Panama City & the Panama Canal
PANAMA VIEJO RUINS
Duration: 1.5 hours | Availability: Tue-Sun 08:30 - 16:30 hrs
Just a short ride from Tocumen Airport (20 minutes) are the ruins of Panama Viejo (the old city). Panama City is the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas. It was founded in 1519 as a consequence of the discovery of the “South Sea” in 1513 by Vasco Núñez de Balboa. The remains of the original Spanish colony (known as the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo) include the Pre-Columbian vestiges of the Cuevan aboriginal occupation of the same name and currently encompass a UNESCO-protected heritage site covering 32 hectares. The settlement was a first-rank colonial outpost and seat of a Royal Court of Justice during the 16th and 17th centuries when Panama consolidated its position as an intercontinental hub. Its growth in importance, as it profited from the imperial bullion lifeline, is reflected by the imposing stone architecture of its public and religious buildings. During its 152 years of existence, the town experienced slave rebellions, fires, and an earthquake, but was destroyed in the wake of a devastating attack in 1671 by pirate Henry Morgan.
MIRAFLORES LOCKS, PANAMA CANAL
Duration: 2 hours | Availability: daily 08:00 - 17:00 hrs
Visit the Panama Canal Visitors’ Center at Miraflores Locks where ships can be seen transiting the waterway from the lookout terrace above the locks. You will also experience the 45-minute documentary “Panama Canal: A Land Divided, A World United” narrated by Morgan Freeman in the IMAX 3D theater at Miraflores Visitor Center. Our tip: VIP upgrade (subject to availability) - a private guide from the Panama Canal Authority will give you a personalized tour with interesting background knowledge. Make sure to wear closed shoes without heels as you will be granted special access to the outside lock doors for a memorable photo in front of the control house.
FORMER PANAMA CANAL ZONE
Duration: 1 hour | Availability: daily 08:00 - 17:00 hrs
Enjoy a drive through the former Panama Canal Zone managed by the United States from 1903 to 1999. Old military bases have been turned into residential neighbourhoods, universities, and one of the most important commerce hubs in the region combining airports, container ports, and cargo railways that provide support to the Panama Canal operation. Visit the Panama Canal Administration Building, located in the town of Balboa, near the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. Its construction began in 1912 during the American construction of the canal and was completed in 1914. It served as the headquarters for the Canal Zone administration. Today, it houses various government offices and is part of the Panamanian government's efforts to preserve the history and legacy of the canal. If time allows, ask your guide to visit the murals inside the building, which are historically significant works of art that are an integral part of the building's interior decor. The murals were created by American artist William B. Van Ingen in the early 20th century and are notable for their depictions of the canal's history and the cultural context of the time.
Duration: 1.5 hours | Availability: Tue-Fri 10-15:00 hrs, Sat-Sun 11-16:00 hrs
The Biodiversity Museum was designed by the world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. As a Smithsonian Affiliate museum, it serves as a gateway to new information about the biodiversity and natural history of the Isthmus of Panama. Scientific experts from both the Smithsonian Institute and the University of Panama oversee the contents of the museum and aim to teach visitors about eco-awareness, conservation, and Panama’s extraordinary natural treasures in various unique exhibition galleries. Did you know that the Isthmus of Panama has more bird, mammal, reptile, and plant species than the US and Canada together in just 75,990 Km2 (approx. 29,000 square miles)? In fact, 3 million years ago, the emergence of the Isthmus of Panama changed both the climate and the planet's biodiversity and played a key role in the creation of the world we know today.
Duration: 2-3 hours | Availability: Daily
In 1673, after the devastating pirate attack, Panama City was moved some 7.5 km West, to a small peninsula at the foot of Ancon Hill, closer to the islands that were used as a safe port and near the mouth of a river that eventually became the Pacific access to the Panama Canal. The relocated town, known today as Casco Viejo, not only had better access to fresh water but could be fortified. The military engineers took advantage of the morphological conditions of the area and complemented them with a wall surrounding the peninsula, all of which prevented direct land and naval approaches by an enemy. The House of the Municipality, the National Theatre, the Ministry of Government and Justice, and the Municipal Palace are outstanding buildings of a more recent period. This charming UNESCO World Heritage Site also impresses with architectural, gastronomic, and cultural highlights. Make sure to stop at the Interoceanic Panama Canal Museum and the Mola Museum and explore local art galleries, and handcraft markets, and enjoy a great array of local restaurants and cafés.
- Chocolate Experience (1 hour)
- Coffee Tasting (1 hour)
- Rum Tasting (1 hour)
- Hands-on cooking class with a young Panamanian chef (3-4 hours)