Casco Antiguo & Gastronomic Tour

The Casco Antiguo & Gastronomic tour will give you a unique introduction to Panama’s history and its diverse gastronomy. This tour will take place in Casco Antiguo, the colonial section of Panama City. We will visit a coffee shop and learn about different types of coffee that are produced in Panama, also we will try a delicious local chocolate and learn how it is prepared (the chocolate visit is available for groups of 4 people minimum).

During this tour you will also learn about the history of Casco Viejo (the old city compound) which dates back to the late 1600’s, leading up to the eventual movement of the capital city to its present location. Casco Antiguo is home to the monuments of Ferdinand de Lesseps and other Frenchmen instrumental to the ill-fated attempt of the French to construct a canal through Panama.

We will continue the tour to a local microbrewery, where we will taste different artisan beers prepared in Panama and learn about how it is processed, if it is possible we will have the opportunity to see how the beer is made. Next we will walk along the Cinta Costera to the Seafood Market where you will enjoy the popular “Ceviche” (raw fish and seafood cured with lemon and spices). There you will find a lot of stands with variety of seafood. This is a popular place visited by locals that enjoy fresh seafood and who like to relax and admire the scenery, it is perfectly located on the Bay of Panama. The tour ends with a cocktail tasting of locally prepared Rum. Panama offers a good rum aging in white oak barrels. A local lunch is also included in this tour. (B, L)

For more information and prices please contact us info@ecocircuitos.com

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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.

Exploring the City of Panama, Central America

By Marius Leidig

In my first week here in Panama I tried to explore Casco Viejo on my own and I really thought that my guidebook would be enough to get all important information. Today I know that I was mistaking: There is nothing like a sympathetic, well-educated guide to explore a beautiful place.

But first of all I would like to introduce myself. My name is Marius and I am a German tourism student doing an internship in Panama. I am very happy to be part of the Ecocircuitos Team for five months. Right now I am part of the operations department.

Even if I like the work at our office a lot, I was happy to be invited to join a half day city tour with our staff guide Fabio Trujillo.  I was very excited to see the old parts of the city with a guide who knows a lot about the history of Panama. At 9:00am we picked up our client who booked the tour.   From El Cangrejo we headed for the outskirts of the modern city of Panama where we got a vivid description of the historic district.  Fabio explained that Panama Viejo was the first city built on Panamas Pacific coast. Founded in 1519;  Panama Viejo has been for more than 150 years an important base and reloading point for the captured treasures.   A walk between the remaining ruins such as the tower of the old cathedral are perfect to put oneself into the position of Henry Morgan who was a famous pirate that attacked the city in 1671 which lead to a huge fire that destroyed most parts of the city.

After Panama Viejo has been destroyed, it was rebuilt in today’s Casco Viejo. So the old town of Panama became our second attraction. In my eyes, Casco Viejo is the loveliest and most colorful district of Panama City.  It is a vivid place with plenty historical buildings and nice cafes and restaurants. Numerous varicolored modern street arts contrast the ancient buildings which creates a special atmosphere.

One of the attractions that stayed in my mind is the golden altar from Iglesia San Jose. When pirates attacked the city, the altar was painted black to cover its beauty to make it uncomely to the buccaneers. Obviously, the plan worked.

Passing plenty of indigenous street vendors we headed for the French quarter. Plaza de Francia with its monument dedicated to the French workers who died during the attempt to build the canal offers a great view to Amador Causeway and the impressive skyline of Panama City.

A visit at one of the best ice cream parlors I have ever been named Granclement in the Old Quarters was a worthy end of a special day in Panama!

For more information about this tour and others, you can visit our website www.ecocircuitos.com or write an email at info@ecocircuitos.com.

 

The New Cinta Costera Expansion

Those who have visited Panama City recently will already be familiar with the Cinta Costera coastal strip park, a popular recreational area for both Panamanians and tourists. The park borders the bay of Panama and contains walking and cycling paths, sports areas and children’s playgrounds.

This scenic recreational area has now been expanded by the newly opened tourist breakwater and mirador close by the famous seafood market.

The new mirador park offers a great direct view of the nearby Casco Viejo on one side and the City’s impressive skyline on the other side. Expansive lawns invite locals and visitors alike to spread their picnic blankets, paths through the aromatic garden let you discover a variety of fragrant herbs and flowers and the mole facing the Casco Viejo is a perfect spot to sit down and relax.

Children will most enjoy the little fountains along the mole, even though the expansive new playground areas offer much diversion themselves. Vendors promote their ice creams and sodas on the broad promenade. Extensive sports facilities, including tennis and basketball courts, are available for free.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, the atmosphere on the breakwater resembles that of a festival. A band is playing in the little amphitheater, a clown is entertaining the crowds by the playground, families have brought cooler boxes and picnic baskets.

Half of the City seems to be here, people of all ages and nationalities have come to enjoy the park. The ever friendly officers of the tourist police smile at passersby, have an extra eye on the children who might be tempted to climb the waterfront wall, and make sure the skateboards stay out of everyone’s way.

This new area of relaxation has added a new facet to Panama City, a modern cosmopolitan recreation area, a place to mingle and meet, accessible for everyone. A panoramic restaurant will open here soon, allowing guests to enjoy a view of the Casco Viejo and Panama Bay while eating. The area also offers a great space for small open-air concerts, performances and other cultural gatherings.

For visitors and locals alike, the breakwater is a perfect place to spend a bit of downtime, to take some fresh air, or to exercise. Come and have a look for yourself!

By Meret Schueschke

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