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Panama City Holidays

Panama City holidays

Panama City is unique, located on the shores of the Pacific Coast and only a stone’s throw away from some of Central America’s richest rainforests.  It is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, combining old Spain with modern America; from the 16th century ruins of Panama Viejo, to the 17th century Spanish colónial churches of Casco Antiguo, to the ‘Manhattan-like’ skyscrapers of downtown Panama.

The city was first founded in 1519 by Spanish governor Pedro Arias de Avila. It became the gateway for the Spanish conquest, through which all the treasures of the Inca Empire passed on their way to the old world.  However, as a result, it became an area under constant attack and in 1671 Welshman Henry Morgan ransacked the city, leaving nothing but the stone remains of Panama Viejo. A few years later, the city was re-established five miles away at San Felipe, also known as Casco Antiguo. Until recently, this area had fallen into neglect, although today, the buildings are gradually being restored to their former glory.  It is now a charming district with cobblestone streets, plazas, churches and convents, home to the Bishop’s Palace, cathedral and Governor’s House.

Panama Canal

Holidays In Panama City

Today Panama Viejo has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the perfect place to explore the ancient ruins, narrow streets and excellent restaurants which can be found here – all whilst the back-drop of skyscrapers from downtown Panama watches over, a unique and different experience.

Panama City can easily be used as a base from which to visit not only the city but also surrounding areas, including the nearby rainforests and the historical sights of Colón Province.

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal has dominated Panama’s recent history. Finally completed in 1914, this celebrated feat of engineering has changed the pattern of shipping forever and given Panama a new international significance and identity.

This narrow part of the isthmus between the Pacific and the Atlantic was originally used by the Spanish conquistadors to transport Peruvian gold to the Caribbean Sea and so the Atlantic Ocean by mule, rather than taking the treacherous and lengthy journey around Cape Horn. In the late 19th Century the French first made an ill-fated attempt to construct the canal but were defeated mainly due to diseases such as malaria and yellow fever.

The Americans eventually successfully completed it in 1914, and controlled both the canal and vast tracts of land either side until 1977, when the Torrijos – Carter Treaties paved the way for the transition of control to Panama in 1999. Approximately 80 kilometers long, the canal uses a system of locks to raise ships from sea level to the artificial Lake Gatun (26m above sea level), cutting through the rocky hills of the Continental Divide. The water used in the locks comes from the River Chagres that feeds Lake Gatun.

Visitors can experience the canal by boat by taking either a partial transit (half day) or a full transit (a full day tour taking in the whole canal) which take place on set days each month. The Visitors' Centre at Miraflores Lock also offers both a good insight into the construction of the canal, and a wonderful view of the huge container ships passing through the Miraflores Lock.

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