Spanish conquistadors laid claim to the land now known as Panamá Viejo on August 15, 1519, making it the oldest permanent European settlement on the Pacific. A stark juxtaposition to modern Panama City across the bay, the ruins of Old Panama include a cathedral and several stone buildings and walls.
Panamá Viejo flourished as a trade port for well over a century before Captain Henry Morgan and his pirates sacked it in 1671. The remaining ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are a must-see in the capital and often included in city sightseeing tours, along with other notable attractions such as the Casco Viejo colonial quarter, Miraflores Locks, and the Mi Pueblito Cultural Center. Admission to the site gives you access to the entire complex via a mile-long (1.5-kilometer) path around the ancient capital. Visitors can climb the old cathedral tower for panoramic views over the old colonial city from a height of 98 feet (30 meters).Things to Know Before You Go
- The Panamá Viejo ruins are a must-visit for history buffs and all first-time visitors.
- Give yourself about two hours to tour the complex and visit the on-site museum.
- Don’t forget to bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat.
- Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking over uneven surfaces, such as dirt or stone.
How to Get There
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 as well.
When to Get There
The park is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30am to 4:30pm. There isn’t a lot of shade at the site, so plan to visit in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the midday heat. Rain is frequent between April and December, so plan accordingly.Casco Viejo
Panamá Viejo shouldn’t be confused with Casco Viejo, Panama City’s colonial quarter. When Panamá Viejo was abandoned in the 17th century after pirates raided it, the settlement was moved to a new location in what is now the heart of Panama City. A visit to both is essential during any visit to the capital.