Panama is an unusual, exciting combination of cultural influences: from Native American to African to colonial Spanish and contemporary European. It comes as no surprise as Panama enjoys a very strategic position at the centre of the world. Home to the Panama Canal – the engineering marvel that connects the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, thereby cutting short the journey at sea – Panama has been a pivotal trade route for 500 years.
The capital of Colón Province on Panama's central Caribbean coast, Colón lies at the very heart of the country's rich history and innovation. Colón was established in 1850 by Americans building the Panama Railroad, created to meet the demand for a faster trade route during California’s gold rush in the 19th century.
This important port town is less than an hour's drive from Panama's most historical attractions, so it's easy to fit in visits to sites like the Panama Railroad, Gatun Locks, and old Spanish fortress Fort San Lorenzo. Of course, crystal blue waters and pure white sand are always a sweet setting for a cruise vacation kick-off!
- The impressive Gatun Locks, where ships and tankers are lifted up 85 feet to the level of Lake Gatun. Bring your camera to capture the amazing views that surround this engineering marvel.
- Portobelo National Park, a charming bayside village with 16th- and 17th-century Spanish forts, ruins and treasure houses.
- Wildlife in their natural habitat: at the village of Achiote, where you can try to name the hundreds of species taking up residence there. Or at Isla Grande, a popular spot for diving and surfing, with white-sand beaches and turquoise waters also ideal for sunbathing.
- Colón Free Zone, the largest duty-free zone in the Americas, with 1,600 showrooms of wholesale consumer goods, though some showrooms may welcome tourists as well. It's worth the trip just to take in the scene.