There is one thing everybody knows about Panama – the Panama Canal. The Canal Project was started by the French and later on finished by the United States in 1914. You find more about the history of the Canal on Wikipedia or on the official website. If you visit Panama you have to visit the world famous Panama Canal. If you stay in Panama City the Miraflores Locks are close-by, about 45 minutes driving. My recommendation is go up to Colon and visit the Gatun Locks. Why…?
Because at the Gatun Locks you can drive and walk arround the whole canal, you can see Gatun Lake. But the most exciting thing to do here is, drive with your car over on set of locks. If there is a ship in the chamber it will be so close, that you can almost touch it. It is a real experience. Unfortunately you only can drive thru and there is no stoping allowed but you can go slow and take pictures.
After you passed the locks you can make a left turn and follow the street along the locks until you get to another bridge with a good view of the hydro-electric power plant. If you continue on this road it will take you up to the dam of the canal and you can see ships coming in from Gatun Lake into the Locks. You also can visit the Visitor Center and enjoy a better view of the Canal.
Compared to Miraflores Locks, you only get a good view if you enter the Visitor Center which costs a couple of dollars and even at Pedro Miguel you only can stay outside the fenced area. At Pedro Miguel Locks is no visitor center. Only nice thing here is that you can see “Puente Centenario” in the background.
To get to Colon you can take “Transistmica” or the “Autopiste Panama – Colon” which is a toll road. Autopista is the fastest way but if you have time and want to see some of the countryside of Panama take the Transistmica up to Colon. Check the route how to get to the canal for either way. Once you get close to Colon the way to the Gatun Locks is kinda hidden and there are no real signs.
Once you are already close to colon, you can visit Shelter Bay Marina or Fort San Lorenzo, which is a historic place with ruins of an old fort. Also a drive through Downtown Colon is interesting, because it gets you back into reality. The nice area of Downtown Colon looks like abandoned houses and buildings but people living in there.
Pictures of Colon:
Fort San Lorenzo: