Panama City

Recognized worldwide for the famous Panama Canal, Panama City is the country’s largest metropolis and its capital. Originally founded by Spanish conquistador Davila in 1519, the city was a starting point for expeditions that eventually lead to the conquering of the Peruvian Incan Empire. The city was, however, sacked by Henry Morgan in 1671, burned, and rebuilt five miles to the southwest where it now stands at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal. A trip to Panama City is not only an educational and historic vacation but one full of intrigue, exoticism, cultural diversity, and magnificent and wild experiences that you can share with the whole family.

The city’s most famous landmark is, of course, the Panama Canal, a world wonder of engineering and international trade. Cutting 48 miles through Central America, the Panama Canal was a feat of genius that reduced the running rate and time of shipping internationally which incidentally raised the global economy. Building began in 1881 with the French but soon stopped because of technical problems and disease, although building picked up again when the U.S. arrived in 1904, finishing the job in 1914. Today you can see it in Panama City, or even traverse it in your own cruise ship. Learn about the building of the canal in the old French canal company’s headquarters, now a museum known as the Museo del Canal Interoceanio.

Panama City is a wildly historic town, having been built by Spanish conquistadors and its tempestuous history thereafter involving Henry Morgan. The ruins of the original city still exist at the Viejo Ruins park including sites like the Casas Reales and the Church and Convent of St. Dominic, both of which date back to the 17th century. Casco Viejo, the city’s historic district, is yet another interesting attraction standing as the original Spanish settlement, restored and perfect for walking tours. The Plaza de Francia, a memorial to the French who originally began building the canal, is located at the southern point of the Casco Viejo. Another beautiful example of historic and religious significance is the Iglesia de San Jose, a gorgeous church protecting the Golden Altar, the only surviving relic left after Henry Morgan’s fatal raid of the city.

Panama City, being a fabulous tourist destination and cruise port, has all the trappings of an exciting destination from shopping malls to underwater sports and beaches. If you enjoy a good shopping mall, you can do no better than the Multiplaza Pacific Mall where you can find favorite stores, Central American additions, a cinema, and more. Sometimes, when you’re in a big city, you just need to get away from the chaos for a little while. When you need someplace quiet, head to the Metropolitan National Park, roughly 655 acres of tropical, semideciduous paradise filled with birdsong and babbling brooks. You can also try your skills at scuba diving and snorkeling off the coast of Portobelo Bay, one of the area’s best regions for diving.

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