For a week of reading glossy magazines on Panama and its diverse cultural life,
primeval forests and convoluted history, I never got the chance to be privy to
one of the most interesting moments in Panama's existence. Fortunately and
magically it happened on the last day when travelling to the Tocumen
international airport, the taxi driver chose the fast and painless toll highway.
At a certain moment he had to stop his monolog on Mel Gibson?s pursuits and
change the topic. The area we were literally flying over was the spot where the
American commandos came to collect their friend Noriega. All of that is just
fine but the poor cream-of-the-cream of the army did not realize that they were
dropped in the sediment of fecal matter coming from the less-than-perfect sewage
system. It must take a master of the plume and letters like Shakespeare to
convey the bewildering joy of the driver depicting the gringos, soaked up to their necks
in excrements, crying for help.
- Road Trip
Iglesia del Carmen
The Iglesia del Carmen along Via España is one of the new city’s large churches. Surrounded by modern office and apartment buildings, as well as the busy lanes of the Via España, the church rises up and provides a bit of importance to an otherwise unremarkable commercial area. It is not done in the typical Baroque style of Spanish colonial churches, but is rather a neo-Gothic structure reminiscent of North American cathedrals. The rosetones at the entrance, the stained glass and the sharp arches and vaults are all more indicative of something in the northern US or Canada than in Panamá. This provides an interesting addition to an area that is otherwise devoid of older styles and structures.
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
Calle Argentina is one of the new city’s most visited restaurant zones, and with good reason. In fact, much of the area here just north of Via España is well-developed as a zone of entertainment and dining, with restaurants offering patrons a wide variety of cuisines. The main strip of restaurants and bars is along Calle Argentina (including some American-style places, but also Spanish, Cuban, Italian, Lebanese and, yes, even Panamanian food), while there are now also good Japanese and Peruvian places on streets just to the west. Calle Argentina is in fact a nice, quiet and easy-going place to spend time at night, as it has escape much of the Las Vegas-esque concentration of casinos and prostitutes that characterizes areas farther west along Via España.
Monumento a Balboa
Vasco Núñez de Balboa was responsible for the "discovery" of the Isthmus of Panamá and, as such, he holds a fairly important place in the country's national narrative. While he is probably not particularly popular with the Emberá and Kuna nations, he does rank fairly highly in terms of national heroes, with the former currency named after him, as well as the main Avenue along the Pacific and a large monument along the said Avenue. He was the first European to reach the Pacific's eastern shores and founded numerous settlements in the region of Darién, in the south-east of the country. Although Balboa did not in fact found the City of Panamá, he is important for the founding of the country's first Spanish settlements and for the attraction of the Spaniards to the region's importance in the gold trade. Today, a large monument to him, atop a white globe, dominates the southern end of the Avenida Balboa in the capital.
- Historical Travel
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not a tourist attraction, but as an employee of the Ministry here in Canada, I felt the need to at least list my counterparts as one of the attractions of the Casco Antiguo. The architecture of the building is fairly interesting, as it's a Baroque building with accents of white and grey against the main yellow walls.
- Historical Travel
Mercado de Pescado
The Central Fish Market is not really a point of historical interest, as it was constructed fairly recently by the Japanese (you can see the sign thanking the government of Japan on the exterior of the Market), but it is a fairly big draw for tourists. Situated at the end of Avenida Balboa in the entrance to the Casco Antiguo, this market is in traditional Caribbean style and is packed with fishmongers hawking the freshest fish of the day. You can also buy some ceviche made "fresh" and sold in shopping carts, but I just spent the time admiring the fish and seafood for sale.
- Arts and Culture
Iglesia San José
Iglesia San José is a bit funny, in part because the exterior looks like one of the austere Protestant churches that is characteristic of the South-West of France, but then the inside obviously benefitted from a hefty dose of counter-Reformation gilding. The church is located in one of the areas of the Casco Antiguo that has yet to be spruced up, and it is obvious that the neighbourhood is in need of rehabilitation. Still, the church is well-maintained, and the altar and its pretty gold settings are great to see. The church is a bit plain on the exterior, but the use of bright pastels helps to lessen the dour impression that many Protestant churches of the same style often give.
Estación Central de Ferrocarriles
Estación Central de Ferrocarriles used to be the city’s Anthrolopogical Museum, but it has since been abandoned. Actually, during the early 2000s, a new Anthropological Museum was built near Clayton with the help of the Taiwanese government. Taiwan poured in millions of dollars and for a beautiful new building that now houses the country’s anthropological treasures, and the then-President’s government was promptly sacked for its inability to explain where the surplus funds went during the construction process. This historical building, meanwhile, was shuttered and is currently out of use, although it is, nevertheless, a great example of the neo-Classical architecture that was spurred by the boom following on the construction of the Canal.
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
relax in paradise without the the high dollar
If anyone is looking to get away from the city's husle and busle rat race take a trip to the north central carribean side of panama, to a place called playon chico.A place where once you arrive you think you are in paradise and the longer you stay there the more you like it better.This area has a few tiny islands that are owned and ran by the Kuna Yala indians.Here I spent only 2 nights and three days(not enough time) and had a wonderful time.I stood at the" Yandup" a great place.You get your own little thatched hut with priavte bath(optional) three meals a day and each day a boat tour to different islands to :snorkle,managroves trek,visits to the ky indians villages where you get to see how they live,plus more.
So ,if your looking for a place to get away from it all or just to crawl into book this is the place.
- Adventure Travel
Rio Sereno Border Crossing Panama/Costa Rica
This is very doable, contrary to myths and tales of hardship. No lines, No fuss, no big trucks.
From David, travel to Volcan or Cerro Punto. Spend the night and get an early morning start.
About an hour in a 20 passenger van type bus. Great music, much fun, easy ride through beautiful countryside. Ride up front if possible. Many curves in the road. The bus lets you off a 5 minute walk from the border crossing.
A bus will pick you up from the border and right into the nearest small town in Costa Rica where you transfer to San Vito and bigger and badder bus terminals.
- Women's Travel
- Budget Travel
Panama Canal Full Transit
Our short trip to panama was all organized around one single event, that takes place only once a month: the full transit of the Panama canal... which was quite and experience, albeit a very long one, too. We were picked up at hour hotel at 6.30 AM and taken to the marina where our boat would leave from.
The trip was very enjoyable and on the same boat there were only the people who had opted for the shorter partial transit tour. All together we passed the two first sets of locks, navigated the Gaillard Cut (also called Culebra Cut) which is the most scenic part of the trip, and ended up in Gatun Lake, where they disembarked.
This first art of the tirp was the most interesting, but it's also true that the boat was a bit packed. After most of the people left, the transit became less interesting but much more relaxed and, as we were sailing towards Colon, we witnessed some really amazing sunsets. For this reason I would suggest you take the full transit rather than the partial transit.
The company we used (see details below) was recommened to us by a Panamese VTer. The trip costed us 165 USD per person and it turned out to be the cheapest of all the companies we had contacted ourselves. We were very happy with their service and we have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone. A word of warning: the food that's served on the boat is highly toxic (greasy and fatty - real junk food) - so do bring your own food on board.
People Watching at the Fish Market
The Mercado del Marisco (Fish Market), in Santa Ana district, at the intersection of Av. Balboa and Av. Eloy Alfaro, offers another great opportunity for local people watching and for a taste of routine local life (on that regard also see my tip on Avenida Central in the "Things to Do" section).
It is a crowded, lively, colorful market with plenty of stalls selling seafood and ceviche (citrus marinated seafood salad), prepared onsite. I had a very enjoyable experience here and come across many friendly people who nicely let me take photos of them at work.
I visited the Fish Market in the mid-morning hours and I would assume those are the best hours for doing it, though the market opens very early in the morning. There is no much else in the area and most likely those interested shall come here in purpose. Every taxi can take you there.
- Arts and Culture
Views from the Dock near Casco Viejo
The dock on Avenida Eloy Alfaro, near Casco Viejo, provides terrific views (and to those interested chance of terrific photos) of Casco Viejo, the Panama City Bay and Punta Paitilla.
The dock is also an attraction itself with the local people at work. The photos attached will give you an insight of the place.
You can walk to the dock from Casco Viejo, following the waterfront on Av. Eloy Alfaro. Those interested should consider that that is not a nice area of the city, and be careful.
- Arts and Culture
Long Layover in Panama?
We were on our way to Carnival in Rio. My boyfriend and I booked a flight on COPA. And, like many COPA flights, we were scheduled for a layover in Panama City for 9 - 12 hrs each way. (9 - 12 hrs in an airport terminal?! There could never be that many Duty Free stores to pace through. And, trust me, I've been through the largest ones!) So, disregarding convention, we paid a $5 tourist visa and reserved a $10 rental car for the day. We went to see the Miraflores Locks the first leg and discovered the Old City on the second.
Word to the wise: If you decide to do the same, pace your time wisely. Add 30-60mins for refueling and local traffic. You are driving through a country that you don't know well. Leave all valuables, which you've decided to handcarry, in your trunk and securely lock. Plan to arrive 90-120mins before your next flight. All flights to the U.S. will cause you another scrutiny of luggage checks.
Misc: 1.) You will need to inform the rental car counter that you are a "transit" passenger and do not have a hotel because you will not be staying the night. 2.) Yes, you will need to purchase a visa each time you enter Panama. 3.) Just about everywhere in Panama will take USD.
This is a picture of the tower as it looked when we visited there.
The rusting radar station has now been turned into a unique lodge for birders called Canopy Tower Ecolodge and Nature Observatory.
The tower may now be much nicer than it was when we saw it but the birding is probably about the same.
It was one of the highlights of our trip.We hope to return someday.
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- Book now for big savings!
- Hotels.com Outstanding choice of hotels all over the world at fantastic prices.
- Best Price Guarantee
- IHG Find the best price on our website or your first night is free.