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A Panama city guide – UNESCO World Heritage Sites, eco-tourism, nightlife and the Panama Canal

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Panama is growing in popularity as a tourist destination and it is no surprise why. Between the rich history of the country, the diverse range of flora and fauna and the lively night scene, there is more than enough to satisfy the intrepid traveler. Beaches, rainforest and city sights are just the tip of the iceberg however, as the wonder that is the Panama Canal draws visitors from far and wide. Connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean it is not only an important maritime milestone but an iconic symbol of the country it dissects.  

Elvis Aguilar

My Destination local expert on


UNESCO World Heritage Sites


There are two UNESCO World Heritage sites in Panama City and they are both worthy of a visit. Panama Viejo is the first Panama City founded in 1519 and subsequently destroyed by pirates in 1671. The ruins have been maintained throughout the years and you can visit them to get an insight into its history. There is also a museum on site that you can visit if you want to learn more. Casco Antiguo is the first “modern” city founded in 1673 showcasing beautiful colonial architecture and several historic attractions: The Cathedral, the Golden Altar, the National Theater, Plaza Bolivar and the Presidential House – El Palacio de las Garzas. You will also find several restaurants and souvenir shops in this area.




The Metropolitan National Park is a protected tropical forest within the city of Panama. It is 232 hectares, and you can spot a great diversity of birds, butterflies, monkeys and amphibians by walking around its trails. From the highest point in the park – Cerro Cedro, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city. Soberania National Park is 25 minutes from the city. It is 55,000 acres and has one of the richest diversity of species. There are several hiking trails: the Pipeline trail – 17km, popular for bird-watching, Plantation trail – 6.5km, Cruces trail – 10km, Bike path trail – 17.5km and El Charco trail – 0.8km. El Charco trail leads to a waterfall and natural pond where you can swim and picnic.




Panamanians are well known to be party lovers and the city nightlife clearly showcases this aspect of the culture. There are three popular areas to go out with Calle Uruguay where you will find many sport bars and Night Clubs all cluttered together. Casco Antiguo has a variety of high end roof top terraces, lounges and casual bars while Zona de la Rumba, in Causeway de Amador, is a strip of nightclubs playing all kinds of music. As well as these three areas, the Hard Rock Hotel is a popular night spot, with a live music bar, a high-end night club – BLING, and a lounge terrace on the 62nd floor offering with an amazing city view.


The Panama Canal


Connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and with almost 80% of world cargo transiting through it, the Panama Canal is one of the most important infrastructures in international trade and the most popular attraction in the country. Get up close to the canal operations by going to Miraflores Visitor Center at the Pacific side where you will learn about the history and see for yourself how it works. There is a new visitor center on the Atlantic side at the Gatun locks where you can see the construction of the new set of locks for the Panama Canal expansion plan. This will be the official visit site of the new canal once is completed in 2015.