What to See in Panama City

According to RRR Jewelry, the city of Panama is the capital of the country. Not to be confused with the name of the state, locals call it Panama City. The city is located just east of the place where the Panama Canal enters the Pacific Ocean. Panama City was founded in 1519 by the Spaniards and became the first Spanish Pacific port. It immediately became the most important trading center of the Spanish colonies in America, because goods from the Pacific colonies and Inca gold from South America to Europe were transported through it. In 1671, the city was burned by a gang of English pirates led by Henry Morgan. It was restored after 2 years, but in a new place, 7 km from the ruined city.

To Panama City you can see many buildings of the colonial period, but also a modern city with skyscrapers, business centers, restaurants and shops. It houses the government of the country and is home to about half of the population, most of whom work on the maintenance of the Panama Canal. Panama City stretches for 10 km along the Pacific coast. From the east, the Panama Viejo region adjoins the city, where the ruins of an ancient city, burned in 1671 by English pirates, are located. In 1997, the area was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The main attractions of the area are the remains of the cathedral from the 16th and 17th centuries and the restored square tower of the cathedral.

In the southwestern part of the city on the peninsula is the district of San Felip. (Casco Viejo), the so-called Old Town. It is also included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Here you can see the buildings of colonial architecture, which is an unusual mixture of Spanish, French and early American styles. In the center of San Felip is Independence Square, or, as it is also called, Bolivar Square, where there is a monument to Simon Bolivar. Also of interest in the Old Town is Cathedral Square with a 17th-18th-century cathedral, the facade of which was reconstructed in the 19th century after an earthquake, the Presidential Palace, the Church of San Francisco de Asis, the Church of San Jose, the Church of La Compagna, the French Park, equipped by the French during the first construction of the Panama Canal, and the building of the University.

A little north of San Felip on a hill is Ancon Park., where you can walk along hiking trails and get acquainted with the nature of the surroundings of Panama City. From the San Felip area, Avenida Balboa stretches along the bay, which connects the Old City with the business center. Recently, Panama has become one of the main centers of global investment, so the New City of Panama City impresses with its many modern buildings. Even on the way along Avenida Balboa, you can see a lot of skyscrapers. In the New City there are business centers, hotels, restaurants and world-class shops. The area is also best known for its museums. Tourists will be interested in the Museum of Anthropology, the Museum of Biological Diversity with a park and an aquarium located near it, and the Museum of the Panama Canal. The main shopping centers are located just south of the Panama Canal Museum.

Another attraction of Panama City is the long bridge Las Americasthrown over the Panama Canal. The bridge was built in 1962, and at that time it was the only connection between North and South America. The bridge is 1700 m long and 110 m high. The Amador Highway connects Panama City and several small islands in the Gulf of Panama. Along it runs a sidewalk, which is considered one of the most beautiful pedestrian areas of the city, offering beautiful views. From Panama City, you can go to Taboga Island and Contadora Island, which is part of the Pearl Archipelago. The islands of Taboga and Contadora are the closest resorts to Panama City, where you can relax and enjoy diving, snorkeling and fishing. There are beaches in Panama City itself, but they are dirty and swimming is not recommended here.

Panama City – the only Latin American capital, from which dense protected forests are located just 10 minutes away by car. Not far from Panama City is the Metropolitan National Park. The park is adjacent to the Panama Canal and is the only park in Latin America that protects the tropical forest within the metropolitan area. Here, on an area of 265 hectares, you can see a variety of birds (parakeets, toucans and orioles), butterflies, small mammals (sloths, titi monkeys and anteaters) and reptiles. Also, an exhibition of orchids is open for tourists, where species that grow only in Panama are presented. In the vicinity of Panama City, the Summit Botanical Gardens are also interesting.area of 250 hectares. The gardens were formed in 1923. To date, the Summit has collected about 15,000 different exotic plants. A zoo was also set up here, where the national bird harpy eagle and tapir are represented. Those who want to get acquainted with the whole variety of birds in the country should go to Soberania National Park. The area of the park is 20 thousand hectares. It is located 40 km north of Panama City on the banks of the Panama Canal. Here, in the short period of time that the tour lasts, you can see the largest number of bird species. In total, there are about 200 species of birds in the Soberania National Park, among which is one of the few populations of the largest bird of prey in the world – the harpy eagle. Panama City is bounded from the west panama canal. It is the main source of income for the city, and indeed the country as a whole. Panamanians from all over the country come to work in the city. The channel is located in the narrowest and lowest part of the Isthmus of Panama. It is one of the most outstanding engineering structures, one of the most important transportation routes and one of the longest artificial waterways in the world. The length of the canal is 80 km, and the canal zone has an area of 1432 sq. km. The Panama Canal crosses the state from northwest to southeast, linking the Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean. The canal has long been the subject of controversy among world powers. It was built by the Americans in 1914 and owned it until 1999. This allowed the Americans to interfere in the internal affairs of the country throughout the 20th century. Now the Panama Canal belongs to Panama. The channel is surrounded by evergreen forests, lakes and swamps. From nearby to Panama City, Balboa hosts Panama Canal cruises. This is an unforgettable journey that passes through many protected areas, locks, lakes and cities. Not far from Panama City, the Miraflores locks are located, where there is an observation deck from where you can see the canal and the ships passing through it. Several national parks and reserves have been created around the canal. On the east side of the canal, part of the ancient Camino de Cruces trail runs along it from the Metropolitan Park, along which the Spaniards reached the Pacific coast. Further north, the Camino de Cruces leads to the National Park of Soberania, which is considered the best place in the country for bird watching. At the western borders of the Soberania Park is Lake Gatun is the largest artificial reservoir in America (area 420 sq. km). Barro Colorado Island is located in Gatun Lake, which, along with several peninsulas of the lake, is part of the Barro Colorado National Park.. The total area of this protected area is 5.4 thousand hectares. Gatun Lake and Barro Colorado Island appeared during the construction of the canal, when a dam was built on the Chagres River. Inside the lake that arose as a result of the flood of the river, a small area of land 171 m high remained unflooded. In 1923, the island of Barro Colorado was declared a protected area. In 1946, the Tropical Research Institute began to manage the reserve, which established the Tropical Research Laboratory here. In 1979, in addition to the island of Barro Colorado, the reserve included several peninsulas and the reserve received the status of a national park. The only way to get to the park is by boat from the village of Gamboa, which is located 38 km from Panama City.

The end point of the Panama Canal journey is the city of Colon .

Colón is the second largest city in Panama. This is the main port on the Caribbean coast of the country. Colón was founded in 1852 as the terminus of a railroad track built by the Americans. But the city was almost completely destroyed in 1885 during an uprising of local residents led by Pedro Prestan. The columns were restored by the French when the construction of the Panama Canal began. Colon ‘s heyday came in the middle of the 20th century, after the placement here in 1948 of the Free Trade Zone. Colon these days- an ordinary port city, where, apart from shops with impressively low prices, there are not so many attractions. The Colon Free Trade Zone is the second largest (after Hong Kong) duty-free zone on the planet, with an annual trade turnover of over $10 billion. Tourists come here to shop. The most popular products are perfumes, jewelry and home appliances. In addition to shopping in Colon, the old railway station (1909), the neo-Gothic Cathedral (1929-1934), the statue of Christ on Central Avenue and the statue of Columbus (1866) are interesting. From Colon you can go to Grande Island, which is famous for its resort area with beautiful beaches.

Just south of Colon on the banks of the country’s longest river – the Chagres – lies Chagres National Park. It was created to protect riverbank ecosystems, which are the main source of water for the Panama Canal, the source of drinking water for many large cities in this part of the country, and the source of electricity for the cities of Panama City and Colon. The area of the park is 129 thousand hectares. Its main attractions are the Chagres River and Lake Alajuela, on the banks of which numerous colonies of birds settle. The park also offers excursions to the villages of the Embera and Wounan Indian tribes living in these protected areas. Portobelo is located 48 km east of Colon along the Caribbean coast.. It was founded by Christopher Columbus in 1502, making it one of the oldest settlements in Panama. Portobelo is located on the ancient Camino Real trade route, discovered by the Spaniards, along which they reached the Pacific Ocean. Under the conquistadors, Portobelo became one of the main ports on the Caribbean coast of the Isthmus of Panama. To protect their transatlantic trade routes from pirates, the Spaniards built many forts here, the remains of which have survived to this day. They can be seen along the stretch of coast from Portobelo to San Lorenzo. In 1980, all the colonial buildings of Portobelo, including the 17th and 18th century forts surrounding it, were listed by UNESCO as a cultural heritage of mankind.

Near Portobelo on the coast is Portobelo National Park. Of the 34.9 thousand hectares of the park, about 20% is in the sea, the rest is occupied by tropical rainforests. Mostly tourists come here to go diving, as one of the most beautiful coral reefs in Panama is located in the coastal waters. In addition, the park is known for the fact that at the bottom of its coastal waters there are various items left over from numerous battles with pirates.

To the east of Portobelo is the border with the province of Kuna Yala, also known as San Blas, where the indigenous inhabitants of these places live – the Kuna Indians. The main attraction of the region is the San Blas archipelago, which stretches along the eastern part of the Caribbean coast. You can get to it from the city of El Porvenir. The archipelago consists of about 400 islands. Local Indians have their own language, their own economic and administrative system, they honor and carefully preserve their customs and traditions, trying not to contact the rest of the country’s inhabitants. The Kuna Indians live by growing coconuts, which used to be the main unit of payment in the archipelago, fishing and tourism. Many of them are skilled divers – they get and then sell lobsters, king crabs and octopuses. The women of the Kuna tribe produce “mola” cotton garments with abstract appliqué designs. They are sold throughout the country and are one of the main souvenirs taken from Panama.. On some islands of the archipelago, resort areas are equipped, where there are opportunities for diving and relaxing on the beaches. The most interesting islands are Achutupu, Kagantupu and Coco Blanco.

It is worth noting that Eastern Panama, where the Kuna Yala region is located, as well as the province of Darien, is poorly populated. Here, right up to the Colombian border, dense moist forests stretch, which are practically untouched by man. These forests are inhabited by other Indian tribes, the Embera and the Wounaan, who, like the Kuna Indians, have their own autonomous regions. Darien Province, which covers most of Eastern Panama, is an almost impassable area on the border between Central and South America. It is connected with the central part of the country only by the Darien highway. The capital of the province and the main port of the eastern part of Panama is the city of La Palma . From here or from the village of Elb-Rial on the Darien highway, you can get to the main attraction of the province – the Darien National Park. The park is spread over an area of 579 thousand hectares near the border with Colombia. This is the largest protected area in the country and throughout the Caribbean. The park has a colossal diversity of flora and fauna, and the park is also notable for the tribes that have lived here since time immemorial and still retain their identity. On the territory of the park there are mountain ranges up to 2500 m high, navigable rivers, sandy beaches, rocky coasts, mangrove forests and swamps. Most of the park is covered by tropical rainforests, which are home to many endemic plant species, and about 200 species of large mammals, including such a rare species as the jaguar, and about 500 species of birds, including the harpy eagle.

Western provinces of Panama, unlike the eastern ones, are known for their unique mountain landscapes, beaches, breathtaking underwater worlds and opportunities for a wide variety of types of tourism. Altos de Campana National Park is located 60 km southwest of Panama City. The park protects tropical rain forests growing on the slopes of the mountains, and several mountain rivers. The total area of the park is 4.8 thousand hectares. The forests are home to monkeys, feral pigs, over 175 species of birds, and reptiles, including the endangered endemic golden frog. One of the main activities during the excursions is the “search” for the golden frog. From the observation points of the park you can see the Pacific coast of the country. A volcanic valley extends just south of the park.

El Valle. It is named after the extinct volcano El Valle, which formed this valley. The same name was given to a small village located on the slopes of the volcano. The village of El Valle is a great place for relaxing and hiking. It is surrounded by tropical rain forests, where you can see the endemic golden frog, and where mountain rivers flow, on which numerous waterfalls have formed. In the village, every Sunday morning, a market opens, where not only food is sold, but also products of local artisans.

What to See in Panama City