1. Panama Canal
To cross the Panama Canal is an adventure as exciting as crossing the Equator, for example, but rather more spectacular. The 82-kilometer canal is considered to be one of the modern architecture wonders. It took more than thirty years to be completed; today Panama Canal is the landmark not only to the Panama City but to the whole country as well. The first man to look for a strait where Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet was Columbus, but his search failed. However, when it was found, the Spanish king put ban on building a canal as he said: "what God have made one we shouldn't part". Some people believe it is why so many constructors have found their death while building the Panama Canal. The motto of the Panama Canal is "For the Benefit of the World". Cruising through that astonishing achievement will be something to remember for the rest of your life.
2. Panama City Skyline
The vivid beat of Panama City reflects the fast-growing and developing Panamanian capital. It is the single connection between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and as such it is stunningly tempting. The city skyline is the most modern and famous in Central America. Panama City is glowing megapolis with exclusive buildings located on its shores. There are numerous skyscrapers, which define the appearance of Panama City. Four of them are taller than 200 meters and they can be seen from almost any point in the city. The champion of Panamas skyscrapers is the 210-meter tall Aqualina Tower. The best sites to stare at the colourful lights of Panama City are Anton Hill, the top of Punta Paitilla and the International Banking Center. Since the starting of constructing skyscrapers in 2006 Panama City have turned into a city with so exquisite skyline that it is often called the "Dubai of the Americas".
3. Panama Viejo (Old Panama)
From the modern skyline of Panama City we head to the old spirit of the city. The Panama Viejo, Colonial Panama or Casco Viejo as it is also called is the historical heart of the modern capital of Panama. It is an absolute must-visit place as it will take you back in the 17th century when colonists settled in the area. Walk around the narrow streets, feel the ocean breeze, contemplate the view and mostly enjoy the old buildings. Start with the Church of the Golden Alter, the Santo Domingo Church, Flat Arch and San Jose Cathedral. Then head to the constructions from the so called Canal-era. The French monument devoted to the French builders of the canal as well as the old building of the French Embassy and the Presidential House. Rambling around this historical area will be a genuine hop into the old glorious days of Panama City when the Spanish empire was at its zenith.
4. San Blas Islands
Have you ever wanted to live like Robinson Crusoe on desert island? Well, if you have, San Blas islands are just the right place to live through the destiny of the castaway even if only for a day or two. The islands of San Blas are located alongside the Caribbean coast of Panama and feature nearly 400 isles. Only fifty of them are inhabited by the Indian tribe Kuna which are considered to be the descendants of the Indians that Columbus met first. They managed to preserve most of their ancient traditions and customs and for that reason the San Blas Islands are untouched by the modern tourist concept. You won't find a five-star hotel but you will be able to have a nap in a hammock, while the pleasant breeze of the ocean flatters you. The beautiful scenery, the opportunity to merge into the Indian community and dive into one of the world's best coral reefs make visiting San Blas Islands a unique lifetime experience.
5. Bridge of the Americas
The Bridge of the Americas, the linking point between the two continents - South and North America is one of the most popular sightseeing stops in a Panama tour. Located at more than 350 feet above sea level, and 5400 feet long, this incredible construction was made in the mid-20th century, 30 years after the building of the Panama Canal. The official name of the bridge was actually Thatcher Ferry but as it was rather unpopular among Panamanian they preferred to call it the "Bridge of the Americas". This spectacular modern architecture masterpiece is more like link between two opposite worlds which meet where both oceans reach each other. There is some irony in the Bridge of the Americas as it connects what the Panama Canal unnaturally parts.
6. Gatun Lake
Gatun Lake, often called the waiting room of Panama Canal, was the largest artificial lake in the world at the time it was created. Covering 425 square kilometres, the Gatun Lake was also the biggest dam on the planet at that time. The lake is a natural preserve as well. It is known for some of the best sunrises, equalling in beauty to all the post cards taken together. With the virgin islands scattered on its surface and the deep tropical forest, Gatun Lake is one thrilling adventure. On the shores of the lake you will see iguanas basking in the sun, colourful toucans and monkeys jumping all over the rain forest. The Gatun Lake is crossing the Chagres River, which is a traveling 600 years back in the time. This makes Gatun Lake rambling between the old Indian days and the modern Panama Canal era.
7. San Lorenzo Castle
At the very end of the Chagres River, you have the incredible opportunity to visit a Spanish fortress from the 16th century, called San Lorenzo Castle. It was made by the order of the famous Spanish king Phillip II. The construction was erected in the major port Colon on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. The original building was demolished and reconstructed in the mid-18th century. The renewed castle is listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Deep into the Panama jungle, the San Lorenzo fortress features nearly 10,000 acres of rainforest and miles of the Caribbean coast. In the Spanish era, this castle was highly significant as it served as gold depot. Because of the potential threat of pirate attacks, the castle was built more like a fortress rather than like a typical palace. Climb to the historical San Lorenzo Castle and let your imagination go wild for the glorious battles, pirates and royals that have crossed the paths you walk today.
8. Coiba National Marine Park
The Coiba National Marine Park is located near the southeast coast of Panama. It features the pristine beauty of Coiba Island as well as 38 small islands and the surrounding waters of Chiriqui Bay. The moist tropical forest of Coiba Island is located so that it is not affected by the cold winds and the El Nino stream. This natural site is a place where evolution continues to develop new spices. You can see endemic plants, animals, birds as well as rare and endangered spices such as the Marshal eagle. The Coiba National Marine Park is an extraordinary natural laboratory with significant importance for the tropical forests in the Pacific Ocean area. In this preserve the diversity of sea spices is outstanding - more than 750 fish, 30 sharks and 20 cetaceans. The isolated Coiba National Marine Park is a top destination for exploring jungle flora and fauna. The incredible beauty of the park brought it the nickname "Gardens of Eden".
9. Pearl Islands
The Pearl Islands are literally the crown jewels of Panama. The archipelago consists of more than 100 islands some of which extremely small and uninhabited. However, the rest of them are pure tropical exotic pleasure for all the senses. The name of the islands came from the many pearls located there when the Spanish colonials first came in the 16th century. The world famous Pelegrina pearl, owned by European royals, was found in the waters of these Panamanian islands. Today, what attract your attention are not the pearls, but the white soft sands and the crystal-clear waters of the Pacific Ocean. The Pearl islands offer one of a kind diving and snorkelling experience into this rather unspoiled tropical area. Sail, ramble around make a historical trip to discover all the secrets hidden on Pearl Islands by Indians, pirates and Spanish settlers. Head to the Pearl Island and reveal their exotic beauty!
10. La Amistad International Park
La Amistad International Park is a shared preserve between the neighbour countries of Panama and Costa Rica. It covers nearly 500,000 acres of exotic rainforests, paramo, glacial lakes, oak forest and cloud forest. La Amistad International Park features parts of the magnificent Cordillera de Talamanca, which is the border line of the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean coasts. It is a place where the North and South America connect and you can see incredible variety of plant and animal spices. There you can come across wild cats, tiger cats, pumas and jaguars. It is one of the top sites for bird enthusiasts as the park is home to 500 bird spices. One of the most intriguing places is the virgin oak forest where seven types of oak can be found. In this thrilling jungle forest, there are many parts that remain unexamined, which makes the visit to La Amistad International Park even more tempting.
Paula Mancini on 01 Feb 2012
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