UNESCO-listed Portobelo, Panamá, Sir Francis Drake and his treasure sleep in its seas

Sir Francis Drake met his end to illness after capturing Portobelo, Panamá, his coffin and share of the loot still a dream of treasure hunters.

A counterpoint to deserted Fort San Lorenzo with which it is jointly UNESCO-listed, Portobelo is a vibrant town set among the ruins.

The 35-km drive from Colón can be slow-going and turnoff is not marked coming from the Colón direction, but is from the opposite so watch your rear-view mirror. I arrived just before sunset so the museums were closed and the town was partying for Independence Day weekend.

The big frustration was the traffic build-up on the return due to the police checkpoint in the middle, which added 50 minutes of stop-and-go to the return, with a few hills that gave my weak manual driving skills fits. During normal traffic it shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but is clearly a permanent feature. A straight shot drive from Panamá City is about 1.5-2 hours.

The town attracts a collection of German backpackers that have gone way off grid.

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