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Former gang members lead tours of Panama's former Red Zone

Esperanza Social Venture Club is providing the unique opportunity for holidaymakers to see a different side of Panama City with their Fortaleza tours. The tours, conducted by reformed gang members, give visitors the opportunity to stroll through the streets of what was formerly known as Panama City's violence-stricken Red Zone.

Former gang members lead tours of Panama's former Red Zone

Travellers visiting Panama and in search of an experience off the beaten path need look no further than Fortaleza Tours in Panama City which gives visitors and locals a guided tour of Casco Antiguo or what used to be known as Panama’s Red Zone.

Fortaleza Tours are run by the Esperanza Social Venture Club - a community development club made up of reformed gang members who hope develop their local communities through ventures like the guided tours of what used to be gang territory in this historical neighborhood.

Mark Chestnut, founder and editor of described his Fortaleza Tour experience in a Huffington Post article. Of his experience Chestnut stated:

"The tour was fascinating, and I wish it had lasted longer than one hour. I felt I'd only scratched the surface of a world that I'd never seen before in my many visits to Panama City."

Undoubtedly, Panama cultural tours like this provide a rare opportunity to gain insight into day to day lives of local people and provide a better appreciation for the cultural and historical beauty of the city.

Tours begin at the American Trade Hotel and after meeting tour guides walk travellers through the neighborhood- a curious mix of renovated buildings and dilapidated wooden structures some of which are ridden with bullet holes.

Holidaymakers who venture on this unique experience can also have a true sense of the many changes that are taking place in Central America’s the fastest growing city. At the end of the tour, guests can enjoy local food and drinks in the open air food court. Tours cost $15 per person and start times are fairly flexible though the group must be made up of at least two people.

While neighboring Costa Rica and Nicaragua have been experiencing a boom in tourism in recent years, many industry insiders also regard Panama as one of Central America’s top holiday destinations.

Panama is best known for the Panama Canal that recently celebrated its 100 year anniversary. Other attractions include pristine beaches, volcanic mountains, these coupled with Panama’s rich cultural heritage means that holidaymakers are sure to walk away with a memorable experience

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