Two amazing historical visits in Casco Antiguo

If you are in Panama you can’t miss a walk in the Old Quarters (Casco Antiguo) and learn about the amazing history of the Isthmus.  The beautiful architectonic styles, narrow streets and cafes will fascinate any traveler looking for a bit of authenticity in this cosmopolitan Panama City.  In colorful Casco, the Spanish and French colonial houses mixes with the art deco and neoclassical style.  If you go for the first time, don´t miss the Church of the Golden Altar and the Flat Arch.

The Golden Altar: The massive golden altar (altar de oro) is a prime tourist attraction at Iglesia de San José (Avenida A between Calle 8 and Calle 9, 7 a.m.– noon and 2–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 5 a.m.–noon and 5–8 p.m. Sun.). Legend has it that the altar was saved from the Welsh pirate Henry Morgan during the sacking of the original Panama City when a priest ordered it painted black, hiding its true value.

The Flat Arch: The original Iglesia de Santo Domingo (Avenida A and Calle 3 Oeste) was built in the 17th century, but it burned twice and was not rebuilt after the fire of 1756. It remains famous for one thing that survived, seemingly miraculously: the nearly flat arch (Arco Chato). Since it was built without a keystone and had almost no curve to it, it should have been a very precarious structure, yet it remained intact even as everything around it fell into ruins. One of the reasons a transoceanic canal was built in Panama was that engineers concluded from the intact arch that Panama was not subject to the kinds of devastating earthquakes that afflict its Central American neighbors.

Source:  Moon guides.

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Exploring Panama City – From Old over New Panama to the famous Panama Canal

By Anne  KehmeierImage

And another tour I was able to join: a city tour through the capital of Panama!

In the morning we started from the middle of the city and immediately experienced the crazy and chaotic traffic of Panama City. After this interesting ride we arrived at Panama La Vieja where the ruins of Old Panama are located. These ruins are the remains of the old city of Panama that was founded in 1519 as the first settlement on the Pacific Ocean. After arriving we visited the Museum and learned a lot about the exciting history of Panama and Europeans who were looking for gold and other treasures in Panama. For example about Balboa who was the first European who saw the Pacific Ocean. We had a very interactive conversation about the history and also recent situations of Panama with the nice guide. The tour then continued with a ride along the ruins which ended at the old church tower of Panama La Vieja. Arrived at the old church we climbed up the tower from where we had a stunning view of Old Panama and also the rest of Panama City, including the high-rise buildings. After this thrilling morning we headed to Las Tinajas to have a traditional Panamanian lunch in this cozy local restaurant in Bella Vista, a very nice and central area in Panama City. At the restaurant we had delicious dishes like Arroz con Pollo (rice and chicken), Tamal de Olla (corn-based dough filled with chicken and vegetables) and fresh salad, of course traditionally served with rice and beans and fresh fruit juice. After refreshing our energies we headed to the newer part of the city Casco Antiguo which was built after the destruction of Panama La Vieja. However, nowadays this part is the historic district of Panama City. We explored Casco Antiguo starting with the old church of San Jose which is home to the famous Golden Altar. Hundreds of years ago this altar was located in a church in Panama Viejo. When the Pirate Captain Morgan came to sack the city the Jesuits painted the golden altar black and Captain Morgan left the precious altar untouched. Afterwards we walked though Casco Antiguo and saw several other churches and listened to interesting stories of Panama City. We arrived at the Plaza de Francia, the square where workers and French engineers are honored who participated in the construction of the Panama Canal. Then we were transferred to the Miraflores Lock where we learned more about the Canal in the Visitor Centre and observed the operations of the Canal from the observation deck. We were really lucky because as soon as we reached the observation deck two giant container ships entered the lock. With this absolutely interesting experience we completed the day tour and were transferred back to the city center.

I was really glad to join this tour as I haven’t known so many things about Panama before and it was interesting to get to know the city from this perspective! In fact I am grateful to be part of the team of EcoCircuitos that makes my discovery of Panama possible from time to time.