In addition to its most well-known feature, which is the man-made canal bisecting it, the Republic of Panama contains rugged mountains, coastal plains and rolling hills. The thin strip of land that comprises the 29,157-square-mile nation is an isthmus that connects the continents of North America and South America. The Panama Canal, which was completed in 1914, enables ships to cross between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans which lie to the north and south of the Isthmus of Panama.
Panama is the southernmost country in Central America and is bordered by Colombia on the South American side and by Costa Rica on the Central American side. The country's central spine of interior mountains and hills is the nation's dominant topographical feature. The peaks of this spine were formed by volcanic intrusions and the mountain region was the result of an uplift originating from the sea bottom. The entire mountain range, which runs from Costa Rica in the northwest and down to the canal, is generally referred to as the Cordillera Central. The highest point in Panama is the peak of the Volcan Baru mountain at 11,401 feet.
There is an almost impenetrable jungle, called the Darien Gap, at the point where Panama borders Colombia. This area is the only break in the entire Pan-American highway system that connects Alaska to the Patagonia region in southern Argentina.