The End of the Road: Capurganá, Sapzurro, & Darién Gap

Planning a road trip from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego via the Pan-American Highway? You might need to rethink your route. But, as local insider Caroline discovers, there's still plenty to explore here.

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The Darién Gap: Latin America's Heart of Darkness

The iconic Pan-American highway comes to an abrupt halt for 87km at impenetrable jungles of the Darién Gap.

This mythical corridor, sait to be 50km wide and 160km long, connects Central America (Panama) with South America (Colombia). It's deemed one of the least-trodden places on the planet. With rugged, mist-shrouded mountains, an indigenous population that has had little (if any) contact with civilization as we know it, riotous vegetation (armed with venom, thorns, needles, and spikes), churning rivers, and blood sucking insects, the Darién is Latin America’s heart of darkness.

It’s not just the inconvenient lack of roads that has thwarted legendary and aspiring explorers, in the 1980s and 90s, the Darién Gap’s jungles were populated with FARC guerrillas and armed drug traffickers.

Sapzurro and Capurganá: The New Eco-Tourism Hotspot

At the end of the road however, just before the Panamanian border, are the Afro-Caribbean towns of Sapzurro and Capurganá.

With a heavy police presence and a peace deal signed, wild-at-heart travelers are making tracks, looking to get off-the-beaten-path and immerse themselves in nature.

From idyllic coves with translucent waters that offer excellent snorkeling and diving (more than 30 sites) to the jungle-covered hills, swamps, and mangroves of the Darién mountains that harbor a cacophonous inventory of birds and howler monkeys, the utterly authentic towns of Capurganá and Sapzurro remain two of Colombia’s best kept secrets.

From Sapzurro, it’s possible to hike through the jungle to the village of Miel across the border in Panama (don’t forget your passport). Here, you’ll be rewarded with the palm-fringed, pristine sands and turquoise waters of Playa Blanca, hailed as one of the region’s most beautiful beaches.

From Miel, Cabo Tiburón – the official coastal border between Colombia and Panama – is another 30min walk, but well worth the journey.

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