If you’ll ask someone a first association with the word Panama the answer will probably be ‘canal’. I spend quite some time visiting the different aspects of the canal.
Balboa, the former capital of the American Canal zone is now a green suburb of Panama city, with a certain jungle feel to it. Wide boulevards and low spacious housing. Nearby is the Amador Causeway a dam that connects Panama City with some nearby islands. At dusk the causeway becomes the domain of joggers and cyclists. The Panama Canal Administration Building is definitely worth a visit. The building was inaugurated on July 15, 1914, and cost $ 879,000, a considerable sum in those days. A circular atrium in the middle of the building contains large murals created by New Yorker William B. Van Ingen show the monumental work of the construction of the canal in four scenes.
There is a historic railway connection between from Panama City and Colon, a nice way of seeing the landscape surrounding the canal and get some views of Lake Gatun.
The Gatun Locks
Near Colon you’ll find the Gatun Locks where ships coming from the Atlantic are lifted 26 meters into Lake Gatun. There is an observation deck, where you can watch the big boats being lifted and pass through the locks guided by electric locomotives.
The Miraflores Locks
On the north side of the channel (as opposed to what you might think the location of the channel is not east-west, but north-south) are the Miraflores Locks. The visitors center here features an exhibition over four floors and also an observation deck. Admission is $ 15. You can do a tour for $ 90, take taxis for $ 20 or public buses for $ 1. Buy a smart-card.
To complete the canal experience there is a partial passage by ship, which takes up to six hours to complete.