Designated one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the man-made marvel known as the Panama Canal is one that many know little about.
Built in 1914 and engineered by the United States (the French initially started construction in 1881), the Panama Canal is an artificial waterway that connects the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. Mountains were literally moved (along with dense thick jungles) and it has been said the unearthed soil and rock could cover the island of Manhattan in a depth of twelve feet. Today some 14,000 vessels pass through each year and it is one of the world’s top attractions.
Here are some of the top things to do when visiting the Panama Canal.
The four-story interactive museum features an up-close look of the Miraflores locks and an arms-length panoramic view of the various ships in transit from the observatory deck. Each floor showcases the Canal’s unique diversity and storied history.
Regent Seven Seas Cruise and Gatun New Locks boat excursion offer a look at the diverse ecosystem and culture of Panama and the Canal. Once a vast jungle filled with a variety of wildlife before canal construction and now known as Gatun Lake, passengers will glide through lush rainforests that are home to some of the world’s most exotic species – Geoffrey’s Spider Monkeys, Panamanian and white-faced monkeys, the Blue Footed Booby, Brown-throated sloths, green iguanas and crocodiles in their native habitat.
Known as gatekeepers of the rainforest and Piedra River and rich in cultural tradition, the Embera Indians reside in a village in Panama’s Chagres National Park. Experience a guided day tour and learn the customs of this proud tribe from music and dancing to foods, handicrafts and history via a motorized dugout canoe on the Regent Seven Seas Encounter with the Embera Indians Tour.
Dating back to the 17th century, the historic district of Panama City’s Casa Viejo is not to be missed. Colorful Spanish colonial architecture and historical churches comingle with boutiques, bars and restaurants representing a melting pot of cultures at this UNESCO site and inviting fitting comparisons to Venice. Only four avenues wide, tourists come for the Mandingo Mojitos and grab a cup of coffee or shrimp ceviche at the second biggest attraction in Panama.
Just 30 minutes from the country’s capital in the 55,000-acre Soberania National Park resides the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, an ecolodge that boasts a marina, golf course and restaurants along with a butterfly farm, orchid garden and serpentarium. Birdwatching (toucans and parrots), monkey sightings (Howler monkeys) and the occasional ring-tailed coatimundi (raccoons) can be spotted on the way up the Gamboa Aerial Tram. You can also climb to the observation tower and enjoy a 360-degree view of the Panama Canal, Chagres River and the densely vegetated tropical rainforest.
Transit the Panama Canal this fall as you sail from Miami to San Francisco for 18 luxurious nights aboard Seven Seas Mariner®. View itinerary.