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Wonders of Panama

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

WorldBlue  Highlights

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.

The most amazing wonders of Panama are:

  • Biodiversity. Being between South America and North America, between the Caribbean and Pacific has resulted in a very high biological diversity. Panama has thousands of species that are found nowhere else and many more still waiting to be discovered. Unique ecosystems have developed in montane meadows (paramos) and cloud forest in the high mountains, and special biotopes have developed on secluded islands.
  • Archaeological monuments. Panama has interesting monuments created by local cultures. The country has amazing, undeciphered petroglyphs and impressive, somewhat enigmatic stone sculptures.
  • Historical cities. Some of the oldest European cities (and stone structures) in the Americas are located in Panama, with interesting architecture in Renaissance and Baroque styles.

Map with the described wonders

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WorldViolet Top 25 wonders of Panama

Geological wonders

La Cascada Kiki


A powerful waterfall with a vertical plunge. Reportedly the tallest waterfall in Panama.

Cascada Kiki, Panama
Cascada Kiki / Danilo Castillo, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Nivida Cave

Bocas del Toro

One of the largest caves in Panama, approximately 1.4 km long.

Bayano Caves (El Majé Caves)


Group of three spectacular show caves. The largest cave is some 2 km long, with the Seco River running through it. This cave can be entered by boat.

Natural bridge on Madden Lake


Natural bridge – a remnant of a collapsed cave over an arm of Madden Lake. The bridge is some 75 m wide, up to 14 m tall. Pre-Columbian artifacts have been found under the bridge.

Biological wonders

Coiba Island


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.

Coiba Island
Coiba Island / Wilko1328, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Cerro Gaital


1,185 m tall mountain. Its summit is covered with cloud forest, and there live numerous rare and endemic animals and plants. Both Pacific and Caribbean can be seen from this mountain.

Cerro Gaital and Cerro Pilon
Cerro Gaital and Cerro Pilon. / Kiam-shim, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Cerro Pirre elfin forest (SerranĂ­a de Pirre forest, Alturas de Nique)


Beautiful, stunted montane forest at the height of 1100 – 1200 m. Here live endemic species of birds, other animals, and plants. The area still is poorly researched.

Archaeological wonders



Possible ceremonial center and settlement that was used sometimes around 500 – 1000 AD. Here have been found exciting, large stone statues. Statues show men, some with conical hats, there are also barrel-shaped stones.

Barriles, one of the stones with petroglyphs
Barriles, one of the stones with petroglyphs. / dimasquiel, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
La Piedra Pintada in El Valle


El Caño Archaeological Park


An important and interesting archaeological site, albeit much plundered. In this place has been found a circular row of stone columns and mounds with burials from the time period between 500 and 1550 AD.

El Caño, row of basaltic slabs
El Caño, row of basaltic slabs / Mabe, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Architecture wonders

Casco Viejo


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.

Roofs in Casco Viejo, Panama
Roofs in Casco Viejo, Panama / Geoff Stearns, Flickr / CC BY 2.0


Small historical city on the Caribbean coast of Panama, built as a part of the Spanish trade route. Contains many valuable historical buildings from the 16th – 19th century. Around the city are many fortifications from the 16th – 18th century.

Portobelo, Panama
Portobelo, Panama. / Jose Leis, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
St. Joseph Church in Panama


Church with a golden altar. This altar remains from the previous Panama city. The altar was saved from pirates – it was buried in mud.

Nata Church (Natá Church)


Possibly the oldest church in Panama and mainland America, founded by the Spanish on May 20, 1522. This beautiful Renaissance-Baroque structure is in good condition.

Natá Church, Panama
Natá Church / Editorpana, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0
Metropolitan Cathedral of Panama


Ornate cathedral in Baroque style, constructed in 1668 – 1796.

Metropolitan Cathedral of Panama
Metropolitan Cathedral of Panama / Erik Cleves Kristensen, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Bridge of the Americas


An 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.

Bridge of the Americas, Panama
Bridge of the Americas, Panama / Jeff Dooley, / CC BY-SA 2.0
San Atanasio Church

Los Santos

Old, ornate church in Baroque style, construction started in 1559.

San Atanasio Church
San Atanasio Church / Andre Pantin, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Church of Our Lady of Carmen in Panama


Gorgeous Neo-Gothic cathedral, built in 1947 – 1955.

Church of Our Lady of Carmen in Panama
Church of Our Lady of Carmen in Panama. / Rodrigo Guerrero, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0
Taboga San Pedro Church


A very old church in the Renaissance style. This might be the second oldest church in Panama it was built around 1524.

Taboga San Pedro Church
Taboga San Pedro Church, Panama. / Gary Denness, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
Fort San Lorenzo


A beautiful example of military architecture from the 16th – 17th century, part of the Spanish transatlantic trade route. Construction was started in 1598, fort was abandoned in 1821.

Fort San Lorenzo
Fort San Lorenzo / Dan Lundberg, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Palacio de las Garzas


Residence of the President of Panama, governmental office. The building was initially constructed in 1673 but has been significantly modified over time. In 1922 herons were introduced in the courtyard and since then are freely roaming here.

Palacio de las Garzas
Palacio de las Garzas / N. Nazareth Valdespino O., Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Portobelo Customs House


One of the oldest preserved buildings in the historical Portobelo town, constructed in Renaissance style in 1630 – 1634.

Portobelo Customs House
Portobelo Customs House / Mabe, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Arosemena Santiago Secondary School


Very ornate school building in Moorish Revival style, constructed in the late 1930s.

Arosemena Secondary School
Portobelo Customs House / Mabe, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Centennial Bridge


A spectacular cable-stayed bridge across Panama Canal, 1,052 m long, clearance – 80 m. Constructed in 2004.

Centennial Bridge across Panama Canal
Centennial Bridge across Panama Canal. / geo.edgonzalez, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Mamitupo, Soledad Miria, and other densely inhabited islands of the San Blas Archipelago

Guna Yala

Mamitupo and several other small Caribbean islands are densely covered with wooden buildings by the Guna people.

Ailigandi / Ben Kucinski, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

WorldYellow Recommended books

Frommer’s Panama

Frommer’s books aren’t written by committee, or by travel writers who simply pop in briefly to a destination and then consider the job done. We use seasoned journalists like Nicholas Gill who has been covering Panama for over a decade and has strong opinions on what travelers should do in the country… and what they can skip without regret. He also understands that not all travelers have the same needs or budgets and so has created a guide that is extremely helpful whether you’re a honeymooner, a backpacker, or are traveling with kids.

The Rough Guide to Panama

Written in Rough Guides’ trademark opinionated style, this travel guide offers insightful, first-hand accounts of Panama’s top sights and local secrets, from the Panama Canal’s new multi-billion-dollar expansion to partying in the Azuero Peninsula.

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