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Panama City, Panama

Bridge of the Americas at Panama Canal Pacific entrance Panama

Bridge of the Americas at the Panama Canal

Panama City, Panama

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Panama City, Panama

Panama City is the capital and largest city of Panama, a country in Central America located on a narrow land mass (Isthmus of Panama) that connects North and South America. Panama, which also includes 1,600 tropical islands off its Atlantic coast and Pacific coast, is renowned for its pristine coastline, its areas of tropical rainforest, its diverse flora and fauna, and for the famous Panama Canal. This tropical paradise is bordered by Costa Rica, Colombia, the Caribbean Sea, and the Pacific Ocean.

Panama has been home to indigenous peoples for thousands of years before the Spanish conquistadors first arrived in the isthmus in the early 16th century. Tradition says it was a fishing village, and that Panama means “abundance of fish”. It became the starting point for the Spanish conquest of the Inca empire, and as the first Spanish colony on the Pacific became an imperial marketplace in the New World. Gold and other products from Peru were hauled by mule across the isthmus on a route known as Camino Real (Royal Road) or Camino de Cruces (Road of Crosses), to be loaded on board ships bound for Spain.

In 1739, it became part of Nueva Granada (modern-day Colombia), which became independent in 1821. Panama remained a province of Colombia until conflicts led to its independence in 1903. The United States, building upon an abandoned project by the French, began construction on the Panama Canal shortly after, in 1904.

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is an essential stop on a tour of Panama. The Panama Canal, completed in 1914, is a man-made waterway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the narrow Isthmus of Panama. Ships travelling through the canal save a lot of time–for example, ships sailing between the east and west coasts of the United States need only go through the canal instead of rounding Cape Horn in South America.

You can take a closer look at this engineering feat. From the Pacific coast, take a cruise through the Miraflores Locks, Pedro Miguel Locks, and the Gaillard Cut. Disembark in Gamboa, and travel by land to Colon on the Atlantic coast. At Colon, experience a unique view of the Panama Canal via the Panama Canal Railway, the world’s first Trans-Continental rail route, which takes you through lush and beautiful scenery across the Isthmus of Panama and back to the city.

Aerial view of the Bridge of the Americas at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal, with Panama City in the background.

In addition to the canal tour and railway trip, other activities in Panama include a walking tour of its historic centre called Casco Viejo (“old quarter”, also called Casco Antiguo), white-water rafting or a boat trip down the Chiriqui River, a trip to man-made Gatun Lake in Chagres National Park, lounging in its many beaches, or joining one of Panama’s annual festivals, many of which preserve old traditions.

The clear waters of San Blas Islands, Panama

External articles to assist you on your visit to Panama and Central America:

The following external links may help you in planning your visit to Central America.