Information About Panama
Panama can be viewed as the largest port in the world and is the core and hub of the Americas. Yet, just minutes from Panama City in every direction, one finds a pristine environment of waterfalls, lakes, islands and small picturesque towns and villages. Those who see Panama City for the first time are always astounded. The cosmopolitan city offers Spanish colonial ruins, excellent museums, beautiful parks, a breathtaking skyline and an immense infrastructure of hotels, restaurants, convention and banking facilities.
About two miles from the center of Panama City are the ruins of the first capital, known as Old Panama or Panama La Vieja, which was founded in 1519. Fragments of walls and arches stand in an open park, recalling the splendor of the Spaniard's first settlement on the Pacific Ocean. From here, expeditions were mounted to conquer the Inca Empire of South America. All of the wealth from Peru, Chile and California flowed to Spain through Old Panama. When Henry Morgan looted the city in 1671, Panama's governor ordered the powder magazine burned and the whole city went up in flames. The capital was moved two miles to the west, and present-day Panama City was founded in 1673. The most impressive structures remaining are the cathedral, with a massive bell-tower, and the Bishop's House. In front of the ruins, alongside the ocean, is an art market filled with native crafts, and a small restaurant with a fine view out to a bay where Spanish galleons and pirate ships once lifted sail.
Also known as Colonial Panama, Casco Viejo is the historic center of today's capital, a quiet, charming district of narrow streets overlooked by the flower bedecked balconies of two and three-storey houses. At its tip lies French Park, a monument to the French builders who began the Panama Canal, and the lovely French Embassy. On the walkway around the monument, visitors have a fine view of the Amador Causeway and Bridge of the Americas, and of Panama City's modern skyline to the east. Excellent museums are found in the Casco Viejo, including the Canal Museum, which traces Panama's history as the route connecting Atlantic and Pacific from pre-Hispanic to modern times. Next door is the Museum of National History and the old cathedral, with gleaming spires inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Nearby is a small museum dedicated to religious art, found in the old Santo Domingo monastery. At the San Jose Cathedral a few blocks away is the beautiful Gold Altar, intricately carved of wood and gilded with gold. Another beautiful building in the Casco Viejo is the Presidential House, which can be toured on Sundays.
A bustling center of finance and trade, Panama City is home to some 120 banks and shops filled with the world's finest merchandise. Thanks to low import duties and discount prices, Panama City's shops are a bargain hunter’s dream. Two famous shopping districts are the Via Espana and the Avenida Central, having 20 blocks of non-stop shopping. The city, long accustomed to accommodating international palates offers a large variety of cuisines in its many fine restaurants, ranging from internationally recognized names to smaller, boutique inns. Many hotels have casinos and the city is famed for its lively nightlife.
FOOD, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
As an international crossroads, Panama offers visitors the opportunity to savor a wide variety of delicious food. You can hone your golf, diving and fishing skills. Panama is considered as one of the best places in the world to catch sailfish, wahoo and marlin.
There are prestigious nightclubs and world-class convention centers, which have made Panama an obligatory stop for international artists. In addition, numerous festivals take place at different times of the year in the provinces around the country. These celebrations provide an excellent opportunity to experience first-hand the exuberant spirit of Panama’s people and to join in the local fun.
Panama’s tropical landscape includes pristine beaches, rain forests, cloud forests, over 900 species of birds, 1,500 species of trees and over 7,000 plants. Panama is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. Over 30% of Panama’s land is protected by fifteen national parks, five preserved forests and ten wildlife refuges.
The Colon Free Zone is a prestigious, international commercial area and one of the largest free zones in the Americas. This makes it a popular spot for “duty free” shoppers. In addition, modern indoor malls throughout Panama City as well as in the provinces offer a wide variety of merchandise at very attractive prices.
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