Panama is a country in Central America famous for its eponymous canal, gorgeous beaches, and great shopping. It's a wonderful place for a vacation and should definitely be on your bucket list. Plus, Panama has a fascinating history, from its days as a Spanish colony to the construction of the Canal.
History of Panama
- The Panama isthmus was first explored by Spanish conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas in the year 1501.
- Panama became the Spanish Vice-royalty of New Andalucia in 1519.
- In 1821, Panama declared independence from Spain and joined the Republic of Gran Colombia, which became the Republic of New Grenada in 1831.
- The years between 1850 and 1900 were tumultuous for Panama: during this time there were 40 different administrations, 50 riots, five attempted secessions, and 13 interventions by the United States.
- Panama finally achieved complete independence on November 3, 1903, with assistance from the U.S.
- The treaty to construct the Panama Canal was signed on November 18, 1903, between Panama and the U.S.
- The Panama Canal was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914.
- Between 1904 and 1913, some 5,600 Panama Canal workers died, mainly due to disease.
- The Panama Canal stretches 50 miles from Panama City on the Pacific coast to Colón on the Atlantic side.
- The cargo ship Ancon was the first vessel to transit the Canal on August 15, 1914.
- The lowest toll paid was $0.36—it was charged to Richard Halliburton, who swam through the Canal in 1928.
- U.S. troops controlled the Panama Canal until 1999, when Panama assumed full control.
- The Panama Canal contributes $1 billion to Panama's economy each year.
- The oldest continually operating railroad in the world is in Panama. The Panama Railroad opened in 1855 and runs alongside the Canal.
- Panama is the only place in the world where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific and set on the Atlantic.
- At Panama's narrowest point, the Atlantic and Pacific are only 30 miles apart.
- Panama is rarely hit by hurricanes due to its southern location.
- The highest elevation in the country is the summit of Volcán Barú at 11,401 feet.
- There are more than 1,500 islands in Panama.
- Panama City is the only capital city that has a rainforest within the city limits.
Flora and Fauna
- Panama has the most diversified wildlife of all the countries in Central America as it's home to species native to both North and South America.
- There are more than 10,000 different plants species in Panama, including 1,200 varieties of orchids.
- Panama elected its first female president, Mireya Moscoso, in 1999.
- The late Senator John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone, which, at the time, was a U.S. territory.
- Baseball is the most popular sport in the country.
- Panama is considered one of the best places for retirees given its affordable cost of living, great healthcare, and use of the U.S. dollar.
- Panama was the first Latin American country to adopt the U.S. currency as its own. While the U.S. Dollar is the official currency, the national currency is the Balboa.
- The Panama hat is not actually made in Panama but in Ecuador.