Panama is known for its man-made Canal, where the Miraflores Locks are part of a large shipping route that links the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The Panama Canal is the nation’s greatest achievement and a feat of modern engineering, but it’s not all there is to see when traveling abroad in the country. Panama boasts a plethora of things to do, no matter your reason for visiting.
Panama’s capital, Panama City, is one of the most popular first stops in the country. It’s a cosmopolitan place, modern with skyscrapers and a large population. Many who decide to relocate to Panama choose a first-world life in this city. The city is divided into two main parts: the modern side with the skyscrapers, and the old city – Casco Viejo. If you take the guided tour of the city (which is highly recommended), you’ll get to experience the exciting contrast of modern vs. antique all in one trip.
The old quarter of Panama City is famous in its own right. Those who’ve traveled abroad to the country always express how much of a must-visit this area of town is. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, as it was picked by the Spaniards back in the original settlement days as the city center of the time (after the original was burned down by Henry Morgan in 1971). Its old glory is still maintained in a lot of ways, including through cobblestone streets and old buildings that are currently being restored. Taking a walk through Casco Viejo is sure to feel like a trip back in time.
Iglesia San Jose
San Jose Church in the Casco Viejo district of Panama City is known for its massive golden altar. This church is famous for having survived the pirate Henry Morgan’s sacking of the old town in 1971 – before Casco Viejo was chosen as the city’s next center. The legend is that the priest of the church painted the golden altar black and convinced the pirate that it had already been stolen. After the raid, the church was moved to what is now Casco Viejo, and it is currently surrounded by crumbling buildings from those days that are being renovated and otherwise preserved.
Located on the Amador Causeway, the Biomuseo was constructed to celebrate the unique geography of Panama. Panama’s location means that it is home to two biologically diverse regions with a distinct host of species, and the botanical gardens and other exhibits attribute to that. If that’s not enough to get you interested, you’ll also find that the structure itself is unique in its own way. It was designed by world famous architect Frank Gehry, and it is colorful and uniquely shaped. You may want to visit just to take a look at the building itself.
Bocas del Toro
Some of the best beaches in Panama are found in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. The main town in this area is called Bocas Town, and that’s where you’ll find most of the backpackers and other travelers looking to explore the beaches and take part in their own share of sun, sand, and surf. Two of the best beaches in this area are Wizard Beach and Red Frog Beach. While visiting Bocas del Toro, you can take part in such activities as kayaking, snorkeling, surfing, and hiking. Be prepared, however, for big crowds if you’re visiting during the busy season. Bocas del Toro is a tourism hot spot.
San Blas Archipelago
Comprising of about 365 islands and cayes, the San Blas Islands lie off the north coast of Panama, east of the Canal. One of the best things said to do in Panama is sailing. From San Blas, you can sail to Colombia and make a day trip out of that excursion, or you can simply island hop among the islands of the archipelago. Only 49 of the islands that make up the San Blas Archipelago are actually inhabited, so the untapped beauty of the beaches is truly something to be appreciated.
Metropolitan Natural Park
This park is located in Panama City, and is the only rainforest located so close to a major city. It allows you to get acquainted with the plants and animals of the rainforest while still in the city! You can enter this park and hike for about 90 minutes to reach the famous Ancon Hill for the best views, or you can cruise above the rainforest canopy via the Canopy Crane Tour. Both are great options!
Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/landscape-city-panama-skyline-2095783/