San Blas Islands

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San Blas Islands
Guna Yala
Nickname: Archipiélago de San Blas
San Blas Islands.jpg
Islands entirely covered with dwellings
Coordinates Coordinates: 9°34′N 78°49′W / 9.57°N 78.82°W / 9.57; -78.82
Total islands 365
Major islands 49
Additional information
Official website

The San Blas Islands of Panama is an archipelago comprising approximately 365 islands and cays, of which only 49 are inhabited.[1] They lie off the north coast of the Isthmus of Panama, east of the Panama Canal.[2] A part of the comarca (district) Guna Yala (also spelled Kuna Yala) along the Caribbean coast of Panama is home to the Kuna Indians. San Blas and its surrounding area is a haven for ecotourists because of its pristine environs. The area is also popular for sailing, as it is known for its beauty and lack of hurricanes.[3] Notable locations in the Archipelago are the main capital El Porvenir, the densely crowded island village of Carti Sugtupu, and the two keyes, Cayos Limones, and Cayos Holandeses, both renowned for their clear waters.

Tradition and legacy[edit]

Cayuko "dug-out canoe"

Before the arrival of Europeans, the Kuna wore few clothes and decorated their bodies with colorful designs. When encouraged to wear clothes by the missionaries, they copied these designs in their molas, which they wore as clothing.

The Kuna worship a god named Erragon, whom they believe came and died just for the Kuna people. Driven off Panama during the Spanish invasion, the Kuna fled to the surrounding 378 islands. Today their chief lives on an island called Acuadup, which means "rock island". Many Kuna are hunters and fishermen. On some of the islands, children can attend school. Most of the men now speak Spanish, although the women carry on older traditions.[4][5]

From 1679 to 1681, William Dampier started and ended his first journey with privateers and pirates in these islands which he called "The Samballoes," a rendezvous-place for pirates, convenient for hiding and privacy.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mersmann, Andrew (2009), Frommer's 500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference, Frommers, p. 306, ISBN 0-470-16061-6
  2. ^ "San Blas Islands". Google Maps. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "Sailing in San Blas Islands". Velero Amande. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  4. ^ "San Blas Islands: Kuna Cultures". TripAdvisor. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  5. ^ "History in San blas islands". World66. 28 October 2009. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Lecumberry, Michel. San Blas: Molas and Kuna traditions. (2nd ed., rev) [Panama]: Txango Publications, 2006.
  • Humphreys, Sara and Calvo, Raffa. The Rough Guide to Panama. London: Rough Guides, 2010.
  • Baker, Christopher P. and Mingasson, Gilles. National Geographic Traveler: Panama. (2nd ed.) Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2011.

External links[edit]