Located on the Pacific Coast of the Central American country of Panama, Panama City is a modern, high rise city which is overcoming its previous bad reputation.
Long overshadowed by the Panama Canal, Panama City is now a thriving commercial and financial hub of the Americas and a popular tourist destination.
Whilst locals refer to their city as just “Panama”, it has undergone some tremendous change, and can now boast a high standard of living, a rich cultural mix of ethnicities and religions, plus great natural beauty.
Panama is certainly more multicultural than it used to be, with migrations, in particular, from Asia which are having an impact on the city’s culture.
Once governed by the United States, who had a lease over the Panama Canal, which they helped to build, the former U.S. military base is now being turned into a massive residential area with the construction of high rise condominiums.
Elsewhere, the older part of the city called Casco Viejo has been revitalised. Somewhat rundown several years ago, the 19th-century buildings are in the process of being spruced up, particularly as the area has now been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Isthmus of Panama, and particularly the massive swampland known as the Darien Gap, was once a very daunting place to traverse. Nowadays, it is possible to experience the wild tropical rain forest in relative comfort at the Natural Metropolitan Park, which is home to lush foliage and more than 200 species of wildlife, much of it unique to the region.
For those who enjoy leaving the confines of the city, there is plenty of exploring to be had on the many day tours which offer true wild experiences in some remarkable places.
Water from rainfall in the forests is necessary to feed the canal, so much of the foliage has been preserved and several good national parks created. This gives visitors a great chance to experience genuine pristine forests which are abundant with wildlife.
Of course, the canal is still very busy, particularly as it saves weeks of sailing through difficult waters to travel from the Pacific to Atlantic Oceans, and vice versa. There are some good vantage points to observe the steady flow of marine traffic, or you can take the train to Colon for a fascinating ride along the canal.
Panama City was founded in 1519, which does make it the oldest Spanish settlement in the Americas. Piracy once thrived there due to the amount of treasure which passed through the city.
The wealth of the city is due to the success of the canal, but the swashbucklers have been replaced by men in suits and the dictators and their henchmen no longer hold sway over a city that is now a worthwhile place to visit.