San Blas Islands / Guna Yala  (pronounced Kuna Yala)

Known as the San Blas islands, this pristine coral reef archipelago lies along the Caribbean coast of Panama, in Central America, and it belongs to the indigenous reserve of Guna Yala. If you didn't know this paradise existed, it’s because the Guna Indians have kept the islands out of reach for the better part of the last century, and thus they have stayed well preserved and unspoiled.

 

Guna Yala is comprised of over 350 islands in the San Blas archipelago, plus a stretch of 200 Km. of virgin rainforest along the coast. The Guna Indians have pretty much been self-governed since 1925 and because they've hung tight to their native customs and traditions, they haven't developed or exploited their land. The Gunas are among the few tribes who’ve managed to preserve their culture closed to outsiders through the passage of time, and though this is rapidly changing, life on the islands is still reserved to the few Kuna families that live on them tending to coconut plantations. The men spend their days fishing, free-diving or clearing brush; the women do the house-keeping and sowing of their timeless mola – a multi layered, skillfully sown cloth depicting sometimes abstract, sometimes real visions and dreams of the Guna women.

 

The vibrant colors of the Gunas blend in with those of the landscape, and one cannot help but marvel at the sight of the perfect symbiosis formed by a beautifully simple people in a simply beautiful place.