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Panama

Main attractions

Panama City
Panama City / Shawnna Porter, / CC BY 2.0

Panama is somewhat less rich with exciting man made landmarks if compared with many other Latin American countries - but some of these monuments are very exciting. The nature of Panama in turn is impressive almost everywhere.

Highlights of Panama are:

  • Biodiversity. Being between South America and North America, between Caribbean and Pacific has resulted in a very high biological diversity. Panama has thousands of species which are found nowhere else and, most likely - many more still waiting to be discovered. Unique ecosystems have developed in montane meadows (paramos) and cloud forests in the high mountains, special biotopes have developed on secluded islands.
  • Archaeological monuments. Overshadowed by the great Mayan and Inca civilizations to the north and south, Panama though has interesting monuments created by local cultures. Country has amazing, undicephered petroglyphs and impressive, somewhat enigmatic stone sculptures.
  • Historical cities. Some of the oldest European cities (and stone structures) in Americas are located in Panama, with interesting architecture in Renaissance and Baroque styles.

Natural landmarks

Caves

  • Bayano Caves (El Majé Caves) - Panamá. Group of three spectacular show caves. The largest cave is some 2 km long, with Seco River running through it. This cave can be entered with a boat.
  • Nivida Cave - Bocas del Toro. One of the largest caves in Panama, approximately 1.4 km long.
Swallowtail butterfly on Saino Island, Panama
Swallowtail butterfly on Saino Island / Comrogues, / CC BY 2.0

Ecosystems

  • Cerro Gaital - Coclé. 1,185 m tall mountain. Summit is covered with cloud forest, here live numerous rare and endemic animals and plants. Both Pacific and Caribbean can be seen from this mountain.
  • Cerro Pirre elfin forest (Serranía de Pirre forest, Alturas de Nique) - Darién. Beautiful, stunted montane forest at the height of 1100 - 1200 m. Here live endemic species of birds, other animals, plants. Area still is poorly researched.
  • Coiba Island - Veraguas. Numerous endemic subspecies and species of animals and plants have developed on this jungle covered island in a relatively short time period - 12 - 18 thousand years.

Other natural landmarks

  • La Cascada Kiki - Chiriquí. Powerful waterfall with a vertical plunge. Reportedly the tallest waterfall in Panama.
  • Natural bridge on Madden Lake - Panamá. Natural bridge - remnant of collapsed cave over an arm of Madden Lake. Bridge is some 75 m wide, up to 14 m tall. Per-Columbian artefacts under the bridge.

Man made landmarks

Pre-Columbian stone sculptures

  • Barriles - Chiriquí. Possible ceremonial centre and settlement, which was used sometimes around 500 - 1000 AD. Here have been found very interesting, large stone statues. Statues show men, some with conical hats, there are also barrel-shaped stones.
  • El Caño Archaeological Park - Coclé. Important and interesting archaeological site, albeit much plundered. In this place has been found circular row of stone columns and mounds with burials from the time period between 500 and 1550 AD.
  • Santa Marta archaeological site - Chiriquí. The only site in Panama where one perfectly round stone ball has been found. More such places are in the neighboring Costa Rica.
La Piedra Pintada in El Valle, Panama
La Piedra Pintada in El Valle / mestdagh, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Petroglyphs

  • La Piedra Pintada in El Valle - Coclé. Enormous stone covered with intricate, mysterious petroglyphs and also some human faces, lizards.
  • Nancito petroglyphs - Chiriquí. Group of very interesting petroglyphs on several enormous boulders.
  • Nueva Suiza petroglyph stone - Chiriquí. Interesting stone with complex system of petroglyphs, which, possibly, shows a scheme of nearby Baru volcano.

Other Pre-Columbian sites

  • Casite de Piedra shelter - Chiriquí. Pre-Columbian rock shelter, used for more than 9 000 years. Contains a pile of 12 stones, which were used in shamanic rituals some 4 000 - 4 800 years ago.
  • Cerro Punta - Chiriquí. Archaeological find of the oldest known human remnants in Panama. This settlement was inhabited roughly at 10,000 BC.
  • Monagrillo site - Herrera. Important site of Monagrillo culture, inhabited sometimes around 2500 - 1200 BC. Here have been found the earliest samples of Central American ceramics and early examples of maize.
  • Sitio Conte - Coclé. Necropolis, which was used roughly in 450 - 900 AD. Very rich finds of native art and utensils in the graves. Site includes also two rows of stone columns.
Soledad Miria island after the fire, Panama
Soledad Miria Island, after the fire caused by exploded gas stove in 2006 / Jhayne, / CC BY 2.0

Historical cities and towns

  • Casco Viejo - Panamá. The new town of Panama was established after the fire in the old town in 1673. Contains some 800 interesting buildings from the 18th - 19th century. Architecture in Panama is an interesting mix of Spanish, French and early American styles.
  • Mamitupo, Soledad Miria and other densely inhabited islands of San Blas Archipelago - Guna Yala. Mamitupo and several other small Caribbean islands at Panama are densely covered with wooden buildings of Guna people.
  • Panamá Viejo - Panamá. The oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of Americas, founded in 1519 and abandoned in the mid-17th century. City had a Renaissance planning with rectilinear street network. Ruins of historical buildings remain in this otherwise unbuilt area.
  • Portobelo - Colón. Small historical city on Caribbean coast of Panama, built as a part of Spanish trade route. Contains many valuable historical buildings from the 16th - 19th century. Around the city are many fortifications from the 16th - 18th century.

Churches

  • Church of Our Lady of Carmen in Panama - Panamá. Gorgeous Neo-Gothic cathedral, built in 1947 - 1955.
  • Metropolitan Cathedral of Panama - Panamá. Ornate cathedral in Baroque style, constructed in 1668 - 1796.
  • Natá Church - Coclé. Possibly the oldest church in Panama and mainland America, founded by the Spanish in May 20 1522. This beautiful Renaissance - Baroque structure is in good condition.
  • San Atanasio Church - Los Santos. Old, ornate church in Baroque style, construction started in 1559.
  • St. Joseph's Church - Panamá. Church with golden altar. This altar remains from the previous Panama city. Altar was saved from pirates - it was buried in mud.
  • Taboga San Pedro Church - Panamá, Taboga Island. Very old church in Renaissance style, considered to be the second oldest church in Panama, built around 1524.
Bridge of the Americas, Panama
Bridge of the Americas / Jeff Dooley, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Bridges

  • Bridge of the Americas - Panamá. Iconic bridge across the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. This cantilever bridge is 1,654 m long, with 61.3 m clearance. Constructed in 1962.
  • Centennial Bridge - Panamá. Spectacular cable-stayed bridge across Panama Canal, 1,052 m long, clearance - 80 m. Constructed in 2004.

Other man made landmarks

  • Fort San Lorenzo - Colón. Beautiful example of the military architecture from the 16th - 17th century, part of Spanish transatlantic trade route. Construction was started in 1598, fort abandoned in 1821.
  • Gatun Dam - Colón. 2.3 km long earthen dam, which created Gatun Lake - important part of Panama Canal. Includes hydropower plant. Dam was constructed in 1907 - 1913 and was the largest construction of such kind in the world.
  • Palazio de las Garzas - Panamá. Residence of the President of Panama, governmental office. Building was initially constructed in 1673 but has been significantly modified over the time. In 1922 herons were introduced in the coutryard and since then are freely roaming here.
  • Portobelo Customs House - Colón. One of the oldest preserved buildings in the historical Portobelo town, constructed in Renaissance style in 1630 - 1634.
  • Santiago Secondary School - Veraguas. Very ornate school building in Moorish Revival style, constructed in the late 1930s.

List of described attractions by provinces and comarcas

Panama is divided into nine provinces and five indigenous regions - comarcas.

Bocas del Toro
Chiriquí
Coclé
ArrowNatá ChurchChurches
Colón
Darién
Emberá
Guna Yala
Herrera
Kuna de Madugandi
Kuna de Wargandí
Los Santos
Ngöbe-Buglé
Panamá
Veraguas

Map of Panama

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