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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GO Local in Panama: A visit to the Fish Market

Discover the way the local Panamanians enjoy the country.  Taste, touch and listen to the real Panama.  you will get a completely new feel for the country as you discovery everyday life.  Learn about the culture and support the locals by buying local products.

A truly local experience in the heart of Panama City The Mercado de Mariscos is the city fish market, open for business to local restaurants and the public every day except the 3rd Monday of each month when it is closed completely for thorough cleaning. It’s the best place to buy fresh fish in Panama City – everything from tuna to snapper to lobster to octopus – or ceviche to go from one of the many vendors. It’s bustling with energy as local shoppers mingle with tourists to inspect the day’s catch.

On the outside of the market you find numerous small stalls selling Ceviche (a Panamanian specialty made with fish cured in lemon juice) and some other typical seafood dishes. Join the crowds for lunch with cup of your favorite type of fresh cold Ceviche or seafood cocktail, or head upstairs to the casual restaurant where you get a variety of typical Panamanian seafood dishes.
Take your time to taste the bounty of Panama’s oceans (some scholars even say that the word “Panama” originally meant “abundance of fish”), have a look around, and feel that you have now really arrived in Panama

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.

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

IRONMAN 70.3 Panama

Date: Sunday, February 16, 2014

Location: Panama City, Panama

Start Time: 6:50 am (pros) & 7:00 am (amateurs)

Launched in 2012, IRONMAN 70.3 Panama brings you to one of the seven modern wonders of the world; the Panama Canal! Compete amongst the best of the best in this Latin American Pro Championship.

With a fast swim, unique transition, rolling hills and flat run course, this race is the perfect storm. With exceptional organization, volunteer support and the opportunity to stay at the magnificent Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower, this race is a must do!

Athletes will swim 1.2-miles in the Pacific Ocean, off the shores of the Panama Canal, also known as the “Eighth Wonder of the Modern World,” and under the Bridge of the Americas. Athletes and visitors alike will bask in the warm temperatures and enjoy amazing views. Cyclists will take a 56-mile trip across the Bridge of the Americas and onto the Pan American Highway. On the way back, athletes will travel through Panama City’s downtown by the “Cinta Costera” (Coastal Strip). The 13.1-mile run course will take athletes on the “Amador Causeway.” From here, athletes and spectators will enjoy seeing the Panama Canal and view of the city.

There are 40 qualifying slots for the IRONMAN World Championship 70.3 in Henderson, NV

Course

Swim

Participants will swim 1.2 miles (1.9 km) in the Pacific Ocean, specifically within the banks of the Eighth Wonder of the Modern World, “The Panama Canal.” The Bridge of the Americas, which connects Central & South America, opened in the 1960’s and stretches over a mile long over the Panama Canal. Athletes and spectators will enjoy the amazing backgrounds at this stage of the race. Water temperatures are expected to be around 78° Fahrenheit (26° Celsius). The transition area is located next to the Biodiversity Museum, built by renowned architect Frank Gehry, and close to the swim start.

Bike

Athletes will endure a 56-mile (90 km) bike ride. First leaving the area of the Amador Causeway and continuing along the west side of the country. Once again, the Bridge of the Americas will witness the event when participants ride across of it in route to the Pan American Highway. During this part of the bike course, athletes will travel through the forest that protects the biodiversity and Panama Canal watershed. On the way back to the Transition Area, athletes will pass by Panama City’s downtown area along the “Cinta Costera” (Coastal Strip), which is surrounded by state of the art buildings that emerge on the shores of the Bay of Panama. For sure this part of the Bike Course will be an athlete’s favorite and spectator friendly for its beautiful surroundings.

Run

The run course will take athletes on a 13.1 mile (21 km) run through the “Amador Causeway”, a major tourism area surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, where athletes and spectators can watch the ship transit in and out of the Panama Canal while enjoying the beautiful view of the modern and cosmopolitan Panama City. Runners will return to the transition area to start the second and final loop.

Mission: VIEJO – Can Panama City’s Old Town Survive Its Own Success?

 

 

The Casco Viejo of Panama appears to be a contrast of the old and the new, development and slums.  When I visited the area in 2005, it was in sharp contrast to the rest of the city.  It was quiet, no traffic and beautifully remodeled apartments and residences contrasting with those abandoned and falling apart.  But the brick streets were still there as I remembered them from my youth.  A friend sent me a short article on this sublet written by Fred A. Bernstein and with photos by David Leventi.  The article was on a page torn from a magazine, but I found no indication as from what magazine it came.  At any rate, what I saw in 2005 continues to be the norm for the area . . . contrast. I will quote a few lines from the article:

 

The area represents . . . “the storied past and seedy present of Casco Viejo, a neighborhood Panamanians call Casco and view as both a shrine and slum.  These days, empty lots once home to squatters and stray dogs are giving way to valet parking, part of a process that may make the neighborhood more popular, if less compelling.”

 

A Manhattan businessman, Matthew Blesso opened the Tantalo hotel in the neighborhood and said, “To me, Casco is cool right now.”  When he went looking for property in Panama a few years ago, he started by looking around the new Panama.  He found it “Banal and soulless”

 

“But on his third day in Panama, Blesso saw Casco and fell in love with it.  Blesso’s 12-room hotel has an elaborate roof deck and graffiti-style murals reminiscent of his apartment in New York.  Night after night, Tantalo’s rooftop bar is packed with 20-something Panamanians, drinking until the early morning.”

 

“K.C. Hardin fell for Casco even harder.  A new York lawyer, Hardin came to Panama in 2003 to surf and never really left. Hardin’s company has opened two hotel in the district – Canal House, in 2007, and Las Clementinas, in 2010 – and next spring will open its biggest project to date: the America Trade Hotel, which will offer 50 rooms, a rooftop pool and, next door in an old bank building, a ballroom.”

 

Threatening Casco is the extension of a highway called La Cinta Costera which will surround Casco and isolate it from the ocean.  “If the extension to the highway is built, Unesco could withdraw the neighborhood’s World Heritage status, bestowed in 1997.”

 

“Though foreigners tend to be entranced – the wide variety of architectural styles, reflecting periods of prosperity over four centuries, make it more interesting than purely colonial outposts like Cartagena, Colombia, or Granada, Nicaragua, and almost as enticing as Havana – Panamanians are often surprised  that travelers are drawn to the area. Matt Landau, who co-owns a hotel in Casco called Los Cuatro Tulipanes, says that Panamanians tend to think of Casco as a place you visit for a few hours to look around, not where you spend your evenings.”

 

Since 2002, when some of the hotels and restaurants opened in Casco, travel magazines have been giving it a lot of publicity.  It is hoped that the Panamanian government will not wrap it up in concrete with the Cinta Costera highway.

 

Source: Luis Celerier

 

For interesting and educating tours through Casco Viejo, feel free to contact EcoCircuitos at info@ecocircuitos.com to plan your adventure for you.