Long before smallpox, conquistadors, and Catholicism made the Americas safe for European occupation, a group of Spanish sailors laid claim to the indigenous settlement of Panamá, "Land of Plenty." It was August 15, 1519, and they had no sense of what their tiny village would one day become.
Though Panama City is considered "Oldest Permanent European Settlement on the Pacific," the original Panamá Viejo (Old Panama) was abandoned after a devastating 1671 attack by Captain Morgan's pirate army. Today, you can wander its worn remains, including the old cathedral and several stone buildings and walls.
The juxtaposition with modern Panama City, visible across the bay, is startling. Fascinating finds from ongoing archaeological excavations are displayed at the onsite museum.
Buses to Panamá Viejo leave from the Avenida Central terminal (at Avenida Justo Arosemena), the same terminal serving Tocumen International Airport, throughout the day. Taxis are inexpensive and convenient.