Most Popular Places to Visit in Panama, 2023, Top Attractions

Best Places to Visit in Panama, Top Attractions

Visit Panama, the undiscovered paradise known as “The Bridge of the Americas” where history, culture, nature, and adventure are at your fingertips from cosmopolitan Panama City. Gateway from Central to South America, Panama sits on a narrow isthmus sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is one of few places to sense harmony between scientific progress and wildlife. Here the huge metropolis of Panama City merges seamlessly into verdant tropical forests. With an unfussy, laid back vibe and some truly wonderful spots to visit; including a handful of trendy surf resorts, sleepy mountain enclaves, paradise-esque archipelagos and dramatic diving spots, Panama seems to delight both tourists and backpackers. Panama's small geographic area packs in a diverse range of landscapes, interesting towns and cities, and a myriad of vacation possibilities. Beautiful beaches and islands can be found along both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, and the mountainous interior is home to coffee plantations, small towns, waterfalls, wildlife, and some wonderful hiking trails. In Panama City, you'll find a modern metropolis with shopping, dining, and an assortment of attractions and things to do, including the country's most famous site, the Panama Canal. Most first-time visitors head to Casco Viejo, the Old Town, to soak up the atmosphere and see a little of the city's history. But for most visitors, Panama City is just a starting point before they head out on adventures to other parts of the country. Panama is a beautiful country located in Central America, near South America. Deciding where to go and not go in Panama can be challenging; each area is different and showcases something unique. A mix of cities, beaches, rainforests, small towns, and adventure, Panama has much to offer and is a fun country to visit for all types of travellers. This guide will show you the best places to visit in Panama, why to visit them, and what they offer. 

#1- Ancon Hill 
Visible from nearly anywhere in Panama City, Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancon) stands proudly above everything else in an otherwise flat region, with its immense flag flying high. At 199 meters above sea level, it’s the highest point within the city, and from the top you can see all the main points of interest. It’s possible to see not only the modern part of Panama City, but also the Panama Canal, the Amador Causeway, the Bridge of the Americas and Old City. In the middle of this bustling city, Ancon Hill serves as a little natural paradise. The forest has plenty of animals—sloths, armadillos, toucan and deer—and a slow walk up the hill provides the chance to see many of them. Once at the top, spend time watching the ships pass through the canal. It’s a pleasant walk from Mi Pueblito, and serious bikers take the challenge of riding up the hill.

#2- Panama Interoceanic Canal Museum
This popular museum and top Panama City attraction is located inside a stunning, well-restored colonial building that once housed the French and U.S. companies charged with building the canal. Visitors interested in learning more about the famous waterway can wander the halls of this beautiful four-story white and green structure where displays showcase information about the political, social and historical impact of the iconic Panama Canal. Although signage is in Spanish only, English-speaking guest can opt for audio tours for a small additional fee.

#3- Panamá Viejo
Spanish conquistadors laid claim to the land now known as Panamá Viejo (Old Panama Ruins) on August 15, 1519, making it the oldest permanent European settlement on the Pacific. A stark juxtaposition to modern Panama City across the bay, the ruins of Old Panama include a cathedral and several stone buildings and walls.

#4- Biomuseo
There are seven permanent exhibitions that focus on art and science education here. When the isthmus was formed, there was an interchange of species between North and South America, an effect depicted in a series of 72 sculptures of those species. Audiovisual presentations also show the natural wonders of Panama’s ecosystems. Another exhibition consisting of 16 columns tells the story of the cultural diversity in Panama. Two aquariums examine how the Pacific and the Caribbean changed when they were separated by the isthmus, and another display explores the relationship between Panama’s biodiversity and the rest of the world.

#5- Presidential Palace
Garzas” is Spanish for herons, and you’ll see the birds roaming freely in the Andalucian-style courtyard of the Presidential Palace (Palacio de las Garzas) in Panama City. The African herons were a gift celebrating the completion of palace renovations in 1922. The President of Panama lives in the upper floors of the building.

#6- Plaza de Francia
Besides the monument, near this plaza you will find the France Embassy and the Esteban Huertas Promenade. There’s also an impressive view of the Panama City bay, the Bridge of the Americas and the Amador Causeway. The plaza is also near the former Supreme Court building, which now serves as the National Institute of Culture and is home to the Anita Villalaz Theater, where theater performances, concerts and conferences take place throughout the year.

#7- San Blas Islands
A string of 378 tiny islands dotted along Panama’s northwest coast, the San Blas Islands offer a welcome change of pace from the mainland. This region provides everything you’d expect from a Caribbean paradise: coconut palms, white sand beaches, azure waters, and a complete absence of electricity, tourist resorts, and stress.

#8- Soberanía National Park
On the east side of the Panama Canal, Soberanía National Park—one of the most accessible of the country’s protected parks—is a paradise for hikers, fishers, and bird-watchers. Some 1,300 plant species, 55 amphibian species, and hundreds of mammals, birds, and reptiles call the park home.

#9- Bridge of the Americas 
The Bridge of the Americas was originally called the Thatcher Ferry Bridge, named after the ferry that used to operate on the canal before the span was built. Panama aptly renamed the bridge, since it not only connects the capital with the rest of Panama, but also unites Central and South America. The bridge is not just useful, it’s beautiful. Seen from different angles, whether on a sunny or cloudy day, at sunset or when it is brightly lit at night, the Bridge of the Americas is a piece of world history worth the effort to see.

#10- Panama Canal
The first ships sailed through the Panama Canal in 1914, shaving nearly 9,000 miles off what was otherwise a very long sailing trip around South America. The engineering marvel transformed global trade, and today, 100 years after it was first installed, the canal has once again been expanded with new locks and widened existing ones, modernizing Panama Canal transit by allowing larger ships to pass from Panama City on the Pacific Ocean side to Colon on the Atlantic Ocean side.

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