What is the Darien Gap? – Impenetrability at its finest

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What is the Darien Gap? – Impenetrability at its finest

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It would be just too good to be true, if you could follow the nearly 26´000km long Pan American Highway from Alaska to the southernmost point of Argentina. Actually it is possible, to go all the way down to the south, if there weren´t the so calles Darien gap. But what is the Darien gap exactly?

Reasons For The Gap

There are various reasons why this 110km long gap has never been closed. On one hand, there is definitely the financial aspect. As we all know, conquering the raw nature, especially a jungle is not cheap. Also the jungle is mountainous and swampy what makes it necessary to build a lot of bridges. Even more than this, environmentalists request to keep jungle areas as a wild habitat. Building streets would lead to an increase of the population in the area, as well as a gradual deforestation. Besides to the previous mentioned reasons, environmentalists are also considered of the risk aphthous fever could return and damage the fauna.
Last but not least, the native people, the Choco and Kuna people refuse the building of a street through the darien gap, because they fear it could interrupt their traditional lifestyle.
Central and South America are also famous for their guerilla groups, in our case the FARC and the ELN, which are active in the Darien Gap and unfortunately the situation involving these paramilitary groups has gotten worse since 1997. Hand in hand with guerilla activities comes also drug trafficking. Due to the lack of streets, it is hard to control what goes in or out or though the gap. And criminals use boats, airplanes and even submarines to get their product from south to north.

Despite the lack of streets in the Gap, a wide range of ways are available, making it theoretically possible to put this part behind you on foot. Besides the footways there is also a possibility to rent a boat in one of the numerous villages along the river, that flows through the Darien Gap. But unfortunately, it is not recommended to do so, due to the guerilla activities in the so called Tapon del Darien.In the early 1980s a lot of adventure seeking tourists have gathered in the area. As “conquering” the gap still counts as a challenge and is the object of many adventurists dreams.
Already reading the above short text, makes me not wanna go there and figuring out, wether I can or can´t conquer or let´s say survive this gap. And I can not stress enough for you not to try it either.

Is It Possible To Make It Across The Gap?

Yes, you can. But you have to be tough and make some wise preparations. The preparations include the following:

  • Do not travel alone. Make sure you have someone or even more, that travel with you. I would even recommend to find a person, that has some profound military education. Meaning self defense and proper survival skills.
  • Look out for a local guide. A guide that has profound knowledge of the gap and can be trusted.
  • Be mentally strong and possess a solid fitness. Meaning you are able to hike and walk for hours through hostile environment. The hiking time is about three to four days which are absolutely inconvenient.
  • As the humidity rises to nearly 100%, prepare your trip in the dry season, when it is still humid, but at least less, than during the rain season.
  • Travelling through that area with guides and all the blackmailing, makes it also not a cheap trip. So be prepared to pay a lot of money in the three digits area.

How Else Can You Get From Panama To Colombia?

Of course you will not have to abort your journey just because of the nearly unpassable Darien gap. No, there are many other ways, many of them to be recommended to get from Panama to Colombia.

  • Speed Boat from Puerto Obaldia in Panama to Turbo in Colombia. The ride takes about three hours, but since the waters can be rough too, this is nothing for travellers, that easily get sea sick.
  • Cargo Ship is another possibility to use the sea way to get from Panama to Colombia. The ships usually depart from Colon or Portobello in Panama to various ports along the Colombian coastline.
  • The easiest and definitely quickest, but least adventurous way to make the connection between these two countries is to take a plane. There are several daily flights from Panama City (PTY) to Cartagena in Colombia (CTG).


As you have just read, there are many ways to make the passage. It doesn´t always have to be the hard way. I know it does sound refreshing to make a trip like that, but once you encounter man-eating wildcats, snakes, spiders that just drop on your shirt crawling all over you or crocs and caimans snapping for your limbs, you probably wish you took the plane or were sitting on a boat rocking on the waves, enjoying a coke.I myself consider this gap interesting to conquer, but the part with the spiders make me consider it.

Well, I have reached the end of this smaller post about the infamous Darien gap. I hope I could introduce it to you and you have learned something new about a place not many tourists have been.

I think it is great, we do still have such places on our planet, where nature still takes its course and is not interrupted by our lifestyle.

Thank you for visiting and reading. If you have anything to add or to comment, use the section below and I will answer you as fast as possible.

Have a great day and safe travels!

The Crew

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