2011's tourism hotspots: What to do in Panama

Panama has been undergoing one of Latin America's biggest hotel booms to date and it shows no sign of slowing down as it steams through what could be a golden year for the country's tourism.

According to hotel analyst STR, the Central American nation will see more than half the current number of hotel rooms available being added within the next three years, the largest jump in Central and South America.

It's no surprise that major chains are piling into the tropical nation - it offers stunning natural scenery, a rich cultural heritage, excellent tourism infrastructure and in Panama City, one of the best nightlife offerings in the region.

A look at what visitors can do in a country selected by Lonely Planet as one of its "top 10 countries for 2011."

Sunbathe. Panama boasts 2,857 km of coastlines and well over 300 days of sun ever year, along with plentiful islands.

See the fortresses. The almost intact walls of the Caribbean fortifications such as Portobello & San Lorenzo hark back to Panama's colonial past, offering stunning views out to the Caribbean sea.

Go rafting. Panama has near 500 rivers lacing its rugged landscape, affording some excellent whitewater rafting excursions - although they're not for the faint-hearted.

See the canal. Probably Panama's most famous feature, the Panama Canal is one of history's greatest engineering works and one of the country's top tourist attractions. Visit the Miraflores Visitors Center for a look at how it all works and a restaurant overlooking the Canal itself.

See the city. Panama City is the starting point for most guests and offers excellent shopping, superb restaurants, and a rapidly expanding number of luxury hotels.

Get out of the city. Panama City is surrounded by dense tropical jungle, giving residents and visitors a chance to stretch their legs in stunning surroundings.

Trek. Expanding on the above, despite the fact that the Darien Gap, which straddles the Panama-Colombia border, is one of the world's most dangerous places, tourists can go coast-to-coast on the Panamanian side - according to TNT Magazine, it's one of the world's best jungle treks.

http://visitpanama.com/

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