After a recent trip to Central America, travel photographer Nori Jemil shares some of her best pictures of Panama. 

The geographically strategic isthmus of Panama bridges Central and South America. Its high-rise capital and canal are famously modern, yet it’s the UNESCO world heritage sites of Casco Viejo and Panama Viejo that lend character, together with the country’s diverse cultural background.

Having sailed the canal several years before, I wanted to see things on the ground. It’s accessibly small; only a short drive from the capital is biodiverse rainforest, with some of the most idyllic beaches in all of Latin America not much further. Most famous are those in the San Blas archipelago, a collection of over 360 white sand islands and cays, home to the Kuna Yala people.

Panama remains true to its multicultural past, with colonial architecture, artisanal traditions and distinct indigenous communities. With lush coffee-growing mountains and the tropical interior, this relatively small country packs an enormous punch. For me though, it’s the open warmth and humour of the people that will draw me back.

Hammock time in San Blas Islands

The San Blas Islands, hammock

Views before landing in Playón Chico

Views before landing in Playon Chico, Panama, Central America

Aerial views of Panama City

First views of the city on flying into Panama City, Panama

An Embera woman on the banks of the Rio Chagres

An Embera woman on the banks of the Rio Chagres, Panama

Cabanas on the San Blas islands

Cabanas on the San Blas islands, Panama

A Kuna Yala woman proudly sewing molas at over 80 years old

Proudly sewing molas at over 80 years old, San Blas Islands

An aerial view of the San Blas islands

Views of San Blas after take off, Panama

Preparing fish for visitors to the Emberá community, eastern Panama

Preparing fish for visitors to the Embera community, Panama

Private San Blas beach

Private San Blas beach for the day, Panama, Central America

A diabolico mask by artisan José Gonzalez

A diabolico mask by artisan José Gonzalez, Panama artisans

A young representative of the Kuna Yala

A young representative of the Kuna Yala from San Blas Islands

Women in the national pollera dress

Women in the national pollera dress, Panama City, Panama

Casco Viejo, UNESCO world heritage site, Panama City

Casco Viejo, UNESCO world heritage site, Panama City

Malvita, a Kuna Yala woman, sewing an intricate mola

Malvita, a Kuna Yala woman, sewing an intricate mola, Panama

Celebrating Panama’s independence; an annual tradition

Celebrating Panama’s independence; an annual tradition, Central America

Approaching one of the many islands in Panama

Approaching one of the many islands in Panama, San Blas Islands

Nori Jemil is a London based freelance travel writer and photographer and the 2010 winner of Wanderlust Travel Photographer of the Year (Icons category). You can see more of her photography at http://www.norijemil.com or on her Facebook page.

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