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Panama City, Lima, and Medellin

(For the purposes of this question, please let's pretend there's no global pandemic.)

I am taking a tour to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, and Colombia in April/May. The tour starts with two full days in Lima.

Flights from Guadalajara to Lima on Copa Airlines include the option of a stopover in Panama City. So I am planning on spending a few days there before heading on to Lima. I'm allowing myself up to seven full extra days before the tour begins. (Eight days including the travel day from Panama to Lima.)

First question: how would you recommend I allocate those seven days between Panama and Lima? What's an optimal number of days to enjoy Panama? If I arrive in Lima a few days early, I'd use the time to see things not already included on the two days of the tour, including a possible day trip outside the city. Or is seven days too many?

Second question: the tour ends with three nights (about 2 1/2 days) in Medellin, Colombia. Would you recommend I add some additional time there at the end to explore on my own? Or is the 2 1/2 days adequate?

Posted by
696 posts

Hi. We've been to Machu Picchu and lived in Colombia a couple years (and also visited Chapala but not Ajijic.) So a non-answer to your second question is my suggestion to head to Cartagena when you're finished in Medellin. If you didn't see this week's Monday Night Travel on Colombia with RS and his son, you could find it someplace on this website for more ideas. Have a great trip!

Posted by
5630 posts

If you have enough time in Panama, consider taking a tour of the canal. There is a train that goes parallel to the canal.

We have been to Peru twice and love that country and the cuisine. We have found that every country in S. America has unique cuisine.

If you don't have guided tours already in Lima, I can recommend an excellent tour company. It is Monica Tours Peru.

Posted by
185 posts

I would think about staying in Medellin for a little longer and taking a day trip or overnight trip to Guatapé. If you're into hiking and waterfalls, Jardín is also a beautiful town to visit. Going up to the North coast is also an option. Cartagena, Minca, Palomino, the rosario islands, are all good options.

Posted by
5580 posts

We haven't been there in a few years, but our guides told us that personal safety was a factor in walking around any non-touristy locations in Lima and in Panama City. We did view the Panama City old town on our own, but had a driver drop us off and pick us up from the hotel. We walked around our ritzy section of Lima but did not go more than a half-mile from the hotel. I would not have walked anywhere in Colon, where our small ship cruise started from in Panama. Note: I grew up in New York City/Manhattan.

You don't make clear whether civil engineering/The Canal or jungle hiking are important to you in Panama. I believe the real jungle in Panama can by quite hazardous.

Our Galapagos departure included Guyaquil, where we were also told to be careful. We were told to only visit places that had Tourism Police patrols. I am fairly sure you are not interested in visiting the rather mall-y, purpose-built waterfront promenade we walked around on our own.

Posted by
4177 posts

I haven’t been to Panama in 3 decades and prior to its invasion by the U.S., but I agree with avoiding Colón. I transited the old canal 3 times and it was interesting, but I’d love to see the new locks. I had no problems walking around Panama City during the day, but like many S. American cities, I wouldn’t walk around at night. I’d love to tell you the towns we visited outside of P. City, but I can’t remember them.

In Lima we stayed in the Miraflores area. There was an Indian market about a mile from our hotel on Avenida Petit Thouars 5321 near the intersection of Jr Gonzales Prada. I would have like to spend more time in the historic center than was provided in our tour. At Machu Picchu we stayed at Sanctuary Lodge. Hopefully your tour does too because you get to spend more time at the ruins by getting in earlier and staying later.