The 12 best places to visit in Panama


In the northern centre of the country close to the seaport city of Colón is the 17th century Fort San Lorenzo, overlooking the mouth of the Chagres River. Built by the Spanish to protect transatlantic trade, the Fort San Lorenzo together with the fortified town of Portobelo are considered magnificent examples of 17th century military architecture and as such have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

12. Fuerte De San Lorenzo


Slightly north west from the centre of Panama City is the Metropolitan Natural Park, the only wildlife refuge within the city limits. Visitors have an excellent opportunity of spotting the small Geoffroy's Tamarin monkey, though the highlight of the park has to be the fantastic panoramic view of the city skyscrapers in the distance.

11. Parque Natural Metropolitano


To the east of central Panama City in the suburbs of the modern capital are the remains of the former capitals city centre. Dating from 1519 AD, the largest and most impressive of the ruins is the Old Panama Cathedral, its main tower still standing even after the damage sustained during the earthquake of 1620 AD and the great fire of 1644 AD. The area known as Panamá Viejo has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

10. Panamá Viejo


In the west of the country near the town of Boquete among 90 metre (300 ft) cliffs in the heart of the rainforest are a set of three falls known as the Lost Waterfalls. The 3 to 5 hour hike through privately owned jungle allows visitors the possibility to spot howler monkeys, sloths and tapirs as well as offering incredible views over the canopy to the mountains beyond.

9. Cascadas Perdidas


Running along the financial centre of Panama City, straddling the Pacific Ocean is the Avenue Balboa, showing off one of the finest modern skylines of high rise skyscrapers in Central America.

8. Avenida Balboa


South west from the capital, Panama City, is a large natural area of rarely visited jungle, valleys and lakes surrounded by high peaks. Despite the lack of tourism, the landscape around the 1,182 metre (3,877 ft) Cerro Picacho is regarded a premier hiking location in the country, with the mountain summit offering wonderful views of the wide open valleys and the tranquil Laguna De San Carlos.

7. Cerro Picacho


South of mainland Panama in the Pacific Ocean is the island of Coiba, the largest island in Central America. Linked to the Galapagos Islands by the underwater Coco Ridge mountain chain it is teeming with marine life and considered one of the best places in the world for snorkelers and divers. With such extreme biodiversity on land and beneath the waves, the entire Coiba National Park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

6. Parque Nacional Coiba


At 77 kilometres (48 miles) in length, connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean is the artificial waterway known as the Panama Canal, built to allow the largest cargo ships in the world shorter passage across the region. First opened in 1914 AD the Panama Canal is one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects as well as one of the greatest civil engineering achievements in human history. From the Miraflores Docks just outside of Panama City visitors can get a glimpse of the worlds largest ships and tankers passing through the narrow canal in what is often cited as a Wonder Of The Modern World.

5. Canal De Panama


Dating back to 1673 AD after the near total destruction of the original Panama Viejo is the Casco Viejo - The Old Quarter of the new Panama City. Built on a peninsula surrounded by the sea and a defensive system of walls, the historical centre of the old city has preserved the original 17th century churches, palaces and houses in its old narrow streets. The entire Historic District of Panama City has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Pictured is the Plaza De La Independencia.

4. Casco Viejo Ciudad Di Panama


In the west of the country close to the border with Costa Rica is the Volcan Baru National Park, centred around the 3,475 metre (11,401 ft) volcano of the same name, the tallest mountain in Panama. Part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, the park is teeming with wildlife and unusual plant species within a protected area of high mountains and thick jungle. The trail to the summit is long, hard and strenuous but offers those that make it some of the most amazing panoramic natural views in the country.

3. Parque Nacional Volcan Baru


In the extreme east of the country, the almost untouched forests of the Darien National Park create a natural border between Panama and Colombia. Sometimes referred to as the Darien Gap because it bridges the two Americas, its habitat ranges from rocky coastline, sandy beaches and large swamps to huge areas of tropical forest. Teeming with wildlife, the Darien is home to something far more dangerous than big cats and poisonous creatures - Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and other guerrilla groups that hide out in the dense jungle. One of the least visited and most dangerous locations on Earth, this otherwise pristine protected area of land high in biodiversity and relatively untouched by human activity has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2. Parque Nacional Darien


In the west of the country crossing borders and split between Costa Rica and Panama is La Amistad International Park, the largest nature reserve in Central America. Encompassing the high Talamanca mountain range, its peaks reach 3,820 metres (12,530 ft) above sea level with most of the park covered by huge tropical jungle and high cloud forests. Teeming with wildlife it is an area of extreme biodiversity with many endangered and rare species. For this reason it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1. Parque Internacional La Amistad

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