Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is the southernmost country of Central America. Panama is located in Central America, bordering by Costa Rica to the north-west, Colombia to the south-east, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Its location on the Isthmus of Panama is strategic.
The country is divided into nine provinces, plus the Comarca de San Blas, which for statistical purposes is treated as part of Colón Province. The provinces are divided into districts, which in turn are subdivided into sections called Corregimientos.
The dominant feature of the country’s landform is the central spine of mountains and hills that forms the continental divide. The mountain range of the divide is called the Cordillera de Talamanca near the Costa Rican border.
Farther east it becomes the Serranía de Tabasará, and the portion of it closer to the lower saddle of the isthmus, where the canal is located, is often called the Sierra de Veraguas. As a whole, the range between Costa Rica and the canal is generally referred to by Panamanian geographers as the Cordillera Central.
The highest point in the country is the Volcán Barú (Volcán de Chiriquí), which rises to 3475 meters. A nearly impenetrable jungle forms the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia. It creates a break in the Pan-American Highway, which otherwise forms a complete road from Alaska to Patagonia.
Nearly 500 rivers lace Panama’s rugged landscape. Mostly un-navigable, many originate as swift highland streams, meander in valleys, and form coastal deltas. However, the Río Chepo and the Río Chagres are sources of hydroelectric power.
Panama has a tropical climate. Temperatures are uniformly high, as is the relative humidity and there is little seasonal variation, the average temperatures 24°C to 32°C. Temperatures on the Pacific side of the isthmus are somewhat lower than on the Caribbean, and breezes tend to rise after dusk in most parts of the country. Temperatures are markedly cooler in the higher parts of the mountain ranges, and frosts occur in the Cordillera de Talamanca in western Panama.
Panama’s economy is mainly service based, heavily weighted toward banking, commerce, tourism, trading and private industries because of its key geographic location. The handover of the canal and military installations by the United States has given rise to new construction projects.
It is an international business center and is also a transit country. Although Panama is also the 3rd largest economy in Central America, after Guatemala and Costa Rica, it has the largest expenditure on resource consumption, making the country the largest consumer in Central America.
The Panamanian currency is the balboa, fixed at parity with the United States dollar. Panama mints its own coinage but uses US dollars for all its paper currency. Panama was the first of the three countries in Latin America to have dollarized their economies, later followed by Ecuador and El Salvador.
In Recent years the North Western and North Eastern regions of Panama have drawn increasing amounts of tourism to the beaches, rain forests and Caribbean areas all within easy reach of popular Costa Rica. Bocas Del Toro, Boquete, and the surfing areas of the west coast are now huge tourist draws.
Small and amazingly diverse, Panama makes it possible for a traveller to visit not only two different oceans in one day, but be able to combine in less than a week a diversified natural experience (white sand beaches, cloud or rain forest, mountains or valleys) with a wide range of cultural experiences.