Here is the list of best things to do on a Panama Canal cruise.
Enjoying a cruise in the Panama Canal will make you appreciate the sheer engineering feat that went into creating this man-made canal nearly 100 years ago to connect the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The canal has created a massive lock system that you will be able to explore during your cruise.
|1. Explore the Casco Viejo District|
|2. Experience Miraflores and Gatun Locks|
|3. Go for a Ride Aboard the Panama Canal Railway|
|4. Check Out the View from Ancon Hill|
|5. Go on a Day Trip to an Embera Village|
|6. Check Out the Local Wildlife|
|7. Enjoy a Leisurely Walk on Amador Causeway|
This district has retained its quirky colonial charm and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In recent years, many of the pastel-colored homes have undergone renovation and one can find small hotels in historic buildings. Some of the colonial structures, like churches, are abandoned and mere shell of their glorious past while others are being rehabilitated.
Be sure to visit the Panama Interoceanic Canal Museum, Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion Church, the National Theater, and the Iglesia de San Jose Church.
Even if your Panama Canal cruise takes you through the entire canal, be sure to visit the two Panama Canal visitors’ center where you will be able to see the two locks - Miraflores and Gatun. Here, the locks are responsible for raising the ships coming from one ocean and then lowering them as they enter the other ocean.
Miraflores locks are quite popular as they are close to Panama City. It also has a shaded and raised viewing platform. At the visitors’ center of Miraflores locks, you will be able to visit a museum to find out more about the canal’s construction and history. You can also visit the gift shop for souvenirs.
The Gatun locks can be awe-inspiring as you see the three locks raising ships to 85 feet. Here, the viewing platform is close to the canal. This lock is about an hour away from Panama City. Be sure to visit Fort Lorenzo and Gatun Dam while you are visiting Gatun locks.
When the California Gold Rush fever was at its peak in the 1850s, the Panama Canal Railway was constructed to transport prospectors from one ocean to another as they made their way to California. The railway runs 47.5 miles over 300 bridges and culverts constructed in inhospitable conditions.
While the railway was reposition and now it is partially underwater, it is still a fun and thrilling ride. It starts from near Panama Canal and takes visitors to Colon in an hour’s time. During ride you will be able to get awe-inspiring views of the canal, the old railway stations, and Gatun Lake.
If you are looking for spectacular views of Panama City, head to Ancon Hill. It is the city’s highest point. It offers amazing views of the city as well as the Miraflores locks, the entrance of the Panama Canal and the Bridge of the Americas. At the slopes of the hill, you will find the Panama Canal Administration Building which has murals on a rotunda that showcase the construction of the canal.
The murals were painted by William B. Van Ingen, an American artist. Just below the building, lower down the hill, you will find the village of Balboa, which is now a ghost town and offers insights into the lives of Americans, who were responsible for running the canal.
There are many villages in the Chagres National Park inhabited by Embera people. It takes an hour’s drive and a one to two-hour canoe trip to get to these villages. Here, you can meet the indigenous people and learn their customs. You can buy handicraft items from them, dance, and share their food. You can even get a temporary tattoo by the locals, who use a dye extracted from a native fruit.
Panama is replete with wildlife and avian life, including migratory birds. The country has more than 16,000 species of butterflies and the forests are teeming with monkeys, sloths, toucans, and crocodiles. In fact, you will be able to spot the crocs as your cruise ship sails through Panama Canal.
Head to Soberania National Park, which is about 45 minutes away from the Panama Canal. It is a wonderful place to check out the wildlife. There are viewing platforms, observation tower and trails that allow you to see butterflies, coatis, and crocodiles in their natural habitat. Make sure you plan your trip for an early morning as the midday heat can be stifling.
The Amador Causeway and breakwater are nearly two miles long, extending from Panama City into the ocean. The causeway connects four islands, including Flamenco Island, which has a marina and a popular port of call. The cruise terminal has restaurants, a duty-free shop, and bars. You can enjoy a leisurely stroll on the causeway and marvel the view of the Bridge of the Americas and the ships making their way into the Panama Canal.
These are some of the amazing attractions that await you during your Panama Canal cruise. So, go ahead and make your travel plans today and marvel at the richness and wonder of Panama Canal and other attractions that await you.
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