San Blas – Kuna Yala

Kuna (Guna) Yala is an archipelago of over 350 islands. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands have a simple economy of trading, fishing and selling simple hand crafted artifacts & clothing. The Islands have certainly become a much bigger tourist destination in the last 10 years however they are still relatively unspoiled.

As an autonomous region they have an independent congreso, laws and customs. The are no ATM’s  so be sure to bring $USD with you in small $1 denominations. Even inhabited islands generally don’t have electricity, apart from small generators. Small stores selling food, snacks and even cold beer can be found in the larger villages.

               

The Kuna (Guna) people are extremely friendly and relaxed, however remember this is their home and they are a proud, independent island people. You should not try to take anything from the islands without permission or purchasing first. Coconuts for example are still a large part of the Kuna economy and can be bought for $1.

As a general courtesy you should always ask before taking a photo of somebody, especially in traditional dress, again this may incur a $1 charge depending on which island you are.

Additionally when visiting larger villages, guests both male and female should wear modest clothes such as T-shirts and shorts rather than walking around in swim wear. This isn’t an issue on the beaches.

 Fun Facts

  • The natives of Kuna Yala are reportedly the second smallest indigenous people  in the world. The smallest being pygmies. 
  • One of the flags of Kuna Yala is an inverted swastika with a yellow & orange background.
  • Up until the late 90’s coconuts were a de facto form of currency.
  • The Kuna were originally native of what is now northern Colombia before being displaced around the time of the conquistadors. Firstly to the mainland Darien region then out into the uninhabited islands.
  • Many believe that their ancestors were visited by alien species

Next – What Should I Take?

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