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3 Days in the City

Top Rated Attractions in Panama City

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Calzada de Amador

The construction of the Panama Canal demanded a whole lot more than just digging a really long trench—the engineering required manipulation of an entire geographical system. To calm the ocean waves around the Pacific entrance to the Canal, a colossal breakwater was constructed, that reaches out to the sea, connecting three islands along the way. After its construction in the early 20th century, Fort Grant was established here in 1913, and the area was militarized and fortified by the United States during the World Wars. It was entirely off-limits to Panamanians until 1999, when the zone was finally officially returned to Panama. A road and sidewalk running along the top of this breakwater are the thoroughfares of the Amador Causeway, a great stretch of road for walking, jogging, biking, and especially for the phenomenal views over the Bay of Panama to the city beyond. Because of the heat on the un-shaded road, daytime activity is mostly confined to a few restaurants that make the most of the panorama, along with sightings of boats and brown pelicans, and a smattering of scintillating resorts. Come evening, a bevy of restaurants that double as nightlife spots open on each of the three islands that make up the Calzada. A teeming hive of activities, this waterside avenue hosts a range of attractions including the Centro Artesanal Market, the futuristic Biomuseo and the Punta Culebra Nature Center - which chronicles Panama’s natural heritage - and many others.

Panama Canal

A legend of human struggle, a marvel of economics, and a daily triumph of engineering, the Panama Canal is a captivating story, as well as an awe-inspiring system to watch at work. The tale of the effort to connect two oceans began in 1539, when the first Spanish team studied the feasibility of such a project, and in 1880, the French began actually attempting the construction. After several workers perished during the course of construction, the canal was abandoned until the United States bought control of the zone in 1903. After completion in 1914, it stretched 48 miles (77 kilometers) between the coasts, and today about 13,000 ships representing 5% of global maritime trade pass through the canal each year. Ships around the world are built to fit smoothly through the three locks that function like enormous steps over the isthmus, and pay a fee according to weight to make the 8 to 10-hour transit. The record for the heaviest ship to pass through the canal is frequently redefined, but the smallest fee was paid in 1928, when Richard Halliburton swam through for PAB0.36.

Parque Nacional Soberanía

Permeated with a dazzling viridescence, this park is where time halts and nature outdoes its own self. Sliced by the meandering Chagres River, this 48,000-acre (19424.91 hectare) rainforest reserve spectacularly brims with both native and migrant birds — over hundreds of species have been spotted on just the Pipeline Road trail — and mammals including jaguars, ocelots, howler and capuchin monkeys, anteaters, coatis and agouti, among many others. Tourists are often thrilled to see toucans and leafcutter ants, and the incredible flora playing host to all these animals includes kapok trees, strangler figs, and liana vines. Perhaps the most remarkable attribute of the park is that this wilderness is situated only a few miles northwest of ultra-urban Panama City, running along the eastern edge of the Canal, and has only been a national park since the land was handed over to the Panamanian government in 1999. Its sylvan terrain interspersed with a nexus of winding trails, the park is especially enlivened by the cries of fascinating birds including hummingbirds, crowned woodnymphs, motmots, togons, parrots and more. The very embodiment of Panamanian wilderness, the enchanting Soberania National Park is one of the most prized natural possessions of the country.

Paseo General Esteban Huertas

For a tranquil stroll that will take your breath away, direct your steps towards the Paseo General Esteban Huertas at the southern end of Casco Viejo. A few steps lead up onto this breezy walkway, covered by trellises holding flowering vines over the broad promenade. From 1944 to 1946 the paseo was laid out atop the colonial-era Chiriquí bastion, a particularly well-preserved part of the old city wall. The location was doubtless chosen for the same reasons it's so remarkable today: primarily, for the unobstructed view across the Bay of Panama to the proud gathering of skyscrapers downtown. Bougainvillea climbs the trellis that arches over the promenade to provide partial shade and clusters of bright gorgeous blossoms, and a smattering of artisans set up their crafts along the sidelines for tourists to peruse and carry home.

Parque Natural Metropolitano

Magnificently defining the northern border of Panama City, the entrancing Parque Natural Metropolitano sprawls over 265 hectares (655 acres) of thick forest and incredible biodiversity. It is a valued research site for the Smithsonian Institute and other organizations, and is unique in the Americas as a protected tropical forest within the city limits of a major urban area. Numerous species of mammals like deer, sloths and the archetypal rufous-naped tamarins, over 200 species of plants, hundreds of birds, and special treats like blue morpho butterflies are supported by this nature reserve, and much of this vibrant life is visible from the cleared paths. An assemblage of trails wind through verdant groves, where most visitors embark on hiking expeditions which unravel the truest, most entrancing silhouettes of the park. Having been officially opened in the June of 1988, the park harbors a look-out which proffers scenic vistas of the dazzling silver high-rises of Panama City. Having been utilized as a repository of experimental aircraft during World War II, the park is made more atmospheric by the presence of myriad historic, concrete-clad remains from the war.

Cerro Ancón

Bearing a beautiful sylvan landscape, Cerro Ancón is a lofty hill rising 199 meters (657 feet) tall in the center of the Canal Zone, fringed by remarkably natural surroundings. Affording a breathtaking bird's-eye perspective over Panama City, this hill beckons many curious hikers to its soaring summit. Since 1999, it has been open to the public, and a winding pedestrian road leads up its slopes to the lookout point. Harboring an array of native creatures including deer, sloths and coatimundis, this hill is also a safe haven of myriad migratory birds, depending on the time of the year. In addition to its many natural attractions, the hill is also home to a few cultural establishments which lie nestled near its base; the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo is located on the side closest to Casco Viejo, and around the other side, Mi Pueblito proffers interesting cultural education with a mock village modeling three indigenous Panamanian cultures.

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