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Visiting its Canal, visiting the ruins of the city, sailing on the ferry, diving in crystalline waters and watching whales and flying fish are some of the activities that tourists can do while connecting with nature, history and life.
“What they see here was what we had left after the pirate Henry Morgan sacked and destroyed the city. The flames consumed everything there was, but the ruins still tell a story full of magic. ” Thus begins his story Franco, the tour guide who leads the walkthrough Panama the Old, a place that transports tourists to those years in which pirates, slaves and royalty disputed a struggle for freedom, power and glory. From those years, while advancing step by step, you can see the Pacific coast and a part of the mangrove, which make the city a place of contrast between the modern, the natural and the ruins.
When crossing a small entrance and taking a car to make the journey (28 kilometres) first, you can see the military fort, followed by the convent of La Merced, the San Francisco and the remains of a cistern, which allowed the nuns receive an income with the sale of the water. But what gives more beauty to the archaeological site is the tower of the Cathedral, which reaches about thirty meters. You can walk, on the first floor are two stairs: the original, which is in the form of a snail, and one that was built so that tourists can reach the top. When ascending the steps it is observed that some parts were constructed with calicanto and others with wood.
When you reach the top floor, the landscape is majestic. You can see the modern city with imposing buildings, the Casco Antiguo and the ruins, the latter declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2003. This site is one of the must-sees if you visit the city, it is the one that gives way and context to Casco Antiguo, another part of Panama, which is reached by Cincuentenario Avenue, which houses museums, restaurants, churches and some convents. The Old Town is the place where the city moved after the pirate Morgan and the devastating fire.
Architecturally avant-garde, colonial and modern constructions are found. There are colourful streets, with balconies, others with giant doors and from one moment to another, the ruins also appear, immense, that gives another air to the city. It is as if in an instant I moved people to another time. To cross each street is to be able to connect with the city, its people and its customs. Panama smells of the sea, sweet and tempting, as its locals express. The roads are always different, but it seems that they lead to a single place: immensity.
This is what is perceived when visiting one of its squares, especially that of France, which has an obelisk that honours the French people, for being the pioneers in the construction of the Panama Canal. In the background the sea, and while climbing some stairs to go to the National Theater, there is a handicraft passage, where before it was only allowed to travel as a couple, but today it is for everyone. “You do not know if you can find a nice love there,” Franco laughs as he points to the ruins of San Javier University, the first in Panama City. The Casco Antiguo is perfect for those who love music, good food and want to delve a little deeper into history.
In Panama, there are plans for everyone, but the must-see is to visit the Canal. From the start, it is imposing. It is very nice to see the ships, the water and in the background the intense green of the jungle area that surrounds it. When entering the Canal, the voice of a man is heard explaining that it works by means of locks at each end, which elevate the ships to make them descend to the Pacific or Atlantic level. A somewhat confusing explanation, but one that is clear when you see it working. It really is shocking, in just a few minutes he manages to make the transition to his destination. People who go on ships greet tourists, and children, for example, look very excited and moved. It’s a feeling they share with their parents, who are stunned watching those monsters of boats.
The Panama Canal is considered one of the great engineering works of the 20th century. In this place, there is a museum that shows the whole process of its construction, the people who led the work, among them the Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps, who completed the excavation of the Suez Canal and presented his project to the Geography Society of Paris. Interoceanic canal without locks. In a small theatre, you can watch a ten-minute video that shows how the Canal works and the most important events of the last hundred years.
It is an experience that can be accompanied by the typical flavours of the country. The Atlantic & Pacific Co. restaurant is in charge of delighting the palate of visitors. It has a terrace that is in front of the Miraflores lock, and while tasting the banana in temptation accompanied by an exquisite rice with chicken, you can observe the transit of the ships, which inside can carry grains, cars or other products. To pass through the Panama Canal is to understand how the economy of the country works and the development it has generated, as well as to visualize other opportunities for tourism since they are betting not only on business but also on adventure tourism and ecotourism.
The country has recognized hotel chains such as the Marriott Executive Apartments, a long-stay hotel perfect for those travelling with family and children, who are now ready to receive those travellers who want to connect with nature and enjoy unexplored beaches, which hide a surprising natural wealth, as is the case of Contadora Island. A beach that is an hour and a half by ferry. Since leaving the port is an adventure. On the way, you can see flying fish, which reach the height of the boat, in the distance whales and a diversity of birds that disconnect tourists from the hustle and bustle of the city. Between fish and whales, the colours of the sea are amazing. It goes from a dark blue to emerald green.
When arriving at Contadora, the warm weather, the softness of the sand and the crystalline colour of the water steal all eyes. It is a place where you can contemplate the immensity of nature, the fragrance of trees and the beauty of life. “Everything is pure life”, are the words that a tourist utters while enjoying the waters of the Pacific. Being in Panama is like feeling at home. A cozy, quiet and beautiful place.
Source: El Espectador