Traffic flows along the Cinta Costera area of Panama City. CNS photos/Bob Roller

A whole other world outside World Youth Day

By  Manuel Rueda, Catholic News Service
  • January 18, 2019

PANAMA CITY 

Panama City will be packed during World Youth Day, especially along the “Cinta Costera,” where most events will be held.

The celebrations will include more than 100 bands, dance troupes and DJs that will perform on six stages located along the wide coastal avenue.But for someone yearning to get away from the crowds for a bit, the city also offers a wide variety of cultural, historical and green attractions. Here are some options.

EL PARQUE NATURAL METROPOLITANO

A tropical jungle on the city’s doorstep. This peaceful, 500-acre nature reserve has six well-marked trails that provide three to four hours of leisurely walking. The Mono Titi Trail ends on a hill with wonderful views of the city.

Some 40 species of mammals and more than 200 birds — including toucans, three-toed sloths and furry raccoonlike creatures known as “coatis” — can be found in this park, a 15-minute taxi ride from the financial district. 

CASCO VIEJO (CASCO ANTIGUO)

Panama’s historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes dozens of buildings, churches and squares built in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Some of the colourful buildings have been restored while others are still in decay. The centre is compact and can be explored in a couple hours. Signs in English and Spanish tell the history of the main sites.

CASCO VIEJO CHURCHES

Six churches in the historical centre have been restored for World Youth Day, including the city’s cathedral. During World Youth Day the churches will be open at all hours, and some will stage musical performances.

Watch for the massive golden altar at San Jose Church. Legend says that in 1671 a local monk covered it with greyish paint as the Pirate Henry Morgan plundered Panama City. The disguised altar survived and was transferred to its current location after Morgan left the city.

MIRAFLORES LOCKS AND THE PANAMA CANAL

Located about 20 minutes from the historical centre, the Miraflores locks (Esclusas de Miraflores) are the best place to see the Panama Canal and appreciate this marvel of modern engineering.

There’s a visitor centre and a terrace to watch ships entering and leaving the canal. Arrive around 9 a.m. for the best chances to see ships. The entrance fee ($15) includes a guided tour. Buses to the Miraflores locks also leave from the Albrook Mall bus terminal and cost 25 cents.

BIOMUSEO

A state of the art natural history museum with interactive displays that talk about the origins of the Isthmus of Panama and its impact on the world’s biodiversity. The colourful building was designed by world-renowned Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry.

BIKING THE AMADOR CAUSEWAY

A long causeway with a well-kept bike and jogging path starts at the Biomuseo and ends at the Flamenco Island Lighthouse about five kilometres away. The bike path has water on both sides and offers great views of the city and the entrance to the Panama Canal. Bikes can be rented at Bikes & More, or Bicicletas Moses (Moses Bikes), two outfits located just a short walk from the Biomuseo, on Avenida Amador.

SOUVENIR SHOPPING

A souvenir market on the corner of Avenida Central and Avenida A in the historical centre sells all sorts of things, from Panama license plates to bracelets and T-shirts. Bartering with the shopkeepers for a good price is the norm.

Next to the market is a street that faces the sea where Indigenous people sell their crafts. Colourful tapestries known as “molas” are especially popular.


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