375), longer (trips take four to five days), harder to organise (unless you read the rest of this feature) and more vomity (sea sickness anyone?), sailing is by far the best way to skip the perils of the Darién Gap.

Why? You visit the Kuna Ayala (previously known as the San Blas Islands), spend two days on the high seas and arrive smug in the knowledge that you didn’t take the easy option. The highlight of the trip is undoubtedly the Kuna Ayala – an autonomous region of Panama with pristine, picture-perfect Caribbean islands populated by the Kuna, an indigenous population who wear colourful strings of beads and traditional textiles.

How to sail around the Darién Gap

From Colombia to Panama
Contact Casa Viena in Cartagena. The owner, Hans, is very helpful.

Danny dives of the boat © Craig FastBoats leave from Cartagena, spend the first two days at sea and then two to three days exploring the Kuna Ayala. From El Porvenir, you can fly (not that you would…) to Panama City for around US$50. The hardliner’s option is to take a boat to the mainland (US$5-10; non-Kuna boat captains are not allowed to land passengers on the mainland) and then a four-wheel drive to Panama City (US$25) – a good captain will arrange all this for you.

From Panama to Colombia
Contrary to popular belief, Colon is not the place to arrange your passage. Instead head to Panama City and contact Luna’s Castle, Hostel Mamallena, Zulys Backpackers Hostel or Hostel Wunderbar in Puerto Lindo. They can tell you planned sailings, put you in touch with various captains and help arrange transport to the boat.

In addition to the classic five-day trip, which includes three days in the Kuna Ayala and two days at sea, finishing in Cartagena, a number of captains now offer a slightly cheaper option of sailing to Capurgana or Sapzurro, just across the Colombian border. From there it costs about US$50 to travel to Cartagena.

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