Embera Village Tours & More

Embera Village Tours & More

Embera Village Tours & More
4.5
8:00 AM - 5:00 AM
Monday
8:00 AM - 5:00 AM
Tuesday
8:00 AM - 5:00 AM
Wednesday
8:00 AM - 5:00 AM
Thursday
8:00 AM - 5:00 AM
Friday
8:00 AM - 5:00 AM
Saturday
8:00 AM - 5:00 AM
Sunday
8:00 AM - 5:00 AM
About
We invite you to step back in time with us on a tour to visit the Embera tribe who still live in traditional villages deep in the rainforest of Panama. The Embera people are proud to share their culture and traditions with visitors. Spending time on a day or overnight tour with the friendly Embera people will touch your heart and is an experience you will never forget. Our founder, Anne Gordon de Barrigon, is married to an Embera man and began these tours to share the beauty of her Embera family and friends with others. Note: this page is for the tours offered by Anne Gordon de Barrigon's tour company, Embera Village Tours and not for other tour operators who also offer tours to visit other Embera villages throughout Panama.
Panama City, Panama

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Tours and Tickets by Embera Village Tours & More
Travellers talk about
(13 reviews)
(72 reviews)

Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as waiting time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

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4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles336 reviews
Excellent
267
Very good
42
Average
17
Poor
7
Terrible
3

kaijai_pa
Erie, PA7 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2024 • Family
This was one of our favorite excursions that we've taken over the years! Our guide was very informative, describing much of Panama history and giving us a great overview of life in Panama today. This tour allowed us to see what the interior looked like as we traveled to the village from our cruise-ship. The village itself was a great experience. We arrived at the river and climbed into a facsimile of a dugout canoe ( it had a motor on it), which then took us on, maybe, a ten minute ride to the village. If you are sitting at the front, you will probably get wet! At the village we were allowed to wander around until the villagers put on a presentation that included a snack of tilapia and plantain, a talk (sales pitch?) about how tourism is how they now survive, and a dance demonstration that we were encouraged to participate in. after the presentation, we were able to browse the venders that were set up with their items for sale. We did really enjoy this tour as it did give you an idea of what their life may have been like at one time. However, we questioned the authenticity of what we saw. We noticed that the boys all had nice haircuts, their were no older people that we saw, and their outfits all looked the same, and probably were not handmade. We also saw people at the Colon cruise port dressed the same and selling the same "homemade" items! Aside from our questioning the realism of the village, it really was an educational and enjoyable excursion that I would recommend.
Written February 25, 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts about the tour. After checking, I think perhaps you were on an Embera village tour that was not operated by us. So, I can't say which village you visited. While this review site only pertains to tours offer by our company, some of the issues you mentioned are common with all of the tours to any village. Any of the villages visited in the area of Chagras National Park, are limited to what they can hunt because it is a national park. So, tourism allows them to purchase the items that they need and cannot get in the forest. The village that we visit are authentic. As an Embera owned company, authenticity is very important to us. So, we choose were we go very carefully. It is not unusual for Embera craftsmen to sell their wares to local people, who in-turn sell (at a substancial mark-up) them in places like the cruise ports and markets in the city. I am happy that your overall impression of the Embera was a positive one, irrelevante to where you purchased it. Bia Bua
Written February 26, 2024
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

dajanacesic
New York City, NY33 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2023 • Solo
I visited Embera village in Chagres river area. It is only about one hour drive away from Panama City but million light years away in living lifestyle. Love, love this experience. It should be must for everyone visiting Panama City
Written August 16, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for taking the time to share your review. We hope to see you again.
Written August 17, 2023
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

blackrice
Philippines811 contributions
2.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2023 • Couples
Introduction:
Growing up with National Geographic on my suburban American coffee table, tribal life always held a special fascination for me. The exotic imagery of topless women, loin-clothed men, intricate tattoos, and vibrant adornments, combined with the unique community structure and absence of modern technology, fueled my desire to explore the other side of the world and reconnect with our roots. After extensive research, my partner and I decided to book a tour with Embera Village Tours, and Shirley, the American woman who runs the website, was instrumental in arranging our visit.

Booking Process and Cost Breakdown:
Six settlements are situated near Panama, with the second furthest being Embera Puru and one more (further still) that doesn't accept visitors. The four closest to town can get swamped with dozens of day tourists and cruise-ship travelers. Embera Puru seemed the most authentic for us.

The website displayed captivating photos of joyous children, busy villagers, and centuries-old traditions. Excited about the photographic opportunities (we’re both street photographers) and eager to immerse ourselves in tribal life, we were willing to pay the high price for this unique adventure and life-long dream. The total cost for two nights amounted to $1,300, part of that sum being an additional $240 charge ($120 per person) for visiting Embera Puru due to the ‘challenges posed by low river levels.’ We paid a deposit of $325 and settled the remaining $970 upon our arrival. It is important to note that the tour company likely retained the deposit while the remaining $970 was distributing among the guide, the tribe, and the taxi driver. We have no way of knowing how much ultimately went to the village.

Arrival and Initial Impressions:
Our guide, Jose, picked us up from our hotel in his small car and drove us approximately an hour and a half along roads that got increasingly worse. We eventually switched to a 4-wheel drive truck, which took us about 30 minutes to reach the river. 30 minutes after a fun walk through the mud (bring disposable shoes!), two male Embera villagers arrived in their longboats, and we embarked on our river journey. While the water levels were low in three places, the journey was smooth, leaving us questioning the justification for the extra charge. We noticed plenty of other longboats carrying people along our journey and throughout our stay. What was the cause for the high price increase?! (Silly tourist tax I guess) ;)

Upon arrival at the village, we realized that the experience was about to diverge wildly from our expectations. There was no welcome or anything. I wasn’t expecting a mai Thai, a lei place around our necks or Mr. Roarke saying ‘welcome, welcome’ - but we were just meekly marched up from the rocky beach and shown our accommodation with no fanfare.

The villagers' houses, built on stilts approximately three meters high, surrounded us. As tourists, our accommodation consisted of a flat platform with a thatched roof adjacent to the the meeting hall (which was as impressive as our lodgings were unimpressive) . From our vantage point, we could see three other huts. However, as a hint to future travelers - don’t linger on the sight of the three huts as you will soon discover it will encompass your only visual stimulation throughout your stay.

Living in a Fishbowl:
Most of the huts in the village had a porch with a kitchen (sand stove) area attached, followed by a walled-off living area for the families. Colorful fabric hung in various places, adding aesthetic appeal and perhaps providing privacy. Unfortunately, we did not have such luxuries. Instead, we spent our time on a raised platform without any semblance of privacy. Strangely, the initial concern about exploiting the tribe faded, and we began to feel like the animals in a zoo. At any time, the villagers could look out from their private huts and observe the foreigners, turning our experience into a performance on a theater stage.

Limited Interaction and Activities:
Shortly after our arrival, the village leader greeted us, and a woman showcased the tribe's handicraft abilities, answering our questions about tattoo washes and how she made the handicrafts. However, these interactions marked the extent of our engagement with the villagers. For the remainder of our stay, we were left largely to ourselves, with meals being prepared for us three times a day.

This lack of interaction proved to be our least favorite aspect of the experience. Contrary to the photos on the website, depicting joyful children playing and a link suggesting items to bring for them, we found ourselves with little opportunity to interact, play, or take photographs. We had brought bags of individually wrapped candies, a frisbee, balls, a deflated soccer ball, balloons, bubble wands, and other toys, envisioning a vibrant exchange with the children. However, our hopes were pretty much hammered as we were taken to the schoolhouse later in the day to drop off our gifts and then promptly ushered out. We never saw the children again.

The village offered minimal attractions. We could ascend a hill for a view of the schoolhouse or take a 20-meter stroll to the river. During long stretches of six hours, we would be fortunate to spot two villagers in the distance or observe a child descending and ascending a ladder. Despite the village supposedly comprising 28 houses and a population of 128, we encountered fewer than 10 houses and a mere fraction of the population - and only when it came time to sell us goods.

Questionable Authenticity:
The village's authenticity turned out to be a mix of traditional and modern elements. While a schoolhouse existed, with mandatory attendance for children and a teacher sent from the city on weekdays, it hardly resembled a traditional tribal education. Moreover, electricity had infiltrated the village to varying degrees. Some parts of the village were connected by electric cables spanning the river, while others relied on flashlights for illumination. One house on the left was even full lit up with electricity! There was a double freezer for the tribe. Although we enjoyed observing the preparation of our meals, the absence of visible crops or livestock, except for banana, lime, and mango trees, raised suspicions that the village may have become reliant on their weekly grocery store trips.

Additionally, the vibrant fabric that adorned the village was sourced from China, raising doubts about its authenticity. Although our guide claimed that the villagers had designed the fabric, its distinct Asian motifs, such as lotus flowers and birthday cake designs, seemed incongruous with the rainforest environment. We couldn't help but question the validity of these claims - but who knows.

We waited all day, and nothing happened, darkness fell and we had 12hr to swing in the hammock or take turns laying on a mattress covered in plastic (which made it very hot). There were no lights and that’s fine, this is what we came for. I’m not bemoaning the lack of comforts - in part this very long night was our favorite part of the trip!

In the morning we woke up at first light and were told that later the tribe would like to show us some of their handicrafts. Cool. We were both interested in any silver, beads or hand-wrought jewelry they might have made. A few hours later - inside the main hall 8 or 9 families unpacked their sacks of items and laid them out. Note - at this time being the only visitors here, there’s quite a bit of pressure to buy. No overt pressure - just the kind of pressure that comes from having 14 villagers watching you as you walk from table to table.

Underwhelming Handicrafts and Souvenirs:
There were a few quick dances and beating of drums, then the shopping began. Note: we both felt simply horrible for not being able to buy something from each other the tables.. We felt like we were letting them down, but the prices were just too high.

I’ve often found when visiting a place that makes something - looms, shoes, carvings etc - they’re eager to show you where these things are made and show off their artisanship. This didn’t happen in the village, which increased my wariness.

I asked Jose (our guide) and he assured us these were all made in the village. Cool. One table had some turtles that were carved out of nuts - the guy looked me in the eye and said ‘I carved this’ - and it was pretty cool. Another table the woman said my family makes these (wooden statues), woven bowels, bracelets etc. We ended up buying about $70 worth of stuff - a bowl ($12), a jaguar pendant ($20), bracelets ($5), fabric ($20), beads ($10).

After shopping, we had a quick internal discussion and found the experience for us ended promptly at 6:30pm, when the sun set - and we were left with 12 hours in the dark, sweating and swinging in hammocks. We decided to give our second night pass and head back to the city a day early as there was nothing more to experience here. I jumped in the river (on my bucket list) then dried off - and we repeated the trip down the river (no problems and lots of boats) and back into the city (oddly totally exhausted).

Sadly, the next day in the city - we perused the souvenir shop indeed we found almost every single item that was in the village - often for 50% less. That $20 Jaguar pendant that was hand carved by the villager? There were a dozen of them in many shops for $7. The hand weaved bowls? Absolutely everywhere. The hand designed fabric? Half price hanging in the shops with many of the same lotus flower. Wooden statues of animals that are guide assured us were ‘amazing and beautiful’ - were again fractions of the tribal price and omnipresent.. (sigh)

Conclusion:
Our visit to Embera Puru Village ultimately proved to be a disappointment. The lack of interaction with the tribe members, limited activities, and questionable authenticity left us feeling dissatisfied. If you don’t make anything in the village, that’s fine - but please don’t lie to our face. While the boat ride and the night spent in hammocks had their charm, the overall trip did not live up to our expectations. Our guide failed to provide meaningful engagement, and the tribe members appeared uninterested in interacting with us. As a result, we returned home with very few photographs, save for some shots of thatched huts, dogs, and plenty of chickens.

Worth a day trip at best, and skip Embera Village Tours.
Written June 30, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for taking the time to share your impression of the tour. We are sorry it did not live up to your expectations. Unfortunately, you won’t find the type of experience you were hoping for in a village that accepts tourists. While some issues that you mentioned are correct and have been dealt with, there are others that appear to be misconceptions. Please allow us to clarify them. Roughly 50 years ago, the families of Embera Puru migrated from the Darien to the area where they now live in search of a better life for their children. That area is now a national park and as such, the Embera have strict guidelines on the things they can and cannot do. While they do farm and fish, they are not able to produce everything they need. So, they (like most of the other villages) looked to tourism to fill that gap in their lives. They enjoy sharing their culture with outsiders. They are proud of it. But with that comeas small changes to their traditional way of life. There have been social, religious and medical groups who have visited the village and have tried to make the Embera’s life a bit easier. The ”electric cable” stretching across the river that you mentioned, is actually a water pipe installed by Engineers Without Borders to bring fresh drinking water to the village. It is supported by wires, but not electric ones. A missionary group donated a solar powered freezer to the village so that the food that they catch and grow doesn’t go bad in the heat. Many visitors leave their lanterns and flashlights to the villagers. They are much safer to use in their houses, which are quite dark and hot inside. We are sorry you felt like you were on display and sleeping in a fishbowl. As you can see on our website and Facebook, previous guests have enjoyed the open air tambos. It is unfortunate that you didn’t notice those pictures. Jose was correct in saying the Embera design the cloth for their skirts and it is then produced in China. They select designs based on what they have seen and what they like. Who doesn’t like beautiful flowers? The handicrafts sold in the village are made in the village; often inside the craftsman’s home. The craftsmen of Embera Puru and of the other villages sell to the stores in Panama City. Because the stores purchase large quantities, they get a significant discount. Panama is in low season right now and all sorts of stores are offering special deals on all sorts of articles, including Embera handicrafts. The villages, however, don’t have “seasonal discounts”. Again, we are saddened that your tour was a disappointment.
Written July 11, 2023
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Cappy G
6 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2023 • Couples
Great experience! Started with a motorized canoe ride and short hike to a water fall. Returned to the Embera village where we had a delicious fried fish, plantain and fruit lunch. A tour around the village, dancing, tattoos, shopping and more. Embera people were very welcoming. It was a beautiful day.
Written June 9, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you very much for your review. We hope to see you again in the future.
Written June 10, 2023
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Kamrul
8 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2023 • Friends
Arrived in Panama with friends and Tamara Arranged Some Tour for us. This is the most amazing tour we like most. They picked up us from our hotel in Panama City and Tamara lead us to go different places around this city. Brought us to the beautiful national park across the river. She introduced us different events, cultural activities. The whole day till night she treated us a very kind and generous. That was the best tour experience with Tamara.
Tamara
+50763242898
Written May 13, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
I am glad you enjoyed your tour to an Embera Village. However, it was not with us. Tamara is not a member of our staff. This Trip Advisor page is for our Embera Village Tours company and not for any generic Embera village tour.
Written June 10, 2023
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

warmmemories4u
Chillicothe, OH6 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2023 • Family
The best excursion I have been on! We learned so much about the Embera tribe! Will definitely be coming back in the future!
Written April 5, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you very much for your comments. We look forward to seeing you again.
Written June 10, 2023
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

PrincetonBelle
Oklahoma City, OK171 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Lovely day. Learned a great deal. Village was interesting and lunch was delicious. Thank you for sharing your culture with us.
Written March 18, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for your review. It is much appreciated.
Written March 19, 2023
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Melvin H
Monsey, NY34 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2023
We were shown how the Embera people lived. Their tribal clothing and work. I am quite sure that after we left they put on normal clothing.
Written February 24, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for sharing your opinion with us. I am very sorry to hear that you did not enjoy your visit to the Embera village. However, this Trip Advisor page is for our Embera Village Tours company and not for any generic Embera village tour. I have no idea which village you went to, but it sounds like you did not go with our company, Embera Village Tours.
Written February 25, 2023
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

glassartlover
Indianapolis55 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2023
This really is the only way to go for an embera experience. We talked to other tourists later in the week who were with large tourist groups at villages that were more modern than this one. We were the only 10 tourists there. We learned a lot and it was a great experience. Also by booking with this embera-owned company, all the money goes to them. We liked that.
Written February 1, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for your review. We very much appreciate your comments.
Written February 4, 2023
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

orrdin
New York893 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Over the years we’ve visited several indigenous villages and always felt like it was very commercialized and that they dressed up for us and after that switched back to their western lives but not here. True indigenous people in their local village. Yes they wear special traditional clothing for the visitors but it’s a very authentic experience. We also liked their food and the dancing and we loved the local arts and crafts. Definitely a great day trip.
Written December 26, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for your comments.
Written December 30, 2022
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

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EMBERA VILLAGE TOURS & MORE - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)