Even before moving to Panama, I would find myself reading everything that I could about the people of Panama and their history. Panama has a fascinating culture, and there are infinite ways that you too can learn and experience its welcoming people. From the exciting 1st world nightlife of Panama City to the simple pleasures of their many rural farming communities, Panama is sure to have a locale that’s a perfect fit for you.

People usually ask me what they should mark in their calendars when visiting Panama for their to-do list, and although there are many to choose from that came close to making the list, here are PanamaKey’s top 3 must-see events to experience during any calendar year:

Carnivals

Carnivals take place the last 4 days preceding Ash Wednesday, with celebrations taking place in all major towns across the country. The largest celebration can be found in Las Tablas (Azuero Peninsula) where many people travel to witness local contests and parades unique to the region, like wearing the traditional polleras during the parades.

I prefer the smaller celebrations that can be found along the coastlines such as La Barqueta. They seem to be more family-friendly oriented. It’s more about the beach and the food here.

The festivities of the Panamanian carnivals start in the mornings with the mojaderas or culecos where cistern trucks spray water to the crowd in the plazas while playing popular music. Parades usually take place at night, along with the sound of “comparsas” (Carnival troupe).

This is also a great time to try the traditional panamanian cuisines. You can easily find on the streets carimañolas, meat or sausage sticks, fried plantains, or my favorite, boiled yucca with mojo sauce.

National holidays

Panama National Holidays Parade

Panama National Holidays Parade – telemetro.com

Panama celebrates five public holidays during the month of November, with parades, music, concerts and dances held across the country. You will find that people proudly wear their Polleras, Panamanian hats and typical dresses.

Musical bands from universities, schools, government institutions and private corporations practice for months in advance, since some parades will give prizes to the best performers.

The celebrations are so big that parades can last from sunrise until dawn in towns across Panama such as Dolega, Penonome, Panama City, Las Tablas, and Puerto Armuelles.

What is it exactly that Panamanians are celebrating? Some expats find it confusing, but this is the official holiday list:

  • November 3 – Panama’s independence from Colombia. Panama once was part of Colombia between 1821-1903
  • November 4 – Flag Day. Panamanian proudly celebrates the day when the Panamanian flag was adopted
  • November 5 – Colon Day. Panamanian celebrate when people in Colon convince the Colombian officers not to battle Panama’s separation from Colombia
  • November 10 – the Shout in Villa de Los Santos. Panamanians celebrate the uprising in Villa de Los Santos against the Spaniards. In 1821 people were unhappy with Spanish governance and asked for revolutionary movement
  • November 28 – Panama’s independence day from Spain. Panama was declared freed and sovereign from the Control of the Spanish Monarchy in 1821

The Boquete Flower and Coffee Festival

Also known as Boquete’s Fair, it welcomes more than 100,000 people every year. The fair takes place in January and lasts for 10 days. The festival is largely a family event with plenty of attractions for everyone in the family. Flowers are the main attraction, complemented with cultural and entertainment presentations in the main stage. Little ones enjoy small amusement park rides, while younger people enjoy outdoor clubs with the performance of local and international bands and singers.

Anticipate beautiful flower displays, variety of food, live music and shows, amusement rides, handicrafts booths and coffee stands for tasting and buying. In 2017, the Boquete fair takes place on January 12.

Which is your favorite?

Coming up with a Top-3 is such a challenging quest! Like I said, there were so many to choose from. We left behind the David International Fair, Parada de las Flores de Tierras Altas, the Pollera Festival, and many others. Do you have a favorite one we missed? Leave us a comment below, or join the conversation in social media!

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