Officially known as the Republic of Panama, Panama is a narrow county packed between two continents and two oceans. This small country oozes culture, beaches, wildlife and rich history. Many adventure-seekers head to Panama for its water sports, mountains and breathtaking hikes. Panama is considered the bridge of the Americas and is easy to reach. The best way to get there is via Miami (a 2.5-hour flight), from a range of South American countries and the Caribbean Islands.
Panama is famous for its canal, the world-renowned engineering marvel connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This feat of engineering changed the way goods are shipped worldwide and is one of the Panama landmarks you shouldn’t miss. Panama is also home to breathtaking nature, from thick jungles filled with monkeys and macaws to pristine and quiet beaches. Keen to go? Here are 20 natural, historical and famous landmarks in Panama to add to your itinerary.
- 20 Panama Landmarks
- Natural Landmarks In Panama
- Historical Landmarks In Panama
- Famous Landmarks In Panama
20 Panama Landmarks
Natural Landmarks In Panama
1- La India Dormida
La India Dormida is a large painted volcanic rock in the Anton Valley.
The rock itself is simply painted, however, it is the valley that is shrouded in mystery and wonder.
There is a local legend surrounding the Anton Crater that gives the rock and the valley its nickname of La India Dormida.
Luba, or Airflower, the youngest daughter of Chief Urraca, fell in love with a Spanish official.
Yaravi, a warrior from the tribe who was matched with Luba took his own life after throwing himself off the mountain.
To not betray her people, and out of heartbreak and panic, Luba ran into the bushes and died.
This legend is often told to visitors who trek through the area on guided tours.
The best time to visit La India Dormida is at sunrise, with many independent and guided tours heading out early in order to catch this beautiful spectacle.
La India Dormida is at El Valle de Antón.
2- Metropolitan National Park
Located just 20 minutes north of Panama City is a unique attraction and natural landmark within Panama.
Natural Metropolitan Park is a tropical rainforest covering 573 acres (231 ha) of land within the city’s metropolitan area.
This unusual feature makes Panama City the only city in the world with a tropical forest serving as a public park.
The park is vital to the city’s pollution levels as it absorbs 30% of the air pollution.
Within the park are more than 378 species of animals and 30 different species of butterflies.
There is a wheelchair-accessible trail; all signs feature braille and sensory aid connectivity.
Metropolitan Natural Park is in Panama City.
3- Isla Taboga
Isla Taboga is one of the most popular tourist locations and is undoubtedly a natural landmark in Panama not to be missed.
The island is 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Panama City and offers a tranquil paradise with beaches covered in soft golden sand.
Many visitors love relaxing in the sun, while others take advantage of the inviting water.
Jet skiing is a popular water sport on Isla Taboga, as well as diving.
While on the island, explore the local village where the Spanish settled in 1515 and built a church soon after.
The church is the second oldest church in the western hemisphere.
For landmarks in Latin America see:
4- Lost Waterfalls of Chiriqui
In the diverse region of Chiriqui are three lost waterfalls.
Keen hikers of all abilities can venture out into deep yet stunning jungle along muddy and shady paths in search of the falls.
The journey to the waterfalls is as spectacular as the falls themselves.
The stunning landscape is filled with wildflowers, beautiful birds, and wildlife, and the powerful waterfalls cascade out of nowhere in the middle of the jungle.
Organised tours of the falls are available, and an entrance fee is charged for access to the trails.
Lost Waterfalls of Chiriqui is at Los Naranjos, Panama.
5- Gatun Lake
Gatun Lake is an artificial lake built in 1912 and was the largest artificial lake in the world at the time.
The lake was formed by creating a Chagres River dam, which was a crucial part of the creation of the Panama Canal and its affluents at Gatun.
The lake and its surrounding natural areas are a wildlife sanctuary.
Several species of monkey, including the howler monkey, reside on the shores and the islands within the lake.
The best location to see monkeys on Gatun Lake is the aptly named Monkey Island, where you will find white-faced capuchins and Lemurian owl monkeys.
You can take a tour of the lake to see the wilderness and its animals.
Gatun Lake is in Colon, Panama.
6- Baru Volcano
Baru Volcano is a rugged 3505 m (11500 ft) high volcano that is the highest point in Panama.
Surrounded by a national park, the volcano is its centrepiece and a bioclimatic island.
The parkland of dense rainforest is filled with bamboo, vines and beautiful orchids.
As you climb higher up the volcano, you enter a cloud forest which adds a prehistoric atmosphere to the area.
When climbing Baru, look out for birds as the area is filled with many, including the famous quetzal.
One of the most popular hikes through the national park and up to the volcano is the Quetzal Trail, which offers visitors a glimpse of the famous bird and the crystal rivers that wind through the forest from the volcano.
From the top of the volcano, it is possible to see both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans on clear days.
Baru Volcano is at Volcan Baru, Panama.
7- Darien National Park
Darien National Park, or the Darien Wilderness, is a unique natural landmark in Panama.
The wilderness is a vast swath of dense, impenetrable rainforest and is one of the last untouched wildernesses within the Americas.
The national park itself has areas of accessibility and you can take pleasant walks through it but it is best explored with an experienced guide.
Darien is most famous for the Darien Gap, the thickest point of forest within the park is the missing link of the Pan-American Highway.
The national park is a world-class bird-watching location as many species nesting and breeding here, including brightly coloured macaws.
Darien National Park is in Paca, Panama.
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8- Summit Botanical Gardens
Panama Canal Company founded Summit Botanical Garden in 1923 to create a research station for the Tropical Flora of Panama.
It has now been transformed into a wildlife rescue centre and botanical garden, which is open to the public.
The wildlife rescue centre aims to rehabilitate animals and native wildlife and release them back into the wild where possible.
Where this is not possible, the animals are well cared for within the centre.
In the centre, you’ll find harpy eagles, Panama’s national bird, jaguars and tapirs.
Summit Botanical Gardens is at Av. Omar Torrijos Herrera, Summit, Panama.
9- Starfish Beach
One of the most beautiful and unusual beaches in Panama is Starfish Beach on Bocos Del Toro island.
Starfish Beach is a short walk from Bocos Del Drago, however, small boats do take visitors to the beach for a small fee.
The beach has shallow waters perfect for the starfish that give the beach its name.
As the water is so clear, it is possible to see the starfish through the translucent water and it’s worth packing snorkels to get a better view of these beautiful sea creatures.
As the starfish are living creatures, they should not be picked up, handled or removed from the water.
Starfish Beach is at Bocos del Toro Island, Panama.
10- Ancon Hill
Ancon Hill is the highest point in Panama City and has unrivalled views over the city and the canal.
The hill’s summit is easy to reach through one of many trail routes that are easy to complete and do not require a guide.
While ascending the hill on one of its gravel paths, you’ll be able to experience forests filled with toucans, monkeys, sloths and armadillos.
At the summit is the largest Panamanian flag in Panama, installed in 1979 to symbolise the treaty between Panama and the US that would allow the Canal Zone to return to the Panamanian people.
Ancon Hill is in Panama City, Panama.
Historical Landmarks In Panama
11- Miraflores Locks
The Miraflores Locks is close to Panama’s capital city, Panama City.
The locks are an essential part of the 82-km (51 miles) long Panama Canal that has allowed a connection between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
The height differences between the two oceans were overcome by building three locks along the canal.
Miraflores Locks includes a viewing platform, terraces and an observation gallery where you can watch the boats rise and fall through the changing depths of the waters.
There is also a display area where information on the canal’s history, the impact the canal has had on international trade, and a theatre experience are available.
Miraflores Locks is in Panama City, Panama.
12- Panama Viejo
Panama Viejo is an important historical landmark in Panama and is one that helped shape the country as it is today.
It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Panama Viejo was the home of the first European settlers who arrived in the country in 1519.
Pedro Arias Davilla and 100 other inhabitants founded the Viejo and made it their home.
Henry Morgan sacked the Viejo in 1671, leaving it destroyed but it was rebuilt nearby a few years later.
Some restoration works have been carried out, however, the site is, on the whole, a well-preserved example of Spanish colonial architecture.
You can visit the ruins and archaeological sites surrounding Panama Viejo today to see the old Panama Cathedral, which you can climb to take in incredible views of the surrounding city.
There are also numerous archaeological findings within the area.
Panama Viejo is at Vía Cincuentenario, Panamá, Panama.
13- Fort San Lorenzo
King Filipe II ordered Fort San Lorenzo to be built in 1601 to protect the transatlantic trade known as the Camino Real des Cruses, connecting the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean.
The fort was built on an overlook for the best possible views to the mouth of the Chagres River. But despite this location, it was repeatedly attacked by both pirates and privateers.
Fortunately, UNESCO has preserved the fort as a World Heritage Site due to its importance with the trade routes and historical significance.
You will enjoy visiting the ruins of the fort, and while in the area, explore the beauty of the surrounding river banks of the Chagres River and the Caribbean Sea.
Fort San Lorenzo is at Colon, Panama.
14- Plaza de la Independencia
Plaza de la Independencia was the centre of Panama City until the 20th Century and is also called Plaza Mayor or Plaza de la Catedral, as there’s a cathedral at the edge of the plaza.
The plaza was originally square in shape, however, a reform in 1878 transformed it into a rectangle and park area.
Further remodelling in the 1980s opened up the plaza to be a more spacious and inviting location for a stroll.
Pink blossomed trees and busts of famous Panamanians line the plaza, with its historical architecture also attracting tourists.
Plaza de la Independencia is at Calle 6a Este, Panamá, Panama.
15- Iglesia y Convento de la Compania de Jesus
The Jesuits, who arrived in Panama approximately a decade after the Dominican friars, built Iglesia y Concento de la Compania de Jesus.
The stone ruins of the church and convent are still visible today. However, most of the ruins are of the church and little remains of the convent itself.
The ruins were erected by the nuns of Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion.
As the ruins are in Panama Viejo, it’s worth exploring the Viejo to learn more about early settler life in this beautiful country.
Iglesia y Convento de la Compania de Jesus is at Panama Viejo, Panama.
16- Iglesia y Convent de Santo Domingo
Famous for its unsupported bridge, the ruins of Iglesia y Concent de Santo Domingo are a must-visit historical landmark in Panama.
The church was built in 1678 and was destroyed by fire less than a century later.
The ruins have stood ever since, but there is no roof, and the walls are mostly crumbling.
Arco Chato, or Flat Arch, is the unsupported arch spanning from one side of the church and measuring 35ft (10.6m) high by 49ft (15m) in length.
The arch survived the seismic changes to the land during the construction of the Panama Canal, however, fell in 2003.
It has since been restored to its former glory.
Iglesia y Convent de Santo Domingo is at Panama City, Panama.
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Famous Landmarks In Panama
Frank Gehry designed Biomuseo in 1999.
The building is at the start of the Amador Causeway is a unique structure that houses a museum dedicated to Panama’s natural and cultural history.
The museum has many interactive elements, including screens, games and hands-on activities, perfect for families.
It has galleries exploring the ecosystems present in Panama, statues of animals dating back 3 million years and an aquarium showing the variety of life from both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
There is also a garden surrounding the museum filled with butterflies and birds.
Biomuseo hosts temporary exhibitions that change regularly, focusing on art, history and science from Panama.
Biomuseo is at Amador Causeway 136, Panama City, Panama.
18- F&F Tower
The F&F Tower or the Big Screw, as it is more commonly known, is an unusual feat of architecture in Panama City.
F&F Tower is 232.7m (763ft) high, has 53 floors, and is the ninth tallest building in Panama and Central America.
Pinzon Lozano and Asociados designed the building to serve primarily as an office block.
It is constructed from spiralling levels of glass and reinforced concrete, giving it the appearance of a screw as its floors narrow towards the top.
This unique and unusual structure is a must-see landmark in Panama.
F&F Tower is at Calle 50, Panamá, Panama.
19- Bridge of the Americas
The Bridge of the Americas connects the Americas, allowing traffic to flow easily between the north and south of Panama.
The bridge has a total length of 1654m (5426ft) and spans 344m (1128ft).
Sverdrup and Parcel, an architectural firm, designed the bridge, which was constructed between 1959 and 1962.
The bridge was the only one crossing the Panama Canal until the Centennial Bridge was built in 2004.
The bridge is considered a significant landmark in Panama and sees many visitors crossing its pedestrian walkways each year.
Bridge of the Americas is in Panama City, Panama.
20- Panama Rainforest Discovery Centre
A famous landmark in Panama is the Panama Rainforest Discovery Centre, which aims to bring people and nature closer through unique natural experiences.
The discovery centre has many trails and walkways for visitors to explore where you can see Panama’s diverse wildlife in their natural habitat.
The centre is also an ecotourism and environmental education project that focuses on bird conservation.
You can see howler monkeys, frogs and birds within the centre while exploring this environmentally focused attraction.
All buildings, walkways and viewing towers were made using recycled materials, clean technologies and sustainable architecture.
Climb the 200m (656ft) high observation tower for views across the rainforest.
Panama Rainforest Discovery Centre is at Gamboa, Panama.
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