Tropical forests, a desert and spectacular beaches coexist in full harmony with urban landscapes
Located in Central America, Panama today is still a very unknown country for most travellers, however, the truth is that it is a destination that has much to offer its visitors: a rich cultural and natural heritage along with one of the most majestic works that man has done in recent decades, the Panama Canal, an indisputable symbol of the entire country.
With more than 500 years of history, Panama City, the country’s capital, is one of the jewels that shine brightest in the Caribbean country, and more specifically its Old Town, named Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It is the memory of what the city was like before the construction of the Canal and it is ideal for strolling, learning about history and enjoying a wonderful gastronomic experience in its many restaurants.
On the walk through the “old quarter”we come across one of the main tourist attractions in the area: the Santa María La Antigua Metropolitan Cathedral, which, located in Plaza Independencia and completed at the end of the 18th century, is a beautiful example of colonial architecture and religious roots from the country. In this area it is also worth visiting the Museum of the History of Panama; the Canal Museum, which makes the visitor participate in one of the greatest engineering works in history; and the Mola Museum (MUMO), which explains the use of molas, the seams used by Guna women —an Amerindian people located in Panama and Colombia—. On the way to Plaza de Francia, you will come across the iconic Arco Chato, that make up the remains of a church built by Dominican friars and that is a magnificent setting to immortalize your trip to the wonderful Panama City in a photograph. Already in the aforementioned square —built in honor of the French forerunners of the Panama Canal—, the Monumental Ensemble of Las Bóvedas stands out, which make up the walls that surround it, as well as the great 18-meter obelisk located in the center. Without leaving the Old Town, just five minutes from Plaza de Francia, a highly recommended stop is the National Theater; It is located next to the Church of San Francisco and stands as a representative work of neoclassical architecture. The Monumental Ensemble of Las Bóvedas stands out, which make up the walls that surround it, as well as the great 18-meter obelisk located in the center. Without leaving the Old Town, just five minutes from Plaza de Francia, a highly recommended stop is the National Theater; It is located next to the Church of San Francisco and stands as a representative work of neoclassical architecture. The Monumental Ensemble of Las Bóvedas stands out, which make up the walls that surround it, as well as the great 18-meter obelisk located in the center. Without leaving the Old Town, just five minutes from Plaza de Francia, a highly recommended stop is the National Theater; It is located next to the Church of San Francisco and stands as a representative work of neoclassical architecture.
We leave behind the Old Town to learn more about this beautiful city. We first approach the financial area, which, with its large and modern skyscrapers, contrasts with the atmosphere of tradition and history that intoxicates everything in the Old Town , which can be reached by Balboa Avenue, the great artery that connects both areas. and that is presided over by the statue of Vasco Núñez de Balboa.
Going up the aforementioned avenue and distancing ourselves even further from the Old Town, we find Cerro Ancón, the highest point in the city, from where you can see an impressive panoramic view of the Canal, the city and the Amador causeway —one of the areas most important recreational areas in the city with a multitude of bars, restaurants and nightclubs, as well as the Biodiversity Museum and the Marine Exhibition Center—. Nearby is Mi Pueblito, a curious town where you can learn about Panamanian cultures and roots.
The Canal, the most universal claim of Panama
A fundamental visit on a trip to Panama is, without a doubt, the Panama Canal. This impressive pharaonic work of human engineering connects the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, stretching for 80 kilometers, from Panama City to Colón, and is the main claim and symbol of the country. Specifically, we will focus on the Miraflores locks, since they are located in Panama City itself. In them there is a modern visitor center open all year round in which they show the history and beauty of the Canal, as well as terraces and observation galleries from where you can see how the ships pass the locks. It is, as we have already indicated, a must-see to discover the essence of Panama.
Nature and nightlife, the other side of Panama
The interior of the country surprises with its lush forests.
After seeing the most impressive of Panama City, if it is a trip of several days, another of the unmissable experiences is to get away from the urban centers to see the most authentic face of Panama: its nature., which allows you to enjoy adrenaline-charged experiences, such as flying over the jungle on a zip line or cable car, diving in reefs or swimming with turtles. A magnificent option, in addition to that excursion to the tropical jungle, is also to visit the Metropolitan Natural Park, the green lung of Panama City and one of the last refuges of the almost disappeared tropical dry forest of the Pacific. Going through it on a guided tour is a magical experience in which there is the possibility of seeing more than 250 species of birds, reptiles and amphibians and 45 species of mammals, as well as 280 different types of trees.
We cannot conclude this article without mentioning the nightlife, which is very intense both in the business district and in the midst of the Spanish colonial buildings of the Old Town. Bars, nightclubs, tapas and wine restaurants and live music venues of different styles serve to put the finishing touch to the day in Panama City. It is also worth mentioning that the country has many celebrations, proof of the different cultures that coexist in this country, for example, the Jazz Festival in Panama City and already, moving away from the capital, in the month of October the craft, folkloric and tourist fair of Río Tigre is celebrated in the Guna Yala region —formerly known as the San Blas archipelago, it is an area of beautiful virgin islands occupied by the Guna people and that has wonderful beaches; an area also worth visiting.
Panama is, in short, a destination whose attractions cannot be summarized in a single article: its capital and the Canal are some of them, but also, if you want to know more about it and if you have time, it is worth knowing Bocas del Toro, the exotic island of Coiba or the Azuero peninsula. No traveler can resist the charm that surrounds the entire Panamanian country.