Crossing the Darien Gap: Here’s How to Do It

Last Updated:

Do you have a recurring fantasy of an epic road trip from the US to Colombia and beyond? Well, be prepared when you get to Panama. You can’t get there from here.

We’re as serious as a heart attack: It’s impossible.

It’s true that the Pan American Highway runs from Alaska down to the tip of Argentina. On paper.

But if you look at the map carefully, you’ll find one impenetrable, 90-kilometer gap in the road. It’s right at the border between Colombia and Panama—the Darién Gap.

Crossing the Darien Gap has been called the world’s most dangerous journey.

Map of the Darien Gap

Can you drive from Panama to Colombia?

No, you cannot drive from North America to South America.

Despite the continents being connected by land, there is no road that connects Panama and Colombia.

The Pan American Highway stops at the Darien Gap, an undeveloped area that spans the border.

Building a road through the wilderness in Darien has been discussed for over 100 years. But, after some extensive research, we understood the many reasons why there’s no road between Panama and Colombia.

The main reason you can’t drive to Colombia from the U.S. or Mexico is that authorities believe that a paved road would aid drug traffickers and illegal immigrants. Plus, there’s the fear that it will impact indigenous communities and degrade the environment.

Can u drive to South America from North America? Not easily. Take a look at this jungle and water in Panama's Darien province.

What’s even more complicated is the logistics of the whole thing.

For one thing, road-building through this area would be prohibitively expensive because of all the mountains, swamps, and dense jungle.

For another, the area is environmentally sensitive, one of the wettest regions in the world, and inhabited by native tribes who want to protect their land.

There is also a safety issue, as dealing with immigrants, rebels and smugglers along the border would make any road-building effort even more perilous.

So, where does that leave us?

With lots of swamps and zero roads, you’re faced with either crossing the Darién Gap by 4×4 or finding a different option.

Can you hike through the Darien Gap on foot?

The straightforward answer is: yes, you can cross the Darien Gap on foot.

But, realistically speaking, the trek is difficult and dangerous, and that’s why we’d urge you to reconsider this decision.

Large, colorful spider in web that we saw while hiking the Darian Gap, aka Dari

See, Panama’s Darién Gap hasn’t been nicknamed one of the most dangerous places in the Western Hemisphere for nothing. Even the most experienced hiker should be aware of the following points when attempting to cross this part of South America:

  • Treacherous jungle
  • Virtually impassable mountains
  • Impenetrable swamps
  • Overgrown, often unmarked trails
  • Almost totally uninhabited land (if you get lost or injured, you’re on your own)
  • Countless mosquitoes (sometimes carrying diseases like malaria and dengue fever)
  • Highly questionable water quality
  • Limited food availability (eat local plants or carry your own)
  • Nearly 100% humidity
  • Crazed drug traffickers
  • Desperate paramilitary Colombian guerrillas
  • Paranoid government police
  • Risk of kidnapping, rape, torture or murder (we wish we were exaggerating)

Finally, don’t underestimate the risk that unfriendly wildlife can pose, even if you think you know all about jungle-dwelling animals.

We’re talking about snakes as big as your arm, man-eating cats that are larger than the snakes, crocodiles, and caimans in the rivers.

Also, you’ll have to make sure to avoid biting ants and spiders that can drop down your shirt without warning … you get the idea!

A few optimistic people brave the risks and attempt it every year. I don’t know how many succeed … but we think that there are enough documented cases of people disappearing permanently to discourage any notions of our trying it ourselves.

Just do a web search on the term “darien gap missing tourist” and you’ll see what we mean.

Life is precious. Besides, we have an aversion to bug bites and prefer to sleep in real beds.

Darien National Park tours

When someone warns us against going somewhere, we always wonder if they are being dramatic or if the area is truly as dangerous as they claim.

So, when we had a chance to take a four-day trip to Parque Nacional Darién, a nature reserve, we seized the opportunity with both hands. With a proper guide who knew the area, we could visit “el Darién Panama,” safely.

The best part of the entire trip was a 7-kilometer hike through virgin tropical rainforest with an informative and entertaining local guide.

But that one burning question wouldn’t leave me in peace. I just had to get the scoop from someone with firsthand knowledge, so I asked our chatty guide if people ever hike through the Gap all the way to Colombia.

After a surprised look, he said, “I don’t recommend it. But yes, it is possible.” For obvious reasons, guides who help people enter Colombia by land don’t go around announcing their services in public!

And yet, I did manage to find a Darien local who “might know a few people who do that.”

He then described the journey to us.

Omigosh. Can you say ordeal?

Tips for crossing the Darien Gap on foot

Here’s the advice our guide gave us when I asked him about hiking through the Darien:

  • Hire a local guide who knows the area
  • Travel during the dry season (December through April)
  • Never do it alone, even if you’re used to going on difficult hikes
  • Be prepared to pay a lot for the experience (he quoted $5,000!).
  • Throw any possibility of comfort out the window.
  • Expect about three days of serious trekking.

How to cross the Darien Gap on foot

Before we go any further, let’s be clear:

All information shared on As We Saw It for informational purposes only. We cannot be held responsible for any actions taken as a result of reading our articles. You’re an adult. You are responsible for your own choices and behavior.

Got that? Great. Now, let’s move on!

Crossing the Darién Gap starts with a drive to Yaviza. This town is at the Panama end of the Pan-American Highway.

Welcome sign above the road entering the Darien Province in Panama.

You should anticipate numerous police checkpoints during this portion of the journey. At each stop, you’ll need to provide your name and a copy of your passport.

Typical police roadblock in Darien, Panama, checking papers.

Once in Yaviza, you’ll spend a half day hiking to a river.

Hiking along a creek in the Darien Gap

The next day, you’ll be navigating rivers in a rustic boat.

Water-level shot of the wake created by boat on a river in the Darien

The day after that involves more hiking to the Panama-Colombia border. That’s when your guide will bid you goodbye and quietly return the way he came.

Now, you’ll be completely on your own.

Logo of the Frontier Police, on the side of a police truck.

Oh, and by the way: Now that you’ve entered the country, you’ll need to figure out how to get your passport stamped.

Sound like fun? We don’t think so, either.

How long does it take to cross the Darién Gap on foot?

If you’re still determined to take the risk, you should know that crossing the Gap on foot can take anywhere from three days to an entire week.

That is, if you’re not faced with any challenges along the way.

Sadly, many immigrants choose this route to seek a better life in North America. In 2022 alone, 141 people have perished due to the dangers that this route poses, according to a United Nations report.

So, think twice before making this tough decision.

Other ways to cross the border between Panama and Colombia

Fly

Planes are obviously the fastest and easiest way to get to Colombia. They’re not nearly as adventurous as hiking the Darién, but you won’t have to fear for your life from your comfy plane seat!

Luckily, there are non-stop flights between Panama City (PTY) and Cartagena (CTG). You can check flight prices before planning your trip.

Remember to fill out the Colombia Check-MIG Form before boarding your flight to the country. Check our Colombia check-MIG article to learn more about that.

Cargo ship

Yes, you can travel by cargo ship. Cargo ships sail from Colon and/or Portobello to various Colombian port towns. We were surprised, too, when we found out!

Quick speed boat

This is not a trip for weak stomachs; the water can be very rough.

You’ll fly to the border town of Puerto Obaldia, then take a 3-hour boat ride to Turbo, Colombia.

Buses run from Turbo to both Medellin and Cartagena. The trip usually takes between 8 and 10 hours.

Sail from Portobello to Cartagena

This is a fun multi-day journey, as it includes a visit to the beautiful San Blas islands. Costs compare to a plane flight.

Plus, many companies offer this adventure, so ask at your hotel/hostel or search the web.

But don’t automatically choose the cheapest ride. Verify the details or you might not get all that you expect.

Do a hybrid journey

According to Runaway Guide, you begin your journey across the Darien Gap with a domestic flight from Panama City (PAC) to the city of Puerto Obaldia (PUE).

After obtaining your exit stamp, you will then take a 30-minute motor boat to Capurgana. From here, you’ll take another boat across to Turbo, where you can then take a bus down to Medellin.

Be prepared for rough seas, though.

Ferry

Have you heard that there’s a ferry between Panama and Colombia? Don’t believe it. Ferry Xpress ran a car ferry between Colon and Cartagena, but no longer. Ferry service has been suspended.

How do I get my car across the Darien Gap?

The only way to get a vehicle past that stretch of non-road is by container ship. If you’re interested in shipping a car to South America, read this article first.

Prices to ship a car to Colombia from Panama can vary depending on several things. These include your car’s size, whether you can share the container with other travelers, and how quickly you want it to get there.

As a rough estimate, you should budget about $1400.

If you want to compare shipping prices, IVSS is a company that allows you to do that while planning your trip.

ALSO READ:
Guide to Shipping a Car to South America

How to visit the Darien safely

Panama’s Darién province is a unique destination worthy of any curious explorer. It’s probably the best place to experience indigenous Panamanian culture.

Yet, it’s best to have someone who knows the area show you around. You won’t see much—or get very far into the region—if you try to do it yourself.

I would have liked to share a link so you could experience it yourself, but the tour is no longer available. To save you some research time, here are some other organized Darien tours to consider:

Here’s what our Darien Gap tour was like:

We had a comfortable van ride for part of the way, then took a boat the rest of the way to our lodge in the Darien.

Van ride to Darien Panama

The tour we booked was professionally run and well planned. As well, our lodgings were comfortable, and they were happy to accommodate special diets. (Except for ours. The cook had a hard time understanding that people who don’t eat pork also won’t eat ham or bacon. Still, we didn’t go hungry.)

Lunch served at Punta Patino Lodge, Darien, Panama

Be prepared for a primitive experience once you arrive, though. The internet is nonexistent, cell signal is highly unlikely, and electricity is only available overnight.

Quite surprisingly, spending the day without electricity wasn’t as much of a problem as we had expected. After dark, the lights came on, and we were able to charge our devices and batteries.

But best of all, there was air conditioning in our bungalow!

We took the photos in this article during our trip to the Darién while we were hiking on (relatively) cleared paths on our lodge’s property.

To be fair, we had it easy compared to those who trek over the border, but it was still a hot, sweaty, and sticky hike.

The photos in this article were taken during our trip to the Darien, while we were hiking on (relatively) cleared paths on our lodge’s property. We had it easy compared to those who trek over the border, but it was still a hot, sweaty and sticky hike.

Two hikers in Darien Gap jungle.

And, in case you’re wondering, we have absolutely zero desire to spend three days hiking through the steamy rainforest, fighting mosquitoes and dodging FARC paramilitary all the way to Colombia!

Nope, not for us. Give us a quick plane ride any day!

Plan your Darien trip: Our recommendations

Can you drive from Canada to South America through the darién gap? There's a dense jungle shoreline in Darien Gap Panama.

To balance out so much rough activity, we highly recommend that you take some down time, both before and after this adventure. Maybe spend a week or two on a Panama road trip.

And in case you’re wondering: Can you drive over the Panama Canal?

Yes, you can drive across the Panama Canal with a car.

Three bridges have been built over the Panama Canal:

  • Bridge of the Americas, built in 1962
  • Centennial Bridge, built in 2004
  • Atlantic Bridge, built in 2019 and the only one on the Atlantic side.

Do yourself a favor: Take some time to explore Panama City before crossing the Darién Gap, and then enjoy Cartagena.

Not only will you learn a lot about the two cultures, but both cities will also provide a nice urban before-and-after contrast to the wilderness of the Gap.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how difficult and dangerous it is to cross the Darién Gap, are you still determined to do it?

Well, if your love for danger is urging you to give it a try, keep the safety tips in this article at the forefront of your mind. Otherwise, you can play it safe and cross this wild part of the planet by plane, boat, or other safer methods.

Good luck!

PANAMA TRAVEL PLANNING ESSENTIALS
Accommodation: Don’t overpay for your stay! Trivago shows prices from all the top booking sites so you can find the best hotels and rates.
Travel Guide: This book is Amazon’s top seller.
Flights: Panama City’s Tocumen Airport code is PTY. Check prices here.
Airport transfer: Use a taxi or Uber, or book an airport shuttle for slightly more. Your driver will greet you in the airport, help with your bags, and take you to your hotel.
Visas: Find out what you need and apply here.
Travel insurance is an inexpensive and smart investment. You’re covered for medical emergencies, hotel cancellations, flight delays, baggage delays, lost luggage, and more. Check prices here.
Getting around: Use taxis, Uber, buses and the metro to get around Panama City. Elsewhere, there’s an extensive public bus system. We recommend renting a car to make the most of your vacation.
\✔ Currency. Panama’s currency is known as the Balboa (/B.), but it only exists in coinage. In reality, the country uses the US dollar.
Collage of hanging termite nest and crocodile in the water. The text says crossing the darien

Share this story with others

Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages inspired her to create As We Saw It, where she documents her trips, shares practical itineraries, and offers insider tips. She’s passionate about helping fellow travelers save time, money, and hassle, and loves to discover new places to explore.

You may also like...

We often link to affiliate products and services that we believe will benefit our readers. As TravelPayouts and Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases. Details here.

76 thoughts on “Crossing the Darien Gap: Here’s How to Do It”

  1. I travelled nearly the whole world for 3 years ,mostly overland. From Southern Africa by plane to Middle Africa to central Western Europe, then overland to Scandinavia then south to Italy-6 months. Then to Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan by plane to India, to tip of India and up again to Calcutta by plane to Rangoon to Bangkok Hong Kong Seoul Tokyo travelled in Japan by bullet train visited Hiroshima back to Tokyo flew to Hawaii to Los Angeles overland to Alaska then crisscrossing Canada and USA to panama.Asia 6 months , North America 6 months. Then to Panama took a boat to Columbia but the boat broke down in the Darien Gap. Only alternative left walk the Darien Gap to Columbia. What an adventure? Did not see any people. This section on top of Darien Gap the narrowest foot path. About 7 international travelers hustling around the world. Darien Gap the local indigenous people built wooden platforms for travelers to rest and sleep during the night. Cannot buy anything here. Only walk to your destination to Columbia. Then arrived in Carthegnia. The worst welcome by the Columbian border police and army carrying very large automatic rifles. After this no bad experience, then travelled the whole South America for 6 months right down to Ushuaia, Terra del Fuego on Amazon river from Belem to Manaus to Iquitos-about 2700 km. From Alaska to Ushuaia is over 20 000km but my journey was about double as I crisscrossed. Many thanks

    • See, now that’s what I’m talking about Neil. The Darien is not for the fainthearted. Love the story, though. You guys had quite the adventure – something to tell the grandkids!
      And my sympathies about the ligament tear. I tore mine as a child and my ankle has never been the same.

      Cheers Linda

  2. Interesting read. What were your vehicle fees for shipping and how long it take for your vehicle to reach Columbia? We are planning a trip down Pan-Am and doing a lot of research. Websites are also helpful.

    • Costs vary depending on the vehicle you’re driving, which company you use, and whether you want fast or slow shipping. Transit times can be anywhere from a single day (fast ship) to 14 days (Slow Ship via the USA), depending on the carrier.

      This site quotes $750 for fast shipping a small sedan. There are several carriers that go from Panama to Cartagena and Santa Marta in Colombia. The prices between each of these carriers can fluctuate quite significantly in addition to the transit time.

  3. General Motors did this whole trip with 3 Corvairs in the 1960’s. Started with 3, finished with 2.

      • I believe there are 2 you tube videos of Corvairs crossing the Darien in the 1960s. They are interesting to watch, these cars bush-whacked through the Darien. Love that there is not a road. May be one of the last wild spots available in Central America for the Harpy Eagle. Either way – it’s fun for me to imagine a wild place still largely inaccessible.

  4. I dissagree. I believe it would bring peace and light to the darkness they could find the best possible crossing place on the Panama side and start the 15 mile build with a back hoe, a dump truck and some strong brave men. Maybe the sons of those Panamanian men that saved my sister from the big long python snake. When she was a child they ran out with machetties and chopped that 12 footer into little pieces thank you brave men true story …
    then on the Columbian side it could also be done by some of thier brave strong men. It would be great and very helpful, easily monitored by satelite and cameras with night vision.
    just make it passable for dune buggys jeeps and bikes, create jobs that are needed, a border visa passport check point, a small police area on both sides, a overnight camp grounds with security for travelers …its just a better way to control the passage.

    • I can see you’ve put some thought into it, and your ideas have some merit. But wait … why was your sister in Panama at that age? Were your parents there on vacation, or did your family live there for a while?

  5. It’s because space is in between 2 banana countries, The Alaska hwy was thousands of miles and with the technology of the 40’s it was built in few months. But in banana countries, you have to bribe every tribe every government official. Then the drug smugglers in the area give the government bigger bribes. That is the truth, the rest is all BS.

    • I won’t disagree that money talks, but that’s a worldwide problem. We’ve been shaken down by crooked authorities more than once, and not just in “banana countries.” I have family members who can attest from personal experience that graft is quite common in the U.S. and Europe as well.

    • Do not let this thread scare you – posters here have obviously not been there. Darién National Park in Panama is adjacent to Los Katios National Park in Colombia – I have been to both and both are nice if you do not mind wearing long clothing and heat, humidty and critters that can scare you. It tends to be raining there year round.

  6. The Darien Gap. Sounds like the perfect setting for an undiscovered group of prehistoric animals hidden by the near impenetrable tropical terrain. A new Jurassic Park or King Kong?

    Anyway, the tales I’ve read on here alone make it sound like few other places on earth.
    Quoting David… “PTSD for weeks”

    • Could be … though I’ve not heard of any tales like that in the Darien. Then again, there are rumors of a beast called mokele mbembe in the Congo, and the Swamp Ape in the Florida Everglades. So anything could be possible!

  7. One small thing, the FARC are left wing guerillas, the paramilitaries are rightwing groups (AUC and others) set-up to fight the guerillas. The FARC are communist guerillas, now defunct since the war ended, and the paramilitaries are right-wing terror groups. You write in this article they are one and the same. That is not true. They are different political armed groups. Although both have disarmed, there are still dissidents that did not want the war to end and still are active in the drug trade. My back ground on this is government official specialized in Latin American socio-political history. Good info! Wish I had the guts to cross this, but don’t think my employer would let me. 🙂

    • Thank you for the clarification, James. Guerrillas run the political spectrum, from right to left. I’ll have to reword that to make it clear. 🙂

  8. Many ppl dont understand why there are no road to connect Colombia to Panama allowing us to do a full road trip from the tip of north america to the tip of south america. We d wonder if is it impossible to build the road or if both countries just didnt wanna do it? Its just a 60 mile gap, so if they could built a 15,000 mile road from southern Argentina to northern Alaska, how come they d miss this short 60 mile gap, leaving it unpaved? It shows that both countries are stupid for not having a road connection between them. The question is, will the road be done in the future, or this darien gap will be forever with no road?

    • It sounded ridiculous to us too, Ed, until we understood the reasons. Not only is it super expensive to do, the Darien jungle is a very effective deterrent for drug smuggling, human trafficking, and illegal immigration. Removing the barrier would encourage all of that.

    • your comment re: stupidity reflects a deep ignorance of your fellow sapiens. You have no knowledge or appreciation of the area and no respect for the intelligence and culture of others. Just because they look strange to you and you don’t speak their language does not mean they are stupid. It means that your shallow perception stupidity prohibits you from grasping the cultural, political and geographic difficulties of a fraught region. God bless america, it needs a LOT of help

      • I say build it and put a few McDonalds and Starbucks along the way. The military groups can have it out with each other and that will be that. You freaking liberal morons want to save the world but you do nothing except pick up a piece of trash on your journey to make you feel good.

        • Refusing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a highway in order conserve the jungle is, by definition, a conservative idea. It conserves both money and the existing jungle. I go back and forth on whether it should be built. I can see valid points on both sides. But implicitly proclaiming the desire to build the highway there as “conservative” is wrong-headed and contradicts the definition of conservativism. Building a highway there would not “conserve” anything. It would fundamentally change it, which is the opposite of conservatism.

          • Do not remove a fence until you know why it was put up in the first place.
            -GK Chesterton
            Today’s “conservatives” are totally unmoored from conservatism.

        • Agreed. put the wide dirt road through. simply charge a toll. Let it pay for itself on both sides to both countries . KOA campground whoo Raaah be good for bikes dune buggies bicycles it keeps people on the main road in plain sight. it puts light in dark areas and not all police are bad.

  9. Col. Blashford-Snell crossed the Darien Gap in 1972 using a couple of Land rovers and with the help of some kit designed by me.

    • Hilary Bradt published a nice book with details on crossing the gap it was written in the 70s people have crossed it on bicycles(carrying them) and there is an abandoned Chevrolet Corvair on the trail

      • Wow…did not know that, thanks! Sounds like the Bradt book would be an interesting read. It’s a shame we weren’t able to find it online.

  10. Haha! Looks like you had a great adventure! I think it should be a real challenge to cross the darien gap without any guides and on your own, supporting yourself by the food you have and find on the way. Maybe someday…

    • That 4-hour, 7km adventure was good enough for us. No way we would choose to get to Colombia that way. All that sweat and bugs? It’s not how we roll. Well…not anymore, anyway. 🙂

      If you ever do the trek, we want to hear all about it!

  11. Charming third try. I am an engineer that can’t count (maybe the Marine in me). Left out Step 3. AM sun on left, PM sun on right . . . clear weather, one course correction by passerby. Note: Trip Date 1977! This would not be in any way advisable today. Even then, this was a drug highway. Now falls into the list of “non-destinations” with places like Iraq,Iran, Afghanistan . . . most of the Middle East. So many better places to travel. Just my thoughts.Al

    • Wow, Al, you really had quite the experience! Thanks for sharing it with us – we can’t imagine how tough it was, but for a vet to say it’s a “non-destination,” well, that says a lot. Kudos for doing and enduring. What a story!

  12. I had previously commented on the trek from Panama to Columbia, target Turbo, Columbia. Here is a clarification (after consulting my log).Highlights; 1. flight from Paitillo to Puerto Obaldia 2. exit Panama, trek begins early am 4. encounter over next 10 hrs two families, providing direction 5.early start day 2, destination Acandi 6. arrive Acandi about 1400 7. ship to Turbo about 6.5 hrs. So, in short the hike was two full days . . and probably the shortest path from Panama to Columbia. A really difficult trip. Details include, bugs, bruises, frogs and pain. Trip 10-13 March 1977. This was the first major step back to Amazon and East till back in the USA, eleven months later.

  13. I stumbled on this site, as I was looking for current info on Panama. Interesting description of the trip south. I, long ago (as one stated in an earlier post) fell prey to an individual that stated he had made the trip, last village in Panama to Turbo Columbia . . he never did it. However, based on that comment, an associate and I flew to “that last village in Panama” and made the trek to Turbo. I would have to consult my log, but if memory serves, it was a three day hike, and about as tough as I have done (and done some, combat vet, Vietnam, Marine). So, can confirm it is possible, without a boat leg. This was a piece of a hitch hike California to Manaus on the Amazon (second trip) . . . then east till I got home. No guide, No pago. Al

  14. Alllllllllllrigty…. My friend and I are going to be traveling from Chicago to Colombia, with intent to see as much of South America as we can. We plan to begin in November and we’re researching the options & routes; it’s looking highly possible that we’ll take Martina’s advice and speedboat to cross initially, but we are adventurous and might also take Dennis Compton’s advice; start in Colombia and trek our way north through the gap. I’ll be reposting, I’m certain. And Linda– I feel I get gringoed everyday, that’s part of the reason I feel its time to go exploring 🙂

    • Haha – Maybe Latinos don’t seem to have a problem with Gringoing because they’re not on the receiving end. I hate the double standard, but we Americans have been taught to think EVERYONE should be treated the same, regardless of race. Not sure whether it’s because of our Constitution or because the Bible says we should treat everyone equally. But it’s clearly dependent on culture. We’ve not experienced that here in Malaysia, but we did in Bali.

      Wow, you are really going to have a fabulous adventure! Do you plan to share it online? I’m sure a lot of us would enjoy reading your stories.

  15. Wow there are so many amazing stories and brave people out there! I would never have the courage to do that….

    Me and my boyfriend took a speedboat through the San Blas islands which was a little bit less of an adventure but really amazing. You kinda skip the Darien gap because you travel with the boat along the coast but as a bonus point you travel through the San Blas islands which are paradise itself. In total the trip took as three days but we could have stayed longer. We paid 345 USD per person (in a private hut, dorms are something like 290) and it included literally everything except for soda, water, beer.

    The companies name was San Blas Frontera. It’s quite new I think but the owner is from the Guna tribe and told me he ran an island for many years… either way, maybe we cheated a bit when crossing the Darien gap but it’s a great alternative you should really check out!

    • That sounds like a wonderful experience, Martina! Considering it’s a three-day trip, the price seems more than fair – only $115/day. Thanks for sharing the company’s name with us too. I’ve added them as a resource in the article. Did you go to Colombia, or just explore San Blas? (Either sounds great to us!)

  16. A couple of days ago, I met a Canadian who recommended crossing the border on foot. He said there was a place right at the east, close to the Caribbean sea, where you only had to hike for about an hour and that it was all very easy and worth it.

    But when I asked him more specific questions, I found out that he hadn’t done that crossing himself and had only heard people talk about it. I then asked a local and he said he had only heard of that path being used by smugglers.

    After all that, we decided to book a flight to get from Colombia to Panama. And now that I’ve read your article, I am glad we decided to fly. Boats are not an option since we both get seasick and I really wouldn’t want to cross that land border.

    • If you do, Dan, please share your experience with us. We would all really like to hear what it’s like from someone who has come through the ordeal.

  17. Very interesting post, Linda! First of all, I felt like I was there with you, trying to cross the Darien Gap. I kept reading thinking that you might have decided to hire a local guide to take you to Colombia, but then I realized you were wise enough to stop at the border. Phew, what a relief! I am not adventurous at all, as opposed to my husband who would go to any length to get himself in trouble and be able to brag about it later. Secondly, I didn’t know anything about the Darien Gap, so I found out a lot from reading your post. South America is very wild and you need to exercise a lot of caution when visiting it. Don’t you think so? At least that’s my impression.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Anda. No, we just took an organized tour because our son Jimmy was visiting and we knew the Darien would be just his type of thing. It sounds like he was a lot like your husband – always looking for the action.

      In regards to your question about South America, our experience has always been positive, though I’ve heard that Venezuela is problematic.

  18. Wow what an experience! I enjoy your travel blogs and photos. Love from your cousin, travel on !

    • I’m glad you enjoy our photos and stories, Hope. We really enjoyed visiting the Darien but camping in the jungleand risking our lives just to get to Colombia on foot is not for us. Some people like it though, more power to them.

  19. Some internet posters confuse walking the gap, which properly means taking inland trails between Riosucio, Cacarica, Colmbia and Pucuro and Yaviza in Panama, with the safer coast-hopping options (Turbo, Capurgana, La Mielt etc).

    The inland route is highly controlled by drug gangs as is a main cocaine and arms smuggling point between the FAR/Urubeños in Colombia and Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico. No-one enters the trail without their knowledge.

    A backpacker trying to walk this route in 2013 went missing and his body recovered in 2015, he had been shot in the head. see this blog: http://travelswithmitzi.blogspot.com.co/2015/07/lost-in-darien-gap.html.

    • Bingo! That’s what we think, too. Actually, the original title of this story was “Crossing the Darien Gap: Are You Nuts?”

      We stayed at a lodge on the coast of the Darien as a part of a tour and hiked 7 kilometres through the surrounding rainforest. Our guide cut the path ahead of us as we went and it was still a sticky, hot, buggy, grueling trek that left us gasping for water despite the humidity. I can’t begin to express how uncomfortable we all were. Hiking through untouched jungle might be an enjoyable Appalachian Trail-type challenge under other circumstances, but the guerrillas in this area are not to be messed with. Thanks for the link.

  20. I did this trip in 1992 with a bicycle – two of us. It cost about $150 each. Drug trafficking was less of an issue back then. We had cycled from California and were on our way to Ushuia. We rode from Panama City to the end of the road and hiked, biked, canoed the rest of the way to the Rio Atrato, where we caught a motorized boat to Turbo. I think it took about 8 days from Yaviza to Turbo. We carried almost nothing except our bikes, a mat on which to sleep, and some food, which was not enough as we were not really able to buy food in the villages we passed through. At one point we were so lost we abandoned our bikes in the jungle between the border and La Katios Parque but soon found the right way and returned for them. I had PTSD for weeks after this adventure.

    • Omigosh, I don’t blame you; I’d have PTSD from that too! It makes for a great story, though. Knowing what you know now, would you have done it?

  21. Nice write up guys. We’ve got two friends who crossed the Darien Gap on foot. They definitely did not pay $5’000, and it took them 7 days – a mix of hiking, kayaking and squatting on small boats. They didn’t hire expensive guides or military escorts. They just showed up and hoped for the best. We met them in Guatemala and they told us of their intentions then. It was pretty nerve-racking when they put on FB that they are about to enter the Darien Gap, and we all sat around anxiously for 7 days, waiting for another status update. But they made it, had an incredible time and met some cool people. That being said, this Canadian couple were fairly nuts.

    • Hello, thank you so much for your comment! I am looking for any information I can find on how to cross the Darien Gap on foot, if there is any way you could put me in touch with your friend who did it I would be so appreciative! Thanks a bunch! Tjthejuggler(gmail)

      • Hi TJ, Gosh I wish we knew the answer, and I hope you come back to share your own experience with us. A while back I emailed NOMADasaurus to ask that same question. This was the response:

        I looked up our buddies and they have been inactive on Facebook for almost the entire year. I sent them a message but not sure if and when I will hear back. From what I remember they literally just showed up at the last town before the Darien Gap and asked around. They made it sound pretty easy.

        Sorry we can’t be of more help.

        We assume “the last town before the Darien Gap” would refer to either Yaviza (where the Pan-American Highway ends) or La Palma (the capital of Darién Province, which takes more work to get to).

        If anyone else reads this and has more information about hiring a guide or other logistics about crossing the Darién Gap, please chime in!

    • Hi. Can anyone give us the contact details of the Canadian couple who managed this. Me and a friend are going to try to cross Dariens now that the war with FARC is over. We have no guides, just GPS and a compass and map. Our budget is practically nothing, (my friend has been travelling for two years with no money) however one obsticale for us are the rivers. Does anyone remember the names of the villages along the way, where does one take a conoe and how much does it cost?
      Thanks 🙂

      • I’m sorry, Yasho, we don’t know the name of the Canadian couple and NOMADsaurus has lost contact with them. Aside from asking around once you are near a river, the only other suggestion we have is to post the question on Quora and hope someone there might know.

        If you do find out, please let us know the answer and we’ll share it with other readers.

  22. I have no desire whatsoever to cross the Darien Gap and your list of reasons certainly drove home the point. I am just not that adventurous. Give me a quaint European village with a clean bed and hot water, thank you very much. 😉

  23. Taking the boat through the San Blas was definitely a great choice for us! Your photos of the jungle look awesome, but don’t really make me want to trek through it myself! I don’t really fancy disappearing in the Darien Gap, especially when the alternative is so beautiful!

    • We don’t fancy such an ordeal either Jo, and that’s why we flew to Cartagena. You went to Colombia the other smart way, by boat. We would recommend either of those alternatives first, for sure!

    • We wouldn’t do it either. Planes and boats are more our style. That said, after a 7 km hike in the jungle we understand why it’s so expensive.

      • I suppose if you want a bungalow erected at every stop you could pay 5K. For those who want to do this do it from the other direction starting in Turbo to Capurgana Colombia. If you are at least a fair Spanish speaker, and not faint of heart I’m pretty sure you could find a guide for a fraction of the price. It’s a migrant trail and they surely aren’t paying 5K.

        • Actually, Dennis, we agree with you. While we lived in Latin America, we found that it’s not uncommon for opportunistic locals to take one look at us and decide to overcharge us. We came to call it “being gringoed.”

      • Well, your understanding is very not understanding. I imagine there are locals doing it regularly, you just have a capitalistic perspective of attaching $$ with conditions. It shouldn’t necessarily be expensive because you perceive it to be.
        The people who live in that area just travel back and forth as a matter of living.
        Yes it appears to be dangerous for outsiders but expense does not have to come into the equation.

Comments are closed.

As We Saw It