When it comes to Casco Antiguo, one of its main attractions will always be its plazas, strategic points that are epicenters for activities and monuments in the area. Those who visit will certainly experience some magical moments.
1 • PLAZA MAYOR OR PLAZA DE LA INDEPENDENCIA
It is the only square in San Felipe that appeared in the original city plans and has witnessed over 360 years of history, intrigue and celebration. It is still the center of San Felipe, and the home to the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Municipal Palace, the Interoceanic Canal Museum, and the historic Gran Hotel Central.
2 • PLAZA BOLIVAR
This small square has a valuable history. In 1826, Simone Bolívar called a congress in Panama City, which he could not attend. In 1926, in a centennial celebration of that meeting, the Plaza was renamed Plaza Bolívar. In the center of the square is a statue in Bolivar's honor that recognizes his achievements and efforts in favor of the Latin American people.
3 • PLAZA HERRERA
Originally called Plaza del Triunfo, it was used for sporting events such a bullfights and horse races. Mounted on a horse in the center of the square is General Tomas Herrera, Governor of Panama, hero of the war, statesman, and veteran of the battles of Junín and Ayacucho in Peru in 1824, during the war for Latin American independence.
4 • PLAZA DE FRANCIA
Located on the site of the original pier with a view to the south and the entrance of the Panama Canal. In 1922 President Belisario Porras dedicated a park recognizing Ferdinand De Lesseps and France for their efforts in the French Canal project. It includes a walkway that stretches along the wall above the square; you can also find large marble tablets that record the history of the Canal, and a obelisk topped with the French "coque" (rooster).
5 • PLAZA SANTA ANA
The "Hermitage of Santa Ana" was built outside the walls of San Felipe in 1678. In keeping with the social structure of the time, it became an economically humble neighborhood; and for many years, the area next to the church was a market, which in the 1890s, was converted into a park, Plaza Santa Ana; by the end of the 19th century it had become the most exclusive neighborhood in the city.
An Eco Resort is an environmentally sustainable hotel that has made important environmental improvements to its structure in order to minimize the negative impact on the natural environment by following practices of green living. Some of these practices include renewable energy sources, recycling services, eco-friendly toiletries, energy efficient lighting, locally sourced food, water conservation methods, and various other sustainability focused initiatives considered good practices.
Building and running a resort requires a significant amount of power and solar energy is one of the best options. Recent studies show that in an hour the sun radiates enough energy that can cover the entire human race energy consumption for a year, that's why solar photovoltaic panels are undoubtedly an excellent innovation. In addition, water is vital for human beings and among the different water conservation methods the aerobic treatment system is currently used worldwide.
The word "eco-resort" means a friendly environment development of the area and green initiatives should be implemented at every stage of the building and management process as well. This includes selecting an appropriate building site, using sustainable building materials, implementing green energy sources and applying a natural design style to take advantage of the characteristics of the location.
Also, the best Eco Resorts also work to ensure positive relationships with the local people. By training and employing locals, as well as taking part in community development initiatives while offering activities that help visitors conserve and appreciate local customs and contribute to the local economy.
An excellent example of Eco-Resort is our structure in Bolaños Island.
Fuerte Amador was distinguished as the best rated port among five destinations in Central America during the fourth edition of Cruise Critic Cruisers' Choice Awards 2019. The review highlights that Fuerte Amador is the closest cruise port to the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, being an important tourist attraction in the area for its strategic location and beautiful views of vessels waiting for their turn to cross the Canal. In turn, from this place it is possible to visit the Miraflores Welcome Center, take a boat at the Gatun Lake or spend some time at the Biomuseo and downtown, as it is very accessible.
In addition, the port of Amador stands out in the first place of the category "Top ranked destinations of the Panama Canal and Central America", followed by Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala, Cartagena in Colombia; Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera) in Costa Rica; and San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua. With this distinction, the deputy administrator of the Tourism Authority Of Panama, referred to Panama as a country that once again shows that is capable of doing great things.
The deputy administrator highlighted that Panama's advantage is the short distance between places, which allows tourists to take a tour that includes the three cities: Casco Viejo, the modern City and Panama La Vieja. Likewise, is it possible to visit the national parks surrounding the Canal area (one of the top destinations for cruise ships passengers), and the entire history of the Transistmic Route used since colonial times.
Fuerte Amador and Fuerte Grant were two former US military bases built to protect the southern entrance of the Panama Canal. Amador was located under the Bridge of the Americas, while Grant consisted of about three islands near the coast, linked to by the road of the same name. The old Fort Sherman was counterpart at the northern entrance of the Canal, located towards the Atlantic side. These forts were returned to Panama in 1999 and the area is currently a popular port on the Pacific side.
Discovering Darien • Panama
The Spanish conquest of Panama began in 1510, precisely in Darién, with the foundation of the city of Santa María, now the border with Colombia, entrusted to Vasco Núñez de Balboa. This city of the ancient Darién was the capital of Castilla de Oro until the foundation of Panama City. In 1513, Balboa decided to open the famous way to the Pacific Ocean seeking the other sea and the gold. The tough expedition, muggy weather, steep forest and violent confrontations with native communities, compensated his effort with the wonderful gulf that was baptized by him and took the name of San Miguel.
Daríen is famous because of its exuberant and inaccessible forest which interrupts the Pan-American Highway that occupies 16031.37 miles from Alaska in North America to Buenos Aires in Argentina and connects the capital with the rest of the continent. In Yaviza, know as Tapón del Daríen (Darien's Plug) and located 171.49 miles away from Panama City, the highway turns into fluvial forests, rivers represent the communication routes through which different-size ships pass, among which are extended Indian canoes, pirogues or canoes appertaining to local communities.
This area has a small population. Thanks to that, one of the richest ecosystems in the world has evolved there, with an exceptional diversity of flora and fauna. The area registers also a high level of endemism. The National Park of Darién was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and in 1982 as a Biosphere Reserve that occupies 3598.36 miles, forming a vast range of habitats; among which are the following: sandy beaches, rocky coasts, plentiful rivers, mangrove swamps, clearly rainy forest and cloudy forest.
Its vegetation is dense. Trees can even exceed thirty-five meters in height and from a sort of ceiling where a semidarkness is kept inside, favoring this way the growth of huge epiphyte and parasitic plants, in addition to the thick lianas. As expected, Darién is the habitat of an astounding fauna where howler monkeys, spider monkeys and other primates, capybaras, giant anteaters, ocelots, jaguars, sloths, crocodiles stand out. It is also a real paradise for amateur bird watchers.
If arriving at San Blas today has become little more than a simple car ride made partly by ups and downs (an expert guide is always recommended and exclusively with 4x4 cars), it was certainly not like that until the beginning of the 2000s, when the Government of Panama finished the construction of today's route to the San Blas Islands, a completely paved road that allows you to arrive at the port once you enter Chepo in just 1 hour. Junior tells us about it, our coordinator of overland and expert transport on this route where he has been traveling every day for over 30 years: going to San Blas today, for me and my colleagues who traveled on this route in those years is practically like a walk, he tells us with a laugh as he reminds us and tells how difficult and hard it was to arrive at the port of San Blas in those years, much more than an adventure, practically a real undertaking, certainly was not a tour for everyone like instead it has become today thanks to the new road. It took only 5/6 hours to get from the city of Panama to the port of San Blas, then from there via direct to the islands in small wooden boats that were built by the Guna, also here it was a little hussle because the boats were very small with little space and no roof at all to cover yourself from the sun or rain, today these boats are used only by the Guna people for their small transfers and for fishing, today they are available new boats made with resin and much more comfortable, spacious and complete with roof to cover yourself from the strong sun or rain.
Also the accommodations on the San Blas Islands were very very rustic, also for this reason it was not a trip for any tourist but only for a few adventurers.
When you think of the San Blas the first things that come to mind are sun, sea and pure relaxation and when you're lucky enough to set foot in it ... It's really like that!
It is a true paradise on earth, a diverse number of islands scattered in the blue Caribbean Sea of Panama that give life to the Guna Yala Archipelago, one of the most beautiful seas on the planet.
Today these paradisiacal islands with one of the most beautiful season the planet are easy to visit, San Blas Dreams provides trips departing from Panama City 365 days a year, leave stress, anxieties, fears and all the negative vibrations you have accumulated at home during the year and dive into this incredible sea.
History of The Pearl Islands Panama
The history of the Pearl Islands dates back into the 15th & 16th century when the Cocle and Cueva indigenous tribes lived amongst the Islands. Most of these local inhabitants were enslaved and or killed during the discovery of the islands by the Spanish Conquistador Vasco Nuñez de Balboa in 1513. They were forced to collect the Pearls of which The Pearl Island Archipelago was later named. In 1516, another Spaniard had heard word of the hidden treasures within the Islands, and not only enslaved remaining free indigenous people, but also imported slaves from Africa to assist in the recovery of these white round gemstones. The descendants of the African marooned slaves make up a majority of the permanent residents within the islands today.
During the 17th & 18th century, Pirates found the islands to be a strategic location for ambushing incoming trade vessels into Panama. There were numerous locations for them to hide within the over 250 islands that encompass the Archipelago. There have even been Spanish Galleons recovered between the Islands with gold coins and treasures in their holds.
In the early 60's, the islands just 40 miles off of the mainland of Panama became once again popular, especially to the rich and famous around the world. The first island resort was opened in 1972 on the popular island of Contadora. This island is one of the most recognized within the Archipelago, due to the fact that it was the location where the pearls were brought to count and trade. In the late 70's, the Shah of Iran resided on Contadora for a while, creating a worldwide interest amongst those looking for a unique experience.
The Pearl Islands became well-known for luxury and complete tranquility amongst the rich and famous around the world. Today budget hostels and cheap ferries are available for everyone to enjoy the vast attractions these islands have to offer. Besides, these islands have become a top destination for visitors of Panama enjoying wildlife such as the migration of the Humpback whales, dolphins, deep Sea Fishing, and of course simply relaxing on the gorgeous deserted beaches.
San Blas Dreams provides for its customers tours to the Bolaños Island, daytour and overnight tours available with some beautiful wooden cabins or houses built in wood respecting nature properly.
If you have already booked a tour of the San Blas Islands with us, we will give you a $ 10 discount per person, valid to book a tour (Daytour or Overnight) in Bolaños Island.
November: The Month of Panama
Panama's history is closely linked to its geographical position. However, the country has a complex and fascinating history that began long before there was the Canal, or even before France or the United States began the works for its construction.
For those who want to know the history of Panama, during this November there are several Important dates. November 3 marks the separation from Colombia known as the Separation Day, on the 4th is the Flag Day, followed by the Colon Day on the 5th of November. Subsequently, on the 10th is remembered as the Shout for Independence in Los Santos, and the 28th of November Panama celebrates its Independence from Spain. Chronologically, the Independence from Spain was many years before the Separation from Colombia, taking place in 1821, while the separation occurred in 1903.
During these celebrations it is possible to enjoy the typical parades that are organized throughout the country and seeing how the population proudly waves the most precious national symbol, their Flag.
Casco Yoga • Panama City
Casco Yoga is a yoga studio in the heart of Casco Viejo, Panama. We are dedicated to bringing the beautiful art of yoga (Vinyasa, Hot, Restorative, Yin and Meditation) to the residents of our neighbourhood Casco Viejo and Panama City, and anyone passing through.
Our professional team offers personal and intimate English taught classes with a maximum of 20 people.
We believe that having a practice in your routine can benefit your life immensely. We strive to create a blissful and wholesome space for people to practice and come together as a community.
Our classes are suitable for all levels, we teach in a way that will challenge and calm every individual from beginner to more experienced yogis.
Casco Yoga was co-founded by Maya and Edwin. Originally from Holland, Maya received her 200 hour teacher training in Nicaragua in 2013. Following the path of destiny, the couple established a home in the heart of the Casco Viejo in Panama City. Life took an amazing turn for them in December 2015 when they found a beautiful studio location in Casco Viejo, Panama City. They opened Casco Yoga in January 2016 combining their dreams of teaching and practicing yoga. After seeing all the benefits that yoga and meditation brought into Edwin’s life he decided to also do his teacher training in 2018 and become part of the team of Casco Yoga. Both of their classes combine flow, alignment, challenge and relaxation.
How to contact Casco Yoga
Calle José D. de la Obaldía, Casco Viejo
Phone: +507 6265 5588
The Black Christ Festival of Portobelo
Every October 21, pilgrims from all over Panama arrive in Portobelo to partake in this festival, which honors a miracle-giving. 1.5 meter high statue of the Black Christ housed in the Iglesia de San Félipe.
After the sun sets, the statue is paraded down the streets, while pilgrims bedecked in purple robes and thorned crows dance and drink until the wee hours.
This life size wooden image of Christ was found on the shores of the town's harbor and retrieved by fishermen. It was initially housed in a small church and venerated. After Iglesia de San Felipe was built, the statue relocated and installed there. One legend says that the statue was carved in Spain and during the 17th Century. It was carried in a Colombian vessel to be installed in the New World. Due to a storm, the sip was forced to dock at Portobelo, and when the ship was scheduled to depart, a sudden storm set in, preventing the ship to set sail. This happened repeatedly. Attributing this phenomenon to the statue, the superstitious sailors threw the box containing the statue into the sea and thereafter the storm subsided, and the ship moved on.
This life-size statue is adorned with a robe that is changed twice a year; once during the Festival of the Black Christ when the robe is red or wine, and during Holy Week when it is purple. All robes are donated by devotees usually anonymously, and once changed they are not reused. As per tradition, all the gowns which have adorned the statue, and which are changed, are now preserved in the Museo del Cristo Negro (Black Christ Museum), which is located in San Juan de Dios Church which is located behind the Iglesia de San Felipe.
The statue is venerated by people from all parts of Panama, and several miracles have been attributed to Cristo Negro, also known as "El Nazareno". It is a tradition that pilgrims adorn themselves with purple robes similar to the one that adorns Cristo Negro. Also, during the pilgrimage, some people walk about 53 miles from Panama City, others 22 miles from Sabanitas, and a few of them even crawl the last mile, on their hands and knees, seeking blessings at the Shrine.
Birds of Panama: The Hummingbird
Panama has 57 species of hummingbirds and within this large family are the smallest birds in the world... many of them weighing less than a dime! These birds are found exclusively in the Americas and with the largest population being in northern South America. In Panama they live exclusively in highland areas like Boquete, Volcan Baru, Cerro Azul, Anton Valley and the Central Mountains of Cocle. They can also be found in forests, open or disturbed areas, and some species can be seen in gardens, fields and cities.
Besides its size, hummingbirds are famous for a number of things. One of the most remarkable is its powerful wings and the fact that this bird manages to turn its wings at an angle of 180 degrees. This allows it to have much more control, including the ability to be suspended in the air and fly backwards. It also allows it to go up and down or make a few maneuvers that only this bird knows how to perform.
The difference between the male and the female is a white border between the feathers located in the throat and chest of the female. During mating season, males perform a number of flits to attract the female. In both species, the reddish color beak is approximately nine centimeters and holds a split tongue, forming a small double suction tube, which allows the bird to sip flowers and grab insects around them.
Hummingbirds, bees, insects and bats play a key ecological role in the transfer of pollen from one flower to the other, contributing to the formation of fruits and seeds, which will allow plants to extend its species and multiply.
In 1986 the hummingbird received a deserved recognition by the Panamanian authorities who decided that is should become the symbol for the Omar Torrijos Herrera Park in the central highlands in El Copé, district of Penonomé in the Cocle province.
All people can be part of this blog, tell us about your experience in San Blas Islands or some tips for traveling to Panama.