10 Best things to do in Panama City

There are a lot of reasons to visit Panama. You have probably already thought of the Panama Canal, which is one of the world’s most famous accomplishments of modern engineering. Maybe you have considered a tropical island or beach, or just the climate, which is warm all year round. But there is a lot more to Panama: read here some of our staff picks to do in Panama City.

1.  Visit Seafood market and walk or bike Cinta Costera towards the Casco Antiguo neighborhood while eating a fresh seafood ceviche.
2.  Take a tour at the Biodiversity Museum and hire of our naturalist guides for an introductory rainforest tour in the Metropolitan Park

3.  Bar hopping in Casco Viejo at night and don´t miss the Jazz Bar in the American Trade Hotel

4.  Historical City Tour– walking Panama la Antigua and learn about the Pirates and Conquistadors and the Canal zone era

5.  Kayaking the Panama Canal in the Gatun Lake and a visit to a local Wounaan community for handcrafts shopping

6.  Visit the Contemporary Art Museum and take a Art Cultural Tour with a local panamanian artist

7.  Hike, bike or wildlife observation at one of the many trails of the Soberania National Park

8.  Go on a historical trekking the old 8-mile Camino de Cruces Trail takes you through primarily tropical forest

9.  Ride the Transcontinental train towards the Atlantic side in one day: The Pirate trail and Panama Canal

10.  Enjoy the local gastronomy (tasajo empanada, carimañola, tortilla, yuca frita, and the seafood of Panama).

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Do you know Casco Antiguo?

Also known as Colonial Panama, Casco Antiguo is the historic center of the capital.  It is a charming district of narrow streets overlooked by flower-bedecked balconies of two or three-story houses.  At its tip lies the French Plaza, a monument to the French builders of the Panama Canal, and the French Embassy.  On the walkway around the monument, visitors have a fine view of the Amador Causeway, the Biodiversity Museum, the Bridge of the Americans and the skyscraper skyline of Panama City to the east.  A plaque on the walkway commemorates the firing of cannon shots to drive away a Colombian warship and consolidate Panama’s independence from Colombia in 1903.  To one side of the monument is an old Spanish structure called Las Bovedas, now home to an art gallery and French restaurant.

Strolling about this 337-year-old neighborhood, enjoy both history and contemporary local culture- every corner has something of historical significance or local color. Another attraction is the sweeping ocean views of Panama Bay’s modern skyscraper skyline by day and night, the Amador Causeway islands and the ship-busy entrance to the Panama Canal.”

“Panamanian sounds and smells that fill the Casco Viejo air are part of that local color. Street peddlers cry out ‘bollo‘ as they sell soft corn wrapped up in corn leaves, a Panamanian favorite. At Panama’s “White House” the presidential honor guard’s cheerful cadence perform early morning calisthenics, local kids play basketball in a community court, Kuna Indians sell colorful molas in the Plazas as lovers stroll hand in hand catching glimpses of the distant Canal, old-timers settle on park benches as their grandchildren play soccer around groups of passing tourists. The best way to experience Casco Viejo is to stay in a hotel in one of the beautifully restored buildings. This is the place to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the ocean free from Panama City’s sprawl and traffic, yet the business district is a short 10 minutes away.”

Some excellent museums, art craft shops, galleries, and boutiques are found in 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 old cathedral that is under major renovation, with gleaming spires inlaid with mother-of-pearl.  Neary is a small museum dedicated to religious art found in the old Santo Domingo monastery, where visitors will also see the famous Flat Arch, which reportedly helped convince engineers that Panama was earthquake safe country.  You can also walk towards the San Jose Cathedral or the beautiful Golden Altar, intricately carved of wood and gilded with gold.  Another building that you should not miss is the Presidential Palace, which can be toured on Sundays.

If you visit Casco Antiguo at night is totally a different vibe, full of cafes, bars, and excellent restaurants.  Don´t miss the opportunity to discover more about Panama’s history and book a biking or walking tour to Casco Viejo with one of our history expert guides.

Article from Transamerica: The Hippest Neighborhood in Central America

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are not allowed to publish this article to promote Panama in our web.  The authors banned us from publication in our blog for violation of copyright.  We thought we were advertising their web and authors.  Anyway, for those interested in reading it, please check their website directly at http://trans-americas.com/blog/2014/07/casco-viejo-panama-city/

 

New Tour in San Felipe: engage with our community

By Marius & Marc

EcoCircuitos staff tour Casco Viejo yesterday to take part in an insightful and poignantly tour organized by “Esperanza San Felipe”. This organization is founded by 5 previous gang members of San Felipe. They have decided to change their lives and thus created this group to bring hope, benefit and income to the community of San Felipe, neighboring Casco Viejo. The revenue of the tours is distributed amongst the community to enhance the living conditions of the people and to provide a better future for the next generation.

With curiosity and excitement we have left Casco Viejo to look for the guides and entered San Felipe. We did not have to search very long since the guys welcomed us very friendly directly behind the border of Casco Viejo to San Felipe. Although the quarter has a dangerous image, during the whole tour we felt safe because of the police appearance and the calmness of the people. The whole atmosphere was just peaceful. We made an appointment for a tour and met our guide a couple of hours later in Plaza Herrera just in front of the American Trade Hotel that was also our first attraction.

Nowadays a place for the rich and upper class, in the past it was used as headquarter for thieves, murderers and gang members. We were absolutely amazed by the dark past of the building and the radiating atmosphere. The only evidence of the dark history is the stairway that shows the graffiti paintings and signs of the former inhabitants.

After passing Manu Tigre, a former fortification, we had the chance to gain a deep insight behind Panama City’s glamourous facade by visiting the housing of the community. It was touchingly but also revealing to see beyond the tourist facade of Panama. Although we felt a little bit uncomfortable entering foreign property, the people were very open-minded and warm towards us.

Especially the street that divides the quarters El Chorrillo and San Felipe offered a lot of narrative material. In past days many gun fights took place although it was considered as a neutral zone between two hostile gangs. For a foreigner it was not possible to walk the street at that time without getting robbed. Today it is a vivid street and the entrance to Cinta Costera 1 as well as a place for backpackers, bikers and fun nightlife.

The end of the tour was a most delicious Panamanian meal with self-made cocktails. During the dinner we got the chance to listen to more exciting stories of people and their past thug live.

Especially for us it was touching since we come from a protected area in Germany. We got the unique chance to engage with local people and going one step further than the common tourist.

By offering this tour EcoCircuitos gives those people the opportunity to help themselves in a sustainable way. There is also big hope in the new president to enhance the living conditions.

For more information please do not hesitate to contact us directly at 1-800-830-7142.

American Trade Hotel and Hall open in Casco Viejo

American Trade Hotel and Hall just open in Panama City, occupying a lovingly restored landmark building in Casco Viejo. The property stands at the ecological and cultural crossroads of  the Americas, deeply connected to both the historic Old Quarter and the nascent new Panama City – a meeting place for  influencers, creatives and cultures from around the world. The property and surrounding area are steeped in local heritage and culture, while the hotel has been thoroughly outfitted with the contemporary conveniences and modern luxuries today’s traveler requires.    The property is the result of a joint undertaking between Atelier Ace, Panama City-based Conservatorio, and Commune Design. American Trade Hotel is the first independent addition to Atelier Ace’s portfolio, which also includes the distinctive Ace Hotels.

The American Trade Hotel and Hall is a historical luxury property located in Casco Viejo – the old quarter of Panama City – a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, founded in 1673. The building was built in 1917 as a department store and bank with apartments on the upper floors, the American Trade building was designed by Leonardo Villanueva Meyer, the most prominent twentieth century architect in Panama City. Within walking distance of many historic buildings, fine restaurants, galleries, museums and concert venues, American Trade Hotel is a 50-room exclusive hotel.  (Room rates range from $189 to $609 per night.) Inside the hotel will be a jazz bar, a farm-to-table restaurant and a rooftop pool. Single-source Panamanian coffee will be roasted on-site and served in the lobby cafe. The hotel’s ballroom is housed in a neighboring Art Deco building that was once the Panamanian headquarters of First National City Bank of New York (later Citibank) – which was instrumental in financing the Panama Canal.  We are delighted to announce that EcoCircuitos Panama will have a tour desk at the American Trade hotel from January 2014.   For more information and rates contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com

Panama Jazz Festival Marks 12th Anniversary in 2015

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On January 12-17, 2015 the annual Panama Jazz Festival, one of the region’s largest music education events held in Panama City, marks its 12th anniversary. Since its foundation in September 2003 by Panamanian Grammy-winning pianist Danilo Pérez, the festival has become a cultural tourist attraction by drawing audiences from across the globe with up to 100,000 people attending each year, as well as numerous international jazz musicians.

Danilo Pérez, who is not only founder of the festival, but also UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Cultural Ambassador of Panama and founder of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute at Berklee College of Music, describes his mission as “inspiring and educating while providing tools and opportunities to build a better future for individuals and their communities”.

Since music education is a great part of the festival, a week full of several master workshops at the so-called “Music Clinics” will be provided again this year by some of the best music institutions and by all invited artists. At the clinics, students from all parts of Latin America and the world will come together to learn from the international masters of jazz music. Artists such as Wayne Shorter, Chucho Valdez, Jack De Johnette, and Randy Weston have given lectures at the festival in the past years. In addition to this, Panamanian Folklore, classical music, production, and many other subjects have been taught.

The event has also become a center for auditions for admissions and scholarships for the participating institutions. In fact, the Panama Jazz Festival is the largest recruiting space in all Latin America for admissions and scholarships for some of the best music schools in the Americas.  For reservations and packages contact us at info@ecocircuitos.comwww.ecocircuitos.com

The Journey between the Seas: Panama Exploration Cruise

Discover some of Panama’s greatest wonders on this unique marine adventure. The journey on the Discovery will take you from cosmopolitan Panama City to the remote jungles of the Darien, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. During seven days you will get to experience the true spirit of our amazing country, the secrets of the tropics, the rich and different forms of life these coasts harbor.

The Journey on the Discovery is the perfect way to explore this diversity: Passenger numbers are limited to just 24, ensuring everyone can enjoy serenity and privacy together with the excitement and closeness of a true exploration cruise.

The purpose-built catamaran is comfortably appointed with fully equipped cabins, an all-glass restaurant and lounge, as well as a barbecue and sun deck on the topmost observation area.

To get even closer up to this amazing country and its natural wonders, the Discovery carries a number of Kayaks, and is equipped with a special platform for easy boarding of those.

Suggested Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival to Panama – Today at the appropriate time an EcoCircuitos representative will meet you at the Tocumen International Airport to assist and transfer you to your hotel located in Panama City. At this time you will also receive an EcoCircuitos information kit that will provide you with all the details for your stay in Panama. Once you arrive to your hotel, please check-in. MARRIOTT EXECUTIVE. Welcome dinner at the hotel. Other hotel options includes American Trade Hotel in Casco Viejo for a supplement.

Day 2 – Panama City – Flamenco Marina – Pick up around 2:00 p.m. at the hotel for transfer to Flamenco marina where you embark the boat. Sail the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean towards Contadora, where the M/V Discovery will stay the first night before navigating to the Darien Jungle. Take this opportunity to meet your expedition leaders, the crew and your fellow travelers while you savor our tempting native cuisine. (D)

Day 3-  Darien Jungle – Step aboard a time machine and travel back more than 600 years to a place that not many have had the privilege of experiencing. More than an excursion, this is a journey into the lives of the Embera Indians. A proud people who have been able to maintain their traditions and lifestyle as they were before the Spaniards colonized the region. These natives are also master crafters of cocobolo wood carvings and basketry. After motoring up river you will see the village emerging from the jungle, as if by magic. Keep your eyes open along the way as the region offers abundant wildlife that is particularly active along the river’s edge. (B,L,D)

Day 4 – Pearl Islands – San Telmo & Mogo Mogo – Snorkel and swim in the waters of the Pearl Islands. The archipelago owes its name to the abundance of pearl oysters which supported a substantial fishery in the early 1900’s. On the outer portion of the archipelago, the islands of San Telmo and Mogo Mogo are home to some pristine beaches and fertile fishing grounds. View the remains of the submarine Explorer built in 1865 during the Civil War and which sunk off the coast of San Telmo during the oyster fishery of the late 1800´s. (B,L,D)

Day 5 – Panama Canal Transit – Gatun Lake – Wake up at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal and join the morning’s ship convoy for our northbound canal passage traversing Miraflores Locks and Pedro Miguel Locks. The Discovery will be raised 85 feet above sea level to Gatun Lake. You will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience up close the history and operation of this engineering marvel. Navigate the Gaillard Cut, the narrowest section of the Panama Canal, bisecting the Continental Divide. This section of the canal is full of history and geological value and you will be able to appreciate the continuous maintenance that this area requires, because it is very susceptible to landslides. Spend the night in Gatun Lake on Panama Canal waters. (B,L,D)

Day 6 – Panama Canal – Barro Colorado – Prior to the construction of the Panama Canal, the vast jungle area that is now the Gatun Lake was teeming with an overwhelming abundance of wildlife. As the region was flooded to create the lake, animals took refuge in the mountain peaks, which are now the many islands that dot the renowned lake. Explore Barro Colorado Island where the Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Center is located. Your expedition leader will take you on board small crafts past lush rainforests to secluded areas of the lake to witness first-hand the splendor and excitement of the jungle. Exotic birds, monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and crocodiles are just a few of the animals that you could see in  their native surroundings. The sights, sounds and scents that make up this beautiful, tropical jungle will engulf you. Cameras are a must as this is considered the world’s premier location for viewing monkeys and other animals in the wild. The Discovery will exit the Panama Canal in the afternoon on its way to the mouth of the Chagres River. (B,L,D)

Day 7 – Chagres River – Fort San Lorenzo – Experience the magnificent Chagres River which was used by the conquistadors to move their gold across the Isthmus of Panama en-route from Peru to Spain and by the gold prospectors who attempted a “short cut” from the US East coast to the gold fields of California. The river was the center piece of the colonial inter-oceanic route and is now the lifeline of the Panama Canal full of wildlife and tropical jungle. Explore Fort San Lorenzo which is located on a cliff at the mouth of the Chagres on the Atlantic side where your leader will offer details of the immense amount of history found on this area. The fort was built by the Spaniards in the 16th century to defend their well known gold trail. Later that evening, the Discovery will reposition to Colon, where it will spend the night before disembarking the next day. (B,L,D)

 Day 8 – Portobelo – Caribbean – Wake up to a farewell breakfast before you disembark the Discovery. Travel by motor coach to Portobelo and enjoy this town located on Caribbean waters which was founded by Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage to the new continent in 1597. This quaint town is rich in history as it was the site of many sea and land battles between the Spanish colonials and the pirates and corsairs raiding the Spanish Main. Explore the fortifications built by the Spaniards to protect their treasures and visit the Church of San Felipe, the sanctuary of the Black Christ. Later in the afternoon, board the Panama Canal Railway train back to Panama City. This one hour railroad trip will allow you to traverse the picturesque trans-isthmian route from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The line flanks the Panama Canal passing through lush rainforests, cruising alongside the Canal’s locks, through the historic Gaillard Cut and gliding over slender causeways in Gatun Lake. Arrive to Panama City with the train around 6:15 p.m. and be transferred to your hotel in the City. (B,L)

Day 9 – Depart Panama – At the appropriate time you will be transferred to the Tocumen International Airport for your outbound flight. They will arrive to the airport approximately 3 hours before their departure time. End of services. (B)

 **NOTE: THE SOUTHBOUND JOURNEY FOLLOWS THE SAME EXPLORATION ROUTE IN REVERSE

Contact us for complete itinerary, schedule and prices at info@ecocircuitos.com