The Darien Gap is the link between North America and South America. To the East of it is Colombia and to the West is Panama.


Photo by Milenioscuro CC BY SA 4.0

This region has no connecting roads. This is the only a 160-kilometer long stretch abounding in swamps and forests that has no road connection between the two Amercian continents.

That said, this area is beautiful but if you are planning to hike or explore in the region, be careful, and use a local guide service.

Note: Drug cartels and Colombian Marxists guerilla forces use this area to either transport their drugs or hide. Hence, the Darien gap can be quite dangerous.


Guerilla Forces of Colombia (FARC insurgents)

Things To Do In Darien Gap

There are many stops in the Darien Gap where you can stay for a day or two. These places are not touristy, but they are still worthwhile if you are an adventurous soul.

Camping in Carreto_Darien Gap_CCBYSA4.0

Photo by Saraedum CC BY SA 4.0

Darien National Park

The Darien National Park is a world heritage listed national park in Eastern Panama. It is the largest national park in Central America.

The park comprises the Darien Gap, the narrow land bridge between the Americas. The area is fairly isolated and there are no roads through.

On a guided tour, you can expect to see different kinds of birds, monkeys, ocelot (big cats), and snakes.

Tigrillo_ocelot_big cat_Darien Gap_CCBYSA2.0

Photo by Simon Ruf CC BY SA 2.0

The Panamanian side of Darien Gap is a mountainous rainforest, with terrain reaching from 60 m (197 ft) in the valley floors to 1,845 m (6,053 ft) at the tallest peak (Cerro Tacarcuna, in the Serranía del Darién).

Los Katios National Park

Los Katios National Park is the “continuation” of the park on the Colombian side of the border. It lies in the Pacific Lowlands of Colombia. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and mostly consists of swampy marshes and wetlands.

You can spot many types of birds, reptiles, and monkeys.

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Atrato River, Darien Gap, Colombia

The geography of the Darién Gap on the Colombian side is dominated primarily by the river delta of the Atrato River, which creates a flat marshland at least 80 km (50 mi) wide, half of this being swampland.

The Serranía del Baudó range extends along Colombia’s Pacific coast and extends into Panama.

Native Tribes the Darien Gap

The Darien Gap is home to the Embera, Wounaan, Kuna, (and the former home of the Cueva people before their extermination in the 16th century).

panama_colombia_darien gap_embera tribe_PD

An Embera father and son

You can visit some of these villages (if you are lucky to have a competent local travel guide). Travel is often by dugout canoe (piragua).

Map of Pan-American_Highway_PD

The Pan-American Highway and the broken Darien Gap

Local Food

The Darien Gap has corn, cassava, plantains, and bananas as staple crops wherever land is developed.

Travel Tips

  • Get Colombian Pesos in Panama City or Medellin since ATMs are not to be found until you get to Turbo and the exchange rate is pretty bad.
  • Get ready to get wet on the boats! Also, it can rain intermittently. Therefore, pack a raincoat and something to cover your luggage and camera.
  • Do not carry any valuables with you except the bare minimum that is required for your trip to Darien Gap.

How To Get Here

lush rainforest_jungle_PD

From the Colombian side

The closest major city is Medellin, about 250 km southeast of the park.

Step 1: Take a flight to Medellin. Then take a flight (or long bus ride) to Cartagena.

Step 2: From Cartagena, take a bus to Turbo and from Turbo, you will take a guided tour of Darien Gap.

canoe_boat ride to Darien Gap_PD

From the Panama side

Let’s say, you are starting from Panama City.

Step 1: Fly from Panama City to Puerto Obaldia.

Step 2: Puerto Obaldia is your transition point to Capurgana (Colombia). Keep in mind, the countryside is not safe so it is better to get out of here as soon as possible. Take a boat ride to Capurgana.

Note: You will go through immigration here, make sure you get all the paperwork right.

Step 3: If you wish, you can stay in Capurgana for a day as there are several hotels alongside this vibrant Caribbean beach.

Step 4: After a day on the beach of Capurgana, you will be ready for the boat ride to Turbo. It is relatively more costly than Capurgana, but the scenery of the sun rising over the turquoise blue waters is worth the price.

Note: There is apparently only one boat a day leaving on the morning, so make sure you book your boat as early as you get to town to reserve your seat on the boat. It is a speed boat and the trip takes 3–4 hours along the jungles of the Darien Gap going straight into the Caribbean water.

Step 5: From Turbo, take a guided tour of the Darien Gap.


Currency Exchange in the Darien Gap is problematic or impossible. You can exchange your currency to pesos in either Panama City or in Medellin, Colombia.

December 8, 2016 10:10 am Published by

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