Panama of course has no shortage of islands, ravishing beaches, and secluded paradises. But this archipelago of around 365 islands and cays (barely 50 of them inhabited) spread over some 300 square kilometres (100 sq. miles) off the country's Caribbean coast, is a particular standout for its pristine environment.


That's in large part because they're part of the province of Guna Yala, autonomously ruled by the Guna people who predate the invasion of this region by the Spanish in 1513 - meaning that the locals control the pace, keeping out overdevelopment and mass tourism, with what tourism there is kept sustainable and eco-friendly (all electricity, for example, being solar-powered). That, the lack of hurricanes, and the opportunity to experience the singular culture of the Guna, makes the San Blas Islands - a half-hour flight from Panama City and three to four hours by road and ferry - a truly extraordinary destination that more than a few seasoned travellers declare is their favourite in Central America.

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