Watch the ocean giants closely and the history behind this world renown project
This path is the only one created by man that unites two oceans, the Pacific and the Atlantic. The French were the first to try to build a canal in Panama, in 1880. The engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps, who had already shown his talent in the successful construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt, was in charge of this project. However, economic difficulties and illnesses spoiled the plan.
—–The Union of the Oceans—–
In 1904, John F. Stevens drew up a new plan to build it. To carry out this mega construction, 75,000 workers were needed, of which 30,000 lost their lives due to land displacements, malaria and yellow fever. The Panama Canal was officially opened in August 1914, after the outbreak of the First World War.
This marvel of world engineering has multiple places where you can live its history, and explore the nature that surrounds it, which is vital for its optimal functioning.
- Miraflores Visitor Center
A place where you can live a unique experience of the Panama Canal. Here you will find different activities to know and enjoy this engineering marvel. The tour lasts approximately 1 hour and a half. This visitor center has three levels that allows you to watch the canal operations, the passing of ships through the locks. It is the ideal place to take photos and have a lasting memory.
- Agua Clara Visitor Center
Located on the Atlantic side, this place is known by its impressive panoramic view that contrasts two particular scenarios, which generates an unprecedented mix of sensations. On one side you will find the famous Gatun Lake, where ships pass through this magnificent work of modern engineering day after day; In the same way you will be impressed by the view of the new locks and the passing through of the giant Neo Panamax ships.
—–Ciudad del Saber—–
At a few minutes from Panama City, and looking at the Canal, 120 hectares and more than 200 buildings of the old Clayton military base were transformed into Ciudad del Saber (City of Knowledge).
From this specialized center within the banks of the Canal, businessmen, scientists, thinkers, artists, community leaders, as well as experts from government, NGOs and international organizations, collaborate to develop initiatives that generate social change in Panama and the world.
- An Innovative Community
Here you can enjoy a program of activities designed to share culture and knowledge as well as to promote community well-being, through conferences, workshops and other events on scientific, business, humanistic and artistic topics, where locals and foreigners can attend. Most of the activities are open to the general public and are cost free.
If you want to spend some time outdoors surrounded by nature, they have a recreational complex and sports facilities.
If you don’t have a car, you can get there by metro bus, since this campus is connected to the Albrook Bus Terminal.
—–Forest Parks and Trails—-
Of the more than 339,000 hectares of the Panama Canal Hydrographic Basin, some 157,000 hectares (or 47% of the total) are covered by forests. Almost 70% of that forest area is found within the Chagres, Altos de Campana, Soberania, Camino de Cruces and Barro Colorado National Parks. The Panama Canal having this huge amount of forest around, is one of the Man sustainable ecotourism promoters in this area of Panama.
- Chagres National Park
Culture, history, water sports and abundant nature converge in this epic park. It consists of 125,000 hectares with countless streams and waterfalls that lead to both the Chagres River and Lake Alajuela. In the forest there are also 48 km. that still survive from the Camino Real trail. Currently, part of the original pavement can still be seen. This experience is considered one of the best in the continent by National Geographic.
The rugged terrain offers hills and cloud-covered peaks, such as Cerro Jefe. From this wonderful peak with a thousand meters high, you can enjoy spectacular views of the Panama Canal.
When you’re done exploring on foot, you can try some water sports in the park, including rafting, kayaking, and fishing. You can also canoe down the Chagres River to visit the Embera indigenous community. You can also enjoy guided tours though ancient trails to learn about their way of life.
- Soberania National Park
At only 45 minutes from Panama City, this park is located near the banks of the Panama Canal and expands far and wide around 22,000 hectares. The park contains tropical dry forest, countless species of animals, and the Chagres River, which runs through it.
If you like birds, you must start at the Pipeline Trail. An ecological path with the record for the largest number of bird species observed in a 24-hour period: 357 species in total. This number includes exotic birds such as toucans, trogons, motmots, flycatchers, woodpeckers, falcons, and tanagers, along with extremely rare birds such as red-bellied woodpeckers, crested eagles, black toucans, sirystes, rufous-bellied ground-cuckoo and harpy eagles, this last one is an endangered species.
For an especially beautiful walk, take the Plantation Trail. It is a 13 kilometers trail where you will find viewpoints where you can watch waterfalls, wildlife and interesting tropical plants such as cocoa, rubber and coffee trees.
If you prefer a hiking adventure with a bit of history, take the Camino de Cruces. This trail was built in 1527 to connect Old Panama with Venta de Cruces, an old port on the banks of the Chagres River. Today, some of the original stones from the trail can still be seen. The entire route goes all the way to the Caribbean coast, but you can also walk in shorter paths.
- Camino de Cruces National Park
Located 15 km north of Panama City, it was created in 1992 in order to conserve the ecosystems and species of tropical forests.
It has 4,000 hectares and preserves sections of the cobblestone of the old Camino Real de Cruces or Camino de Cruces, which linked the Panama City with the Atlantic coast. Today it serves as a bridge between the Soberania and Metropolitan parks.
—-Things to Do—
Go on a 6-hour tour on the southbound part of the Panama Canal. The “tour” takes place on a small boat from the Gamboa pier, you will cross the famous snake cut (corte culebra) and the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks. You will enjoy lunch and impressive views of the Centenario and Las Americas bridges. Information: www.viator. com .
Take a 17-kilometre hike on the Pipeline Trail at Soberania National Park, originally built for the maintenance of an oil pipeline during World War II. Today, is one of the best trails in the world for bird watching. Hiking $5.00 per person, call 232-4192.
Learn all about bird watching at the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center, a place in the middle of the jungle where you can discover a large number of birds either on the trails or on top of the impressive bird-watching tower that stands above 32 meters high in the Soberania National Park. Information: www.pipelineroad.org.
Visit Ciudad del Saber (City of Knowledge) and attend one of the events offered by this cultural and technological innovation center throughout the year. Activities and events: www.ciudaddelsaber.org/proximoseventos/
Relax watching the huge ships passing through the locks at the Agua Clara Visitor Center at Colon Province. Learn more about the history of the Canal on the Atlantic side and its connection with all the nature that surrounds it, as well as with the Gatun Lake. Information: https://visitcanaldepanama.com/es/sitios-de-interes/centro-de-visitantes-de-agua-clara/