Panama is an adventure wonderland just waiting to be discovered. Its jungles are home to over 940 recorded bird species and 105 endangered species, including the spectacled bear, the Central American tapir, the American crocodile, the scarlet macaw, as well as several eagle species.
Panama offers some of the finest diving, birdwatching, and deep-sea fishing in all of the Americas. It has deserted palm-lined beaches, miles of lush rainforests, great national parks, waterfalls, raging rivers, abandoned forts, as well as a desert.
You can spend the morning diving in the Caribbean and the afternoon swimming in the Pacific. You can explore historic ruins of the colonial era. You can see the rainforest. You can ride a canoe to a native Indian village. You can discover the mysterious forests of the Darién region right on the border of Colombia or come face to face with a red-napped tamarind monkey.
No trip to Panama is complete without seeing the Panama Canal. It is the saga of human ingenuity and courage, years of sacrifice, crushing defeat, and final victory. Construction of the canal began in 1904 and took 10 years to complete. It is one of the greatest engineering achievements of all time which took 75,000 lives in total until it was finished.
The Canal which is 51 miles long, opened to shipping in August 1914. In 1921, the U.S. paid Colombia $25 million as redress for the loss of Panama. In exchange, Colombia formally recognized Panama’s independence.
The best place to see the Canal is from the Miraflores Locks, but make sure to get to the Miraflores Locks by 9 a.m. as this is when you are most likely to see large ships passing through.
Located at the mouth of the Panama Canal, Casco Viejo is the oldest city on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. The old Panama City was founded in 1519, about two miles from the center of Panama City as we know it today. During Morgan’s attack, this original Panama City was burned to the ground. In 1673, the capital was moved two miles to the west, and present-day Panama City was founded. This is the area now known as Casco Viejo.
Casco Viejo is a melting pot of architectural inspiration and style. Up until the early parts of this century, Casco Viejo remained a thriving cultural center. In 1997, UNESCO declared Casco Viejo a Patrimony of Humanity. Today, it is revered as the historic center of Panama City.
There are excellent museums in the Casco Viejo area, including the Museo de Canal, where you can learn about Panama’s history as the connector between the Atlantic and the Pacific from pre-Hispanic to modern times. Next door is the Museum of National History and nearby is a small museum dedicated to religious art. This is where you will find the famous Flat Arch. A few blocks away is the old San Jose Cathedral, with gleaming spires inlaid with mother-of-pearl and its beautiful gold altar, intricately carved of wood and gilded with gold. This is a must-see when you visit Casco Viejo.
Casco Viejo is home to the Presidential House. Also located just before the entrance to Casco Viejo, it is Panama’s bizarre bazaar and a few steps away is Santa Ana’s Plaza, where you can have your fortune told for just 3 euros.
To finish off your day in style, make your way to The Bristol Hotel. It is just a short taxi journey from Casco Viejo. The Panamanian-inspired gourmet cuisine, restful ambiance, stunning presentation, elegant settings are combined to create an unforgettable dining experience.
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