Canals, legendary hats and San Blas are some of the things we immediately associate with Panama, but what else is Panama famous for?
Located in Central America and bridging two continents, Panama is a small country but has undoubtedly made an impact on the world. Bordering Costa Rica and Colombia, it is a country of undeniable beauty and a great tourist destination. Still, the Panama Canal is famous as one of the most serious engineering projects of all time.
In this post, we’ll talk about the canal (obviously) but also about everything else that Panama is famous for – coffee, beaches, dense tropical forests, and so on!
Are you planning a trip to Panama? Take a look at 50 things you need to know before traveling to Panama.
Things Panama is famous for
Let’s start with the canal, obviously! It’s the most famous thing about Panama, but it’s also one of the country’s most essential features. In fact, it is so important that it is one of the reasons why Panama is an independent country, because the US actively supported the separation of Panama from Colombia in order to gain an advantage in building and locating the canal.
Soon after independence was recognized, an agreement was signed with the new Panamanian government under the same terms that the Colombians were not signing.
The Panama Canal is an 82 km artificial waterway connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, crossing the Isthmus of Panama, shortening the time needed to navigate between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and changing world trade forever.
Built between 1880 and 1914, it is considered one of the most important and most challenging engineering projects ever undertaken, as nearly 30,000 people died from disease and accidents. Despite several attempts to build a sea-level canal (like the Suez Canal in Egypt), the canal was eventually created with a lock system and a huge lake 26 meters above sea level.
Apart from being the most famous thing in Panama, the canal is a major source of revenue for the state of Panama and thus responsible for the development of the country.
do you like coffee Then you must know Geisha coffee – it is considered the best coffee in the world and is produced in Panama among other countries, but let’s explain why it is so special in Panama.
Gesha coffee is a variety of coffee arabica originating from Gesha village in Ethiopia. The seeds were taken to Costa Rica and then to Boquete in Panama, where they became famous and won prizes for the best coffee.
The flavor profile is one aspect that makes Geisha coffee so famous – it has a sweet taste and aromas of floral notes, jasmine, chocolate, honey and even black tea.
This unique flavor added to its reputation and consequently a significant price tag and reputation. Boquete’s geisha coffee is considered both the most expensive and the best coffee in the world.
With a metropolitan area of 1.5M people, Panama City is the largest and capital city of Panama. It is also the most important and developed city in Central America. It has been called the Miami of Central America because of its skyscrapers, frenzy, and overall efficient and fast-paced city.
Initially founded in 1519, the original city was sacked and destroyed by pirates led by the infamous Henry Morgan. It was later relocated a few km away two years later. The old town is called Panama Viejo, and its ruins are easily accessible from Panama City. Panama Viejo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Panama Canal Railroad
The Panama Canal Railroad opened in 1855, half a century before the ship canal, built parallel to the railroad and greatly benefited from its existence. The route is about 80 km from Panama City to Colón and connects the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.
This transoceanic railway is one of the oldest railways still in operation. Since its construction, it has been rebuilt, rebuilt and changed name and ownership, but is essentially the same railway.
This relatively short but monumental train trip is one of the best things to do in Panama and a must-see for train lovers. Plus, the views are amazing!
San Blas Islands
The San Blas Islands are some of the most beautiful small islands in the world. The archipelago is located in the Guna Yala Comarca, a few km off the Caribbean coast of Panama. The Guna are the indigenous tribes of the region and have increased autonomy in Panama – the Guna even have a passport check to enter the region.
Only 49 of the nearly 400 islands are inhabited, but the San Blas are world-renowned for their pristine waters and generally untouched ecosystem. Each small island is a paradise, with crystal clear water, white sand, coconut trees, a few huts and more. If you ever want to get away, this is the place!
The Darien Gap is the border area between Panama and Colombia. This area is completely covered by dense rainforest and swamps. The site is known for many things, most of which are not so positive.
First, it is famous for being the only section where the Pan American Highway is blocked. Since there are no roads in the Darien Gap (on both sides of the border), it is impossible to travel from Central America to South America. The straight line distance between Turbo in Colombia and Yaviza in Panama is only 100 km.
Second, the area is notoriously dangerous. This combines the fact that it is widely used for drug trafficking, not fully controlled by the government (it was FARC territory), and ultimately the heat, humidity and all the diseases that come with it.
Finally, it is also known for its biodiversity and untouched nature. An area so hard to reach and so underdeveloped, completely forested, teeming with life, some of which has yet to be discovered.
Darin is undoubtedly one of the richest places on earth in terms of biodiversity, but it is not famous as the only place in Panama. The country is covered with parks and dense forests with more than 10,000 different native plant species, including more than 1500 types of trees, 1400 types of orchids and 678 ferns. These are amazing figures for such a small country.
The country’s diverse ecosystems include tropical dry and humid forests, mountain and lowland forests, freshwater wetlands, mangroves, tropical islands and coral reefs. So, not only does it have amazing terrestrial biodiversity, but marine too! All this richness of fauna and flora is on display at the Biodiversity Museum in Panama City. The museum building itself deserves a mention as it was designed and built by the famous architect Frank Gehry.
What is Panama famous for? The hat is public, or is it?
Panama hats are an interesting thing that Panama is famous for, mainly because the hats are not Panamanian… despite the name, the hats were never made by Panamanians; They originated in Ecuador, where they are still made today. That is why they are also called Ecuadorian hats.
The Panama hat or Ecuadorian hat is a traditional brimmed straw hat made from tequila palm leaves. They are light-colored, lightweight and breathable. It became trendy as a tropical accessory in the early 20th century.
So why are they called Panama hats? The expression Panama hat began in the 1850s when hat makers in Ecuador migrated to Panama City, where they could sell larger quantities of hats. People started seeing these beautiful, classy hats in Panama and called them “Panama Hats.” They came from Ecuador and originated a few centuries ago.
The Panama Papers
Over the years, the name of Panama has been constantly in the news for a completely different reason than the Panama Papers above.
The Panama Papers are a set of 11.5 million documents (2.6TB of data) detailing the financial and attorney-client information of more than 200,000 organizations that were leaked in 2016. It was mainly the personal and financial information of wealthy people and public officials. They are called the Panama Papers because they were obtained from the Panamanian law firm “Mossac Fonseca”.
While offshores are legal, documents have found avenues for some illegal activities, including fraud, tax evasion and evasion of international sanctions. The repercussions of this scam have been huge and famous people and organizations have been implicated in it.
Panama For such a small country with a relatively small population, Panama has made a name for itself and has made a huge impact on the world. Panama is famous all over the world for this, but have we lost what Panama is famous for ?