Time to travel to The San Blas Islands in Panama.
“The most content people on the planet”.
That’s what the article in Wanderlust magazine said. It was talking about the Guna Yala – the indigenous people living on the San Blas Islands just off the east coast of Panama. My plan? To capture some of that happiness to take home!
The draw of this archipelago is more than just spending a day lazing on a deserted beach; it’s to witness the Guna Yala culture first hand. These indigenous people live in a handful of places in Panama and Columbia, with the islands of San Blas being the most densely populated. Panama’s government has tried to control and change these communities against their will. After a few revolutions, there is now a treaty in place, which permits them to have a certain degree of autonomy. Some islands are tiny, with little more than a dusting of sand and a few palm trees, others have small shacks or basic hotels, while a few are more developed and home to large communities with their own schools and churches.
How To Get To The San Blas Islands
If you research how to visit, you’ll find a lot of websites offering expensive package deals. They collect you early in the morning from Panama City, transport you by 4×4 to the water taxi port where you then take a boat to the island you’re visiting. If you want to stay overnight, that can be arranged, otherwise you return in the evening. These organised tours are pricey and you’re restricted to a rigid itinerary, not to mention travelling with a bus-load of tourists.
We looked at other ways to get there, but felt nervous about the options. Many forums said that you could be stopped from going along the road to the port, and that some of the roads were in such bad condition they might be difficult to navigate even in a 4×4. Add to that, the main road wasn’t even listed on Google Maps!