To help inspire or plan your trip to Panama, some of its major attractions
for travellers are shown below, including some of the best natural, historical, cultural and adventure sites in the country.
These include all of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for Panama which represent the best
of the world's cultural and natural heritage.
Click on the icons below to focus on specific types of features (click again to return to all).
The settlement at Panama City was founded in 1519 by the conquistador Pedrarías Dávila, the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas. It served as a conduit for the gold and silver plundered by the Spanish in Peru to be transferred by land across the isthmus before being shipped to Europe. The oldest part of town is Panama Viejo, destroyed by fire in 1672, and now a public park with impressive ruins of the cathedral, town hall and various churches and houses. Its replacement, the Historic District of Panama, is an impressive and atmospheric Spanish colonial city with pastel coloured houses, mansions, the plaza and the ramparts which afford views of the 'Bridge of the Americas' and the skyscrapers of the modern town. A site of note is the Salón Bolívar, the venue for the unsuccessful attempt made by Simon Bolivar in 1826 to establish a multinational continental congress.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá
|Forts of Portobelo and San Lorenzo|
The forts of Portobelo and San Lorenzo are located on Panama's Caribbean coast and were built in the 17th and 18th centuries by the Spanish colonial military to guard access to the Isthmus of Panama and protect its trade routes between Europe and its American colonies. The forts were regularly attacked and captured and subsequently rebuilt three times, after raids by the privateer Henry Morgan in 1668 and the British Admiral Vernon in 1739 and 1761.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo
Panama is famous worldwide for the canal which traverses the country and connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Completed in 1914 after 34 years construction, the canal is 55km long and takes 30-40 ships a day. There are three locks from where you can view the vessels passing through the canal and being lifted and raised/lowered- Miraflores Lock on the Pacific side close to Panama , Pedro Miguel Lock near Gamboa and Gatun Lock near the Caribbean coast. There is also the chance to cross the 'Bridge of the Americas' which crosses over the canal.
|Darien National Park|
Darien National Park is located along the Colombian border with Panama and the Pacific coast. It comprises a diverse range of habitats including sandy beaches, rocky coasts, mangroves, swamps, and lowland and upland tropical forests. Wildlife found in the park include the jaguar, ocelot, bush dog, capybara, giant anteater, howler monkey, crocodile and harpy eagle. Darien is also home to two major indigenous groups, the Choco and Kuna Indians, and a number of smaller groups who still live by traditional practices. This is an area of true wilderness off the beaten path but its location near the Colombian border means you shouldn't travel without a guide.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Darien National Park
|La Amistad National Park|
La Amistad National Park covers over 4,000 km² on both sides of the Panama-Costa Rica border. The park contains a huge variety of habitats including lowland tropical rainforest, cloud forest, subalpine paramo forests, pure oak stands, glacial lakes and high-altitude bogs. The species diversity is equally impressive with tapir, squirrel monkey and all the Central American wild cats including puma, ocelot, jaguarundi, tiger cat and jaguar. Additionally four different Indian tribes inhabit the park. Walks through the park allow you to spot wildlife and appreciate the remarkable natural scenery. In particular, the Los Quetzales Trail in Panama between Boquete and Cerro Punta around the Baru volcano has spectacular views of the forest and valley and is home to the rare and beautiful Resplendent Quetzal.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park
Boquete is a laid back mountain town that offers some serious adrenaline pumping activities. There's white water rafting through some pristine natural landscapes and forest canopy adventures that take the ropes and ladders once used by scientists to study the forest and allow you to 'fly' through the treetop canopy. At a more relaxed pace, there's the opportunity for hiking in the surrounding region and the chance to visit a local coffee plantation.
|Bocas del Toro Islands|
The Bocas del Toro Islands are an archipelago on Panama's Caribbean coast near the border with Costa Rica. The islands boast an eclectic cultural mix combing English speaking West Indians and Spanish speaking Latinos. Bocas del Toro offers some quintessential Caribbean experiences - palm-fringed white sandy beaches and clear waters, excellent diving and snorkelling opportunities, kayaking, surfing and boat trips to the islands or to go dolphin watching.
|Coiba National Park|
Coiba National Park comprises Coiba Island and 38 smaller islands within the Gulf of Chiriqui off Panama's southern Pacific coast. The islands' Pacific tropical moist forest and the surrounding marine area are host to a great diversity of species with high levels of endemism, including 760 species of marine fish and threatened species such as the crested eagle.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Coiba National Park and its Special Zone of Marine Protection