East of Chepo, the Darién stretches out over a third of the area of Panama and is almost undeveloped. Most villages are accessible only by air, river or on foot. The Pan- American Highway ends at Yaviza; from there, if you want to cross by land to South America, it's on foot through the jungles of Darién.

As one of the great impenetrable wildernesses of the world, crossing the Darién Gap is the dream of many, but not a trip to be undertaken lightly. By all accounts good Spanish, good guides, serious planning and lots of money are essential. If you're looking for an exciting route to Colombia, the river crossings and jungle treks of the Darién are one option; alternatively, you can use use launches and canoes to skip along the Pacific or Caribbean coastline. The overland journey is in fact more expensive than by air - and considerably more dangerous.

At the end of 1992, Panama and Colombia revealed a plan to build a road through the Darién Gap, which includes environmental protection. Construction of a previous project had been halted in the 1970s by a lawsuit filed by US environmental groups who feared deforestation, soil erosion, endangerment of indigenous groups and the threat of foot-and- mouth disease reaching the USA. Even if the plan is completed, the Darién Gap road linking Panama with Colombia will not be open for many years.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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