8 days / 7 nights
TOUR DESCRIPTION If the mossy river rocks, the gurgling translucent waters and the majestic, ancient trees could talk, they would tell epic stories of long mule trains hauling the King's gold, of dashing incursions by pirates against Castilla de Oro’s New World fortifications and many untold story tales. This adventurous and extremely challenging trekking expedition led by the country's most experienced trekking guide Rick Morales and operated together with his Jungle Treks expert team takes you from Historic Panama City (1) over to the Embera village at Madden Lake (2), crossing the watershed divide of the Boqueron river (3) and reach the town of Portobelo on the Caribbean (4) from where you go on a scenery ride on the Panama Railway back to Panama City. Prepare yourself not only mentally, but also physically: 2 trekking poles are mandatory; well broken in hiking boots provide best foot comfort for the grounds & rivers you will encounter; and expect to be wet for most part of the day due to multiple foarking river hikes over large distances.
PRICE US$1,850 per person + 7% tax (double occupancy) – minimum of 3 passengers -
Additional price for single occupancy: US$200 + 7% tax
INCLUDED Lodging, meals as specified in the itinerary (B - breakfast, L - lunch, D - dinner), all land, air and water transportation within Panama, all airport/hotel transfers on scheduled arrival and departure dates, guides' services and expenses, park, museum and related entrance fees, ultralight jungle hammock and tarps, purifying water filters, services of an in-bound land operator for airline re-confirmations and tour operations
NOT INCLUDED International airfare, meals not specified in the itinerary, alcoholic beverages, trekking poles (mandatory!), personal equipment, gratuities and extras in hotels (telephone calls, laundry, room service)
... Long before human ingenuity and determination envisioned the Panama Canal as it is today... long before steam engines pulled the first trans-continental railroad across Panama... a vital and mysterious road laid of stone traversed this domain of defiance... a throughway that was the scenario of astounding human drama; where courage, greed and cruelty shaped the early history of the world's crossroads... el Camino Real.
"Centuries before construction began on the Panama Railroad and Canal, the 'path between the seas' was just that: a Spanish-built cobblestone thoroughfare winding 50 miles across the Central American isthmus. Beginning in the 1500s, mule trains laden with Inca gold followed the Camino Real (King's Road) from the Pacific to the Caribbean to meet galleons bound for Spain; buccaneers --Francis Drake and Henry Morgan among them-- conspired to relieve them of their cargo. Once wide enough to fit two passing horse carts, the Camino Real is now hidden, along with jaguars and three-toed sloths, in the dense jungles of the 300,000-acre Chagres National Park"
-- McKenzie Funk, National Geographic Adventure
Day 1 Arrive to Panama
On arrival to Tocumen International Airport in Panama City you will be greeted by an Ancon Expeditions of Panama representative and transferred to your hotel. Tonight you will meet with the Expedition Leader and the rest of the trip participants.
Night at HAMPTON BY HILTON
Day 2 Historic Panama City - Madden Lake
Your morning begins with a thorough inspection of your equipment for the hike on the Camino Real. Afterwards, visit the ruins of Old Panama City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which holds historical relevance to the area that you will explore in the upcoming days. Early afternoon drive to Madden Lake, where you board your motorized dug out canoes in route to a jungle site where you will spend the night.
Night in the jungle in screened tents (BLD)
Day 3 - 5 Chagres National Park
This morning you continue your adventure in the Chagres National Park. This protected area was created in 1985 to preserve 130,000 hectares (320,000 acres) of rainforests as part of Panama’s conservation strategy and to help preserve the watershed which provides all of the fresh water needed for the operation of the Panama Canal, as well as the drinking water for the two largest cities in the country. The park is home to endangered species such as jaguars, Central American Spider Monkeys, and anteaters. It is also a bird sanctuary for more than 400 species, including the harpy eagle -- the largest eagle in the world and Panama's national bird. As you skirt along the park’s boundaries you will come across peasant farms and hamlets and gradually enter the thicker and more pristine rainforest, where you run into vestiges of late 1800s manganese mines, including railroad tracks and locomotives encroached in the tropical vegetation that has taken over these relics. You cross the watershed divide of the Boqueron River over a low mountain pass into the Nombre de Dios River basin as you head north toward the Caribbean Sea.
3 nights in FIELD CAMPS (BLD)
Day 6 Portobelo
After four days of trekking, you finally reach reach the road which where an Ancon Expeditions’ vehicle will transfer you to Portobelo, the final destination of the Camino Real on the Caribbean Sea. Set on a deepwater bay deemed easier to defend from the ravages of pirates, Portobelo was heavily fortified and for 150 years was home to the famous trade fairs, when the Spanish treasure fleet came to collect the riches that traveled across the isthmus on mule trains from Panama City and to leave merchandise brought from Seville for distribution throughout the Americas. Unsurprisingly, the wealth concentrated in the royal warehouses here was an irresistible target for the pirates who scoured the Spanish Main.
Night at CASA DEL RAYO VERDE o CASA CONGO in Portobelo (BLD)
Day 7 Bay of Portobelo - Panama City
This morning enjoy swimming in the Caribbean Sea. In the afternoon you will drive to Colon City to catch the train back to Panama City. The Panama Railway was inaugurated in 1856 and was the first train to cross the continent from one ocean to the other. The completion of the trans-isthmian railroad was inspired by the Gold Rush when pioneers were in need of a fast and safe way to get to California. The train ride is 1 hour long from coast to coast and skirts the Panama Canal. A farewell dinner is prepared for this evening.
Night at HAMPTON BY HILTON (BLD)
Day 8 Depart Panama
Today you are picked up at the lobby of the hotel 2.5 hours prior to your scheduled departure flight and transferred to Tocumen International Airport. Fly home (B)
- Extremely challenging
- Excellent physical conditions required
- Full day trekking 5-7 hours per day over muddy, steep, slippery slopes and mostly through rivers
- Expect to be wet for most part of the day
- Exposure to variable climatic conditions
- Rugged traveling conditions
- Accommodations vary from tent camping to basic accommodations
***dates upon request, flexible dates with minimum 3 participants***
From February 6-9, 2024 we have a Short Camino Real Trek of 4 days / 3 nights available (main jungle hiking portion):
Contact us for pricing!
Trek Day 1 (Day 3 of long program only shorter hike) – Morning transfer to Chagres National Park. We hike about 8 Km from Boqueron to Santa Librada, overnight (hammocks)
Trek Day 2 (Day 4 of long program) - 10 Km into the rainforest to Ambush Falls, overnight in the jungle
Trek Day 3 (Day 5 of long program) - only 8 Km to the next jungle camp, but it's the most difficult, overnight in the jungle
Trek Day 4 (Day 6 of long program) - 12 Km out to Portobelo, drive back to Panama City
DISCLAIMER & NOTE
- Prices and itineraries are correct at the time of printing, however they are subject to change due to tidal/weather or local conditions, availabilities or factors beyond our control.
- Travel within Chagres and Portobelo National Parks is accomplished with great preparation on the part of our staff in order to make our guests as safe and comfortable as possible. Potential guests are expected to make themselves aware of the nature and demands of this trip and prudently judge whether or not they are suited for this type of experience. A desire to experience the outdoors, a spirit of adventure, and willingness to sacrifice creature comforts are essential qualifications. Participants should be physically fit and able to hike at a moderate pace for up to eight hours in a day. Medical limitations and concerns should be brought to the attention of Ancon Expeditions of Panama several weeks prior to the program’s departure date.
WHAT TO BRING
- Binoculars (preferably 7x35 or bigger, also available for rent at Ancon Expeditions of Panama)
- Camera with extra batteries & film
- Trekking Poles (2)
- Flashlight with extra bulb & batteries
- Bathing suit
- Insect repellant, Sunscreen
- Hat, Day pack / dry sack
- Water bottle
- Sandals, sneakers, hiking boots (jungle boots preferred)
- Water filtration system
- Lightweight/quick dry cotton clothes
- Rain gear, Windbreaker
- Money in small denominations
- Toiletries & personal medications
- Masking tape for flee protection / capture
Ancon Expeditions is Panama’s top eco-tourism operator. Our Natural & Cultural History Guides are the country's finest. Due to frequently asked questions from our clients about suggested guide & staff gratuities, we would like to provide you with the following universal tipping guidelines:
- Naturalist guide/Tour leader: US$10.00-US$20.00 per person/day
- Day tour guide: US$10.00 per person/day
- Transfer driver: US$2.00 per person
- Tour driver: US$5.00 per person/day
- Tour boat driver: US$5.00 per person/day
- Hotel bellman: US$1.00 per person per suitcase
- International airport bellmen (red caps): US$1.00 per piece of suitcase
"The Camino Real was amazing, and very difficult at the same time. It is perhaps more an expedition than a trek [...].
I have had guides in Nepal, Ethiopia and Nicaragua, and Rick Morales is by far the most knowledgeable, practical and experienced guide I have had."
Josh Gold - USA
"A thoroughly great adventure, which allowed us to discover a rich mix of the diverse people, culture, history and nature of Panama."
Dick Gill, Great Britain
"The Camino Real Trek was a fabulous mixture of learning history, sampling local culture and cuisine, communing with nature, and a challenging physical endeavor … all led by the most knowledgeable and friendly guides."
Sue Freeman, USA
"A wonderful experience that I would highly recommend to others. I would be happy to talk with others who might be considering a trip."
Tom Turney, USA
HAMPTON BY HILTON
Located in downtown Panama City, the Hampton by Hilton is conveniently placed in the El Cangrejo neighbourhood within walking distance to restaurants, stores, pharmacies and a 24-hour supermarket. This property offers Wi-Fi and breakfast included. Guests can enjoy spacious rooms as well as the roof top pool, fitness center, meeting rooms, business center, 24 hour snack bar and full service restaurant offering breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Address: Eusebio A. Morales Street El Cangrejo, Panama City
Phone: +(507) 301-0000
Check in: 3:00 p.m.
Check out: 1:00 p.m.
CASA DEL RAYO VERDE o CASA CONGO
Located in front of the Portobelo Bay, Casa del Rayo Verde or its sister house, Casa Congo, is an open and inclusive space, built to host training workshops, craft production and artistic exaltation. Visitors can experience various forms of Congo art and understand the importance of the rich Spanish-colonial and African historical legacy that has Portobelo. Both houses have four rooms each filled with local art and identity. The yellow & blue suite have private terraces where you can enjoy a unique and exclusive view over the Portobelo Bay. All rooms of the Congo House have private bathroom, fan, air conditioning, mini - fridge. This is a lovely choice to experience a few days of tranquility in the unspoiled Caribbean coast.
Address: Located in the town of Portobelo, behind the Customs House.
Check in: 3:00 p.m.
Check out: 12:00 p.m.