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Exploring the Panamá Viejo Ruins

The ruins of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are largely untouched

Climb the old cathedral at the Panamá Viejo Ruins in Panama for a sweeping view of the ruins and the Panama City skyline across the bay.
Panama’s history has been ruled in large part by its strategic location on the narrowest strip of land connecting the Americas. Today, the Panama Canal is an important global trade route, but the Isthmus of Panama has been critical to trade for centuries.

In 1519, some 400 years before the canal created a water link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Spanish settlers established the original Panama City, now known as Panamá Viejo, on the Pacific coast just east of the current capital. In order to move South American gold and silver to Spain and goods to their colonies, the Spanish would anchor their ships and haul their conquests 50 miles over land.

Panamá quickly became one of the world’s richest cities, which didn’t escape notice of pirates. In 1671, the city was ransacked and burned to the ground by the notoriously ruthless privateer Sir Henry Morgan.

A new Panama City was built just two years later. Today, the ruins of the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are still largely untouched. You can tour homes, churches, and the old town hall, along with a modern-day museum displaying ongoing archaeological finds.

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