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Two near death-falls and a failed clutch later, we’re at the summit. It’s 5.10am and sunrise’s beauty is obscured by the reality that up here, it’s staggeringly, unforgivably cold.

Swirls of freezing fog encase the top of the volcanoes, whipping around pylons responsible for powering the still slumbering Boquete that sits below us.

We clamber gingerly out of the Jeep, using a weather-battered outhouse for shelter against the freezing winds that whip off Baru.

I’m stubborn enough to ignore my purple fingers and the -10˚C windchill, in favour of the photogenic ocean of clouds that billow across the skyline in a shades of red and ochre.

Dawn, and the most apocalyptic vision I’ve seen in Central America. Yet again, I get to enjoy it with only three other people competing for the view.

That’s the thing that really gets me about Panama: for now, it’s a playground you can enjoy pretty much to yourself.

A four-night kayaking tour package, including private bungalow, kayaks, guides and excursions, is £960pp 

The Jeep tour is US$100 (£63) per person, with snacks and drinks provided. Call +507 6462 2080 for more.

Best of the rest: Must-do Panama

Bocas del Toro town

The prinicipal town in the Bastimentos archipelago, Bocas del Toro has earned itself a reputation as a party island for gringos wanting to take advantage of lapse laws on drugs and dance parties.

But it’s also a great place to check out the region’s stellar seafood scene (where else can you eat lobster for £4?) and enjoy a pina colada, served up in a chilled coconut husk, while looking out over the Caribbean Sea.

Thermal Springs, David

About 2.4 miles north of David – Chiriqui Province’s capital city – is a stretch of waterfall-fed river said to bring health benefits thanks to the region’s mineral-rich tectonic soils.

It’s even been outfitted with a bar so you can quaff your way to good health in the medicinal waters.

Jungle Land, Panama City

Available as an overnight excursion or fun-packed six hours, this canal and city tour, hosted by convivial Captain Carl, takes you out of the capital to experience nature up close and personal.

You’ll cruise into Lake Gatun by tranquil houseboat and get plenty of chances to swim in natural waterfalls, spy some alligators and iguanas, and enjoy homemade culinary delights.; from £60pp

Photos: Jennifer Carr, Getty, Thinkstock, Visit Panama


Rugged and raw Panama: from extreme kayaking to 4x4 driving up a volcano and untouched paradise islands
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