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

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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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