Carnival Panama

It is not necessary to travel to Brazil for experiencing the Latin-American carnival in its entirety. The carnival in Panama is not ranking

behind the Brazilian. Carnival always takes place during the four days before Ash Wednesday. During these days chaos is reigning in the town. The bus station in Albrook is overcrowded – almost turning to a madhouse. By all means the carnival in Panama is an unforgettable spectacle for tourists, granting them a deep insight into the Panamanian culture. Carnival is celebrated all over Panama with the most popular places being in the interior of the country. There the carnival represents a large part of the Panamanian culture, demonstrating tradition and joy of life. Everybody – children and grown-ups, young and old people – is wildly celebrating carnival. Course of Events during the Panamanian Carnival, using the Example of "Las Tablas" While only a queen, the so-called "La Reina del Carneval en Panama" is elected during the carnival in Panama City, this is quite different in the interior of the country. Using “Las Tablas” – the most known venue of the carnival in Panama – as example, we will describe to you herein below the course of events during the carnival season.

Carnival in Las Tablas or Calle Arriba vs. Calle Abajo

Las Tablas, the capital town of the province Los Santos, can be reached by car from Panama City within approx. 4-5 hours.  At the time of carnival the entire town is separated into two parties, the "Calle Arriba (upper street)" and the "Calle Abajo (lower street)" being in competition during this time. Each party tries to cap the other with a more pompous look and increased engagement, both embellishing their streets including shops, canteens, bars and restaurants with ostentatious decorations. They don’t stop before the entire town is overcrowded with bright colours and a perfect appearance. Another highlight of the competition is represented by extensive fireworks. In all evenings both streets compete with fireworks (firework rockets and similar) taking turn frequently for about one to two hours. For sure you can quite well imagine what is going on there. We also want to point out that the tradition of fireworks costs enormous amounts of money. The “Calle Arriba” disposes of more money and thus has more possibilities, so that it often wins the competition. As both parties, however, do their utmost, you can be sure of attending a spectacle which you will never forget in your life. The Previous Carnival Queen hands over the Crown to the New One On Friday, the last day before the real start of Carnival on Saturday, the previous queen hands over the crown to the new one in the course of a large ceremony. When the queen crosses the street on a float on the next day, she is accompanied by a group of various people called “Tuna“.  On another float, which follows the queen, a group of people called „Murga“ makes music (mostly trumpeting).

Saturday, the Official Start of Carnival in Panama

During Saturday, the official start of the carnival, you will find the so-called “Culecos” all over the town. “Culecos“ are street sections being equipped with water-filled tank lorries which shoot at the skipping, dancing and sweating crowds of people. The “culecos” as well as all carnival goings-on start at 8.00 am and continue till 5.00 pm. After a short break of two hours – used for sleeping - it goes on in the evening. Young people go to the discos where an afternoon- and evening program of national musicians is offered. The largest open-air clubs are "PH (Pub Herrerano)" and "X-Zone".

Food during Carnival

During the carnival season food is offered at each street corner. In all small shops - called "Fondas" - mainly “Chorizo (skewered roasted sausage, optionally to be enjoyed with Tabasco)“, meat and chicken can be bought. Beer, soda, water or ron are offered as drinks.

Hint of TravelPanama

If possible, you should not miss the carnival in Panama. Speaking from our own experiences we have to admit that we have rarely celebrated in such a wild way. Carnival in Panama is a joyful festival, which we will always bear in mind.  But as we were highly fascinated by it, it will not take long until we will attend it again.

To avoid having to buy new alcohol again and again, we recommend you to take your drinks in cooling boxes with you – also most of the locals do it that way.
Keep your purse, passport and cigarettes in water-tight bags (see culecos)! It is of course possible to buy such water-tight bags (ziplock) in local shops.

If you want to go into the “PH“ and/or “X-Zone“- also outside Las Tablas – you can buy a VIP-passport in Panama City. It will grant you unlimited access to these two discos in every town, no matter whether you are interested in seeing a certain artist/musician or simply enjoying the carnival in several towns. The price of these VIP-passports is about $30-50. You will by all means save money as the entry prices depend on the respective number of disco visitors.
Do not carry your original passport with you! A copy of it – which you should directly take upon your arrival in Panama City - is entirely sufficient.

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