We have now been in Panama for at least six months total and it’s about time that we visit Panama City and take a tour of the places that we have been hearing about. We called our friendly tour guide Will, hopped into his van and headed to Panama City. Now, as most folks in Panama know, traffic can be a bit unpredictable, and today was no different.
About half way into the city, traffic came to a halt. According to WAZE (a great navigation app even in Panama) there was a truck roll-over ahead blocking all the lanes. As we sat and waited, something unusual started to happen.
As we watched, vehicle after vehicle started drove the wrong way past us on the shoulder.
Not to be out done, our driver turned us around and we joined the row of cars heading up the on ramp to the highway.
We went on the shoulder to the on ramp, up the on ramp, and as we crossed the bridge over the highway, we saw the traffic jam had cleared. So, we followed the traffic around the round-a-bout and went back down the ramp we had just come up, and proceeded with our trip into the city.
We passed the flatbed with the crashed truck on it. We made a short side trip, turning just before the Bridge of the Americas, the first major bridge to link North America with South America, and we were able to see a pelican feeding frenzy just below the bridge.
We headed across the bridge…
and headed up to the top of Ancon Hill.
Ancon Hill is 654 feet high, located between the Panama Canal and Panama City. Since it was part of the canal zone, it was not developed like the rest of the area around it. The lower part of the hill has some homes and a hospital. Higher up on the hill is the home of the Governor of the Canal Zone
“This home was originally built in 1906 in the village of Culebra as the home of John F. Stevens, the Chief Engineer. The house was moved to its current site in 1914 and was then the residence of the Governor of the Canal Zone until September of 1978. Now it is the residence of the administrator of the Panama Canal Authority”. Once we got to the top of the hill, there were some of the most spectacular vistas of Panama City and the surrounding area.
Albrook Airport with the Panama Canal in the distance.
Containers waiting to continue their journey after passing through the canal or waiting to pass through the canal.
The canal expansion, looking forward to the next 100 years.
Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks on the Pacific side of the canal.
The second major bridge across the Panama Canal.
And let’s not forget the very large Panamanian flag on top of Ancon Hill. Another thing found on Ancon Hill is a tribute to the Panamanian poet, Amelia Denis de Icaza.
She loved to come to Ancon Hill to be inspired when she wrote. When the Americans took over the canal project in 1904 and formed the canal zone, she was no longer allowed to come to Ancon Hill. She moved to Guatemala and Nicaragua where she continued to write, sometimes against the U.S. control of the canal zone. One of her poems can be found here. Ancon Hill is a beautiful place to view Panama City and the surrounding areas. Our next stop was the Administration building for the Panama Canal Authority, which is just down from Ancon Hill. As a matter of fact, the admin building can be seen from Ancon Hill.
Out in front of this building, as I turn around…
is a fountain dedicated to Major General George W. Goethals, the Chief Engineer of the Panama Canal. The three water falls represent the three sets of locks that make up the canal.
And if I turn around again…
I see the tree lined boulevard that leads up to the admin building. But, that water feature is not the only monument here. Built into the wall, at the base of the steps that lead up to the building itself, is a monument dedicated to the man who was in charge of creating the Culebra Cut, the part of the canal that goes through the continental divide.
He finished his job, but got sick and died before the canal was completely finished.
Our next stop on our city tour was a place called Mi Pueblito Afro-antillano. This quaint little place has several buildings and a church built in the “Afro-Caribbean-Panamainian” style that is unlike almost anything else seen in Panama City.
Definitely a must see on everyone’s list.
Then we were on to one of everyone’s favorite places to see, Casco Viejo or, Old Quarter. This part of Panama City was built around 1673 after the original Panama City was almost completely destroyed. It has all the features of a city that you would expect. A town square, churches built around the town square, amazing architecture and an old world charm that can’t be found in most “newer” cities.
The Golden Altar is actually carved wood with a gold leaf overlay. When the pirate Henry Morgan attacked the city, the Jesuits painted the altar black and the pirates thought it wasn’t worth anything so they left the altar alone.
This “flat” arch was one of the deciding factors to build the canal in Panama. This arch has stood for hundreds of years and, because of that, served as a clear indication that there were no earthquakes in Panama and the ground was stable enough to build the canal.
This monument was erected to the memory of the French builders of the Panama Canal. It is dedicated to the men who gave their lives to start work on the Panama Canal.
Finally, our last stop on our city tour was the site of the original Panama City called Panama Viejo. It was founded in 1519 and destroyed in 1671. It is the first european city built on the pacific coast of the Americas. Panama Viejo was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997. It will also play a part in an important upcoming meeting of leaders from Central America, North and South America and Cuba.
This has been our longest post so far. Thank you for taking the time to read it. Panama City has such a long history. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post as much as we enjoyed our tour of the city.