Sightseeing Panama
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Mapa de Panama

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Panamanian Pride

Panama means "the place of abundant fish" but people like to say that everything is found in abundance here. And it's true, as visitors will quickly discover for themselves. You'll find an abundance of wildlife in Panama's many national parks, an abundance of white sand beaches, hundreds of islands, more banks and shops than you would have dreamed possible, the Panama Canal, and , of course, a fantastic quantity of fresh seafood, including fish.
As the land bridge connecting North and South America, Panama is home to an amazing diversity of wildlife. Almost 1 ,000 birds are known to reside, or migrate through, Panama. At the famed Pipeline Road, a Mecca for birders, records are routinely set in the Audubon Society's Christmas bird count. Panama is home to 220 species of mammals (including six species of wild cats), 354 reptiles and amphibians, 1 ,500 species of diurnal butterflies and a thousand species of orchids. In the warm waters of both oceans, the snorkeling and diving are unexcelled. Naturally, many visitors come to take advantage of Panama's abundant ecotourism opportunities.
Panama is also the place of abundant beaches, which are found along the country's thou- sand miles of coastline, and on the hundreds of islands just off-shore. Many of these beaches are totally undeveloped and are ideal for those seeking solitude on their own private strip of sand. At others, there are excellent hotels, restaurants and facilities for enjoying your favorite water sports and even golf .
You'll be fascinated by the Panama Canal, the eighth wonder of the world, where visitors can watch, from comfortable bal- conies, as cruise ships and freighters pass through the locks. Panama has a fine collection of museums, dedicated to the building of the Canal, to the colonial Spanish era and entire span of the country's history, to archaeology and to marine and terrestrial ecology. There are a number of historic areas, such as the ruins of the colonial capitol, the charming, French-style sector of Panama City called Casco Viejo, and the Spanish fortresses and custom house in Portobelo, all of which have been declared World Cultural Patrimony by the United Nations.

In cosmopolitan Panama City, you'll find about 120 banks and innumerable shops selling local crafts and a selection of the finest goods from around the world, all at unbelievably low prices. Virtually every major manufacturer in the world is represented in the Colon Free Zone.

Throughout Panama you'll discover an abundance of fine restaurants, hotels, convention facilities and nightclubs. And, last but not least, you'll find an abundance of smiles, from Panama's friendly, helpful people, who are eager to ensure that you enjoy your stay here. Welcome to Panama, the crossroads of the world, the home of the Panama Canal and the country of abundance!

This is how Panama City Welcomes the New Year Every Year.

Panama City
During your vacation in the "country of abundance", Panama city will serve as your center of operations. International flights from Europe and the Americas land at the Tocumen Airport and local flights to San Blas, Bocas del Toro, the Pearl Islands and Darien leave from Marcus Gelabert Airpot. In Panama City, you can rent a car to explore the country interior along the Pan-American Highway, charter fishing boats or embark on a cruise out to the Pacific islands.

The central hub for tours going anywhere in the country, Panama City is also a fascinating tourist destination in itself. The cosmopolitan city offers Spanish colonial ruins, excellent museums, beautiful parks, a breathtaking skyline and an immense infrastructure of hotel, restaurant, convention nd banking facilities. At the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks, visitors can spend hours watching cruise ships and freighters moving through the Panama Canal.

Panama Skyline
Many visitors will be surprised by Panama City's skyline of towering skyscrapers, which can be seen from far out in the Pacific Ocean. A bustling center of finance and trade, the city is home to about 120 banks and features innumerable shops filled with the world's finest merchandise. Thanks to low import duties and large volume, prices in Panama City's shops are almost unbelievably low. Two famous shopping districts are the Via España and the Avenida Central, 20 blocks of non-stop shopping. The city, long accustomed to accommodating international palates, offers a tremendous variety of business in its many fine restaurants.
Hotel accommodations are excellent, ranging from internationally recognized names to smaller, boutique inns. Many hotels offer light gambling in casinos and the city is famed for its lively nightlife of discotheques and shows. Panama City is also well equipped to handle all types of conferences and conventions. In the heart of the city and facing the ocean is the beautiful Atlapa Convention Center, with 3,200 square meters of exhibit space and meeting facilities for up to 5,000 people. The Center's theater sponsors a fide variety of cultural events.
Decameron Panama
Old Panama (Panamá "La Vieja")
About two miles from the center of Panama City are found the ruins of the first capital, known as Old Panama or Panama La Vieja, founded in 1519. Fragments of walls and arches stand in an open park, recalling the splendor of the Spaniard's first settlement on the Pacific Ocean. From here, expeditions were mounted to conquer the Inca Empire of South America. All of the wealth from Peru, Chile and California flowed to Spain through Old Panama.

Not surprisingly, the enormous quantities of gold attracted pirates like sharks to Panama's waters. When Henry Morgan looted the city in 1671, Panama's governor ordered the powder magazine burned and the whole city went up in flames. The capital was moved two miles to the west, and present-day Panama City was founded in 1673. The most impressive structures remaining are the cathedral, with a massive bell-tower, and the Bishop's House. In front of the ruins, alongside the ocean, is an artisan's market, full of native crafts, and a small restaurant with a fine view out to a bay where Spanish galleons and pirate ships once lifted sail.
Panama Viejo
Casco Viejo
Casco Viejo Panama
Also known as Colonial panama, Casco Viejo is the historic center of today's capital. It is a quiet, charming district of narrow streets overlooked by the flower bedecked balconies of two and three-story houses. At its tip lies French Park, a monument to the French builders who began the Panama Canal, and the lovely French Embassy. On the walkway around the monument, visitors have a fine view of the Amador Causeway and Bridge of the Americas, and of Panama City's skyscraper skyline to the east. A plaque on the walkway commemorates the firing of canon shots to drive away a Colombian warship and consolidate Panama's independence from Colombia in 1903.

To one side of the monument is an old Spanish structure called Las Bovedas now used as an art gallery and French restaurant. Some excellent museums are found in the Casco Viejo, including the Canal Museum, which traces Panama's history as the route connecting Atlantic and Pacific from pre-Hispanic to modern times. Next door is the Museum of National History and the old cathedral, with gleaming spires inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
Nearby is a small museum dedicated to religious art, found in the old Santo Domingo monastery, where visitors will also see the famous Flat Arch, which reportedly helped convince engineers that Panama was earth quake-proof.
At the San Jose Cathedral a few blocks away is the beautiful Gold Altar, intricately carved of wood and gilded with gold. Another beautiful building in the Casco Viejo is the Presidential House, which can be toured on Sundays.

Amador CauseWay
Built to provide a calm harbor for ships entering the Panama Canal, the Amador Causeway ex- tends from the mainland to connect four small islands offshore. A palm lined road runs the length of the causeway, with benches and a path for bicycling and jogging along side. The offices of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute are found here, as well as the Marine Exhibition Center, open in the afternoons from Tuesday to Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

At the center, there are educational films and exhibits of coral, seashells, starfish and sea urchins where, unlike other museums, touching is encouraged! Six aquariums arranged at children height feature marine life from the Caribbean and Pacific and one tank is filled with gigantic lobsters. A telescope has been set up for viewing ships anchored offshore, with charts that are useful in identifying types of boats.
Panama Causeway
Metropolitan Park
Metropolitan Park
In Panama, your ecotour can actually begin right on the outskirts the city, where there is a large tropical forest reserve called Parque Metropolitano. Along the five trails of this convenient park can be seen a diversity of tropical wildlife, including toucans, parakeets, orioles, trogons, sloths, agoutis and Titi monkeys. There is also a collection of native orchids, some of which will be blooming at any time of the year. Plant species are identified by plaques along the self- guided trails. Visitors can also arrange a guided tour with a ranger at the visitor's center.

Sun and beaches

With about a thousand miles of Caribbean and Pacific coastline, and hundreds of picturesque islands, Panama is a beach lover's paradise. The combination of white sand, crystalline, tropical water and some fine accommodations attract thousands of vacationers from all over the world. You'll find facilities for your favorite recreational activities close at hand. Whether your penchant is snorkeling, diving, fishing, windsurfing or golfing, a vacation on Panama's beaches is guaranteed to meet your highest expectations for tropical fun. Here are a few of the beaches you'll be able to choose from.


Isla Contadora

The fifth-Iargest of the Pearl Islands, which were discovered by Balboa in 1514, Contadora is located in the Pacific Ocean about 50 miles from Panama City. Here, in the 220 islands of the Pearl Island group, the Spaniards found the famed, 31-carat pearl known as "La Peregrina" that was given to the Queen of Spain. Contadora Island features fine hotels, restaurants, a dive shop, a 9-hole golf course and oven a duty-free store. Among its 13 beaches, there is one where you can sunbathe au natural if you like. You can take excursions to nearby islands, most of which are uninhabited, and find your own private beach for sunbathing and picnicing. Just across the way is Pacheca Island, roosting spot for magnificent frigate birds and an excellent spot for bird watching.


Playa Coronado

On the mainland, to the west of Panama City, stretch miles of inviting beaches: Punta Chame, Gorgona, Coronado, San Carlos, El Palmar, Playa Blanca, Costa Blanca and Farallon, to name but a few. The best developed of these is Coronado, about an hour's drive from the city. A fine, 18-hole golf course combined with first-rate hotel accommodations and a white-sand beach guarantee the perfect tropical golf vacation. The golf course sponsors a number of international tournaments every year.


Isla Taboga

This lovely island, popularly known as the "Island of Flowers," can be reached in an hour by boat from Panama City. A popular spot for a day trip or overnight stay, Taboga offers fine beaches, restaurants and hotel accommodations.

Popular activities on the island include sunbathing, diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, or just strolling along the flower-festooned paths and enjoying the slow pace of island life.
Taboga Island has played an important part in Panama's history. The first Spanish settlement was founded there in 1524, and Pizarro's expedition to Peru depart- ed from the island in 1526. Pirates Francis Drake and Henry Morgan have stopped over in its sheltered cove. A hotel industry grew up during the California gold rush, and then the island hosted a hospital during the building of the Panama Canal. An American naval base was built on Taboga during WWII, and visitors today can explore an artillery bunker on the island's summit, while enjoying a breath- taking view of the Panama City skyline in the distance. The far side of the island is a protected refuge, where tens of thousands of brown pelicans nest every year.


Things to know..

Be sure to consult a local embassy or your travel agent about entry requirements before traveling to Panama or visit the "Ask the Consulate of Panama in Houston" forum and ask your questions there.

As in most of Central America the majority of the population is Catholic, but all other denominations are represented and respected throughout the country.

Jan. 1st New Years Day
Jan. 9th Martyrs Day
Feb. 28th Tuesday of Carnaval
March/April (date changes) Easter Friday
May 1st Workers Day
act. 12th Columbus Day
Nov: 3rd Separation from Colombia
Nov: 10th First Cry of Independence
Nov: 2Bth Independence from Spain
Dec. Bth Mothers Day
Dec. 25th Christmas Day

For official dates on these and other events visit the OFFICIAL CALENDAR OF EVENTS in PANAMA.


All major credit cards are accepted throughout the country and in most of the tourist areas.


The official currency is the Balboa and is equivalent to one US dollar. US dollars are widely accepted everywhere in Panama.


A valid passport is needed to enter. The requirement for visas to enter Panama has been waived for many countries. It is best to check with a Panamanian consulate before traveling. A tourist card is sometimes needed to enter and can be bought at the airline counter or before entering immigration. If you are going to overstay your allotted time extend your visa or tourist card with immigration. Heavy fines are levied for late exiting.


Panama is a democratically elected Republic and elections are held every four years.


Panama is in the Eastern time zone and does not observe daylight savings time.


A tip of 10 to 15% is common in Panama. Some restaurants include the tip in the bill so check with management before tipping.

Most banks are open Monday thru Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 1 :00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. There are a few that are open on Saturday.

Panama lies very close to the equator and enjoys a tropical climate. Temperatures vary between 80-90 Fahrenheit (25-30 celsius). Humidity is very high. Panama I two seasons. The dry season la from January to mid-April and rainy season from mid-April December.

Bring light-weight clothing. A wide- brimmed hat and sunglasses are important if you are hiking or at the coast. Dress for business is formal so bring your suit -lightweight if you have one.


Telecommunications are first-class and direct-dial service to anywhere in the world is available. Fax, telex, internet and other telecommunication services are available.


A US$20 departure tax is charged when you exit the country.


Panama has some of the most modern and best-equipped hospitals in Central America.


Panama has 110 volt and 60 cycles service.


Spanish is the official language but English is spoken in most of the larger cities and tourist areas.


The population is a variation of many different cultures; 62% mes- tizo, 14% African descent, 10% Spanish descent, 5% mulatto and 5% Indian.


Panama consists of three different landscape areas. The lowlands (below 2,300 ft.), make up over 85 percent of the country's territory, the temperate lands (2,300 to 4,900ft.) and the highlands at elevations higher than 4,900 feet above sea level. There are more than 1 ,600 islands within the territorial area of Panama. Over 500 rivers run through the country and more than half of Panama is still forested.


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Last Modified June 23, 2009