Panama Canal, Panama
Known as the "Crossroads of the Americas" thanks to its handy position between North and South America, the Panama Canal is one of the world’s greatest engineering marvels. Desperate for a route to avoid the dangerous South American Drake Passage, French colonists began work on a man-made canal to cut through a route from the West to East coasts of North and South America. America finished the construction, which stretches 49 miles via three locks from Panama City on the Pacific coast to Colón on the Atlantic coast. The canal was hugely important then and still is now, providing a quicker passage for almost 14,000 vessels a year. Now, though, it is generally huge cruise liners which nudge their way through the narrow canal with vast jungle on both sides. This is an extraordinary sight, and can be experienced on one of several cruise ships which traverse the significant and historical canal.
Where is it?
The Canal cuts through the heart of Panama from the Pacific Ocean over to the Caribbean Sea. Panama itself is in Central America, just above South America between Costa Rica and Columbia.
What is it?
The Panama Canal is one of the most important shipping routes in the world. It was man-made and includes three locks which raise ships through an artificially created lake, Gatun, 26 metres above sea level. Extensive work is planned to improve the Canal system further, such is its importance to this day.
Best time to visit?
If you’re looking for warmth, visit during the dry season from December to March. However, if you don’t mind a little rain visit in the so called ‘green’ season from April to September when Panama’s jungles flourish after tropical rainfall.
Visit the Miraflores Visitors Centre, which is located on the outskirts of Panama City. The newly opened centre features an expansive interactive museum over four floors, and also has several viewing platforms which give an unrivalled view of huge ships traversing the Canal.