Panama is Central America’s southernmost country situated on the Isthmus of Panama, the narrow bridge of land that bonds North and South America. Along with more than 1,600 islands off its Atlantic and Pacific coasts, this tropical nation is most famous as the site of the Panama Canal, one of the seven modern wonders of the world.
Panama is well-known for its natural beauty, amazing beaches, diverse plant and animal life, and vibrant music and culture. Before you mark this country as your next vacation destination, take in these interesting facts about Panama and get familiar with its fascinating history and beauty…
Quick facts about Panama:
Size: 29,157 square miles (75,517 square kilometres)
Population: 4.177 million in 2018
Capital city: Panama City
Panama City size: 106 square miles (275 square kilometres)
Coordinates: 8.9667° N, 79.5333°
Panama residents: Panamanians
Official languages: Spanish and English
Official currencies: Panamanian Balboa and the US Dollar
International dialling code: +507
Average life expectancy: 74 years
1. A 400 year journey
The first European to arrive in Panama, was the Spanish conquistador and explorer Rodrigo de Bastidas in 1501. Only eight years later Panama became the Spanish Vice-royalty of New Andalucia.
In 1821, Panama gained its independence from Spain and united the Republic of Gran Colombia, which became the Republic of New Grenada in 1831. The years between 1850 and 1900 were quite turbulent for Panama! In fact, during this time there were 40 different governments, 50 riots, five attempted secessions, and 13 involvements by the United States.
For complete independence, Panama had to wait until the 3rd of November, 1903. With assistance from the U.S, the Panamanians revolted. The area that became Panama had been part of Colombia until 1903.
3. The Panama Canal
In 1904, the U.S and Panama signed a treaty authorizing the U.S to build and manage a canal that crossed Panama. The treaty also gave the U.S right to administer a ten-mile wide Canal Zone that included the waterway, which was completed in 1914.
In 1979, the United States reassigned the control of the Canal Zone to Panama, and in 1999 they transferred the control and responsibility for the Canal to Panama.
4. The Panama Canal engineers
Between 1904 and 1914, more than 75,000 U.S. Army Corps Engineers built the Panama Canal over-land that seperated the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. This incredible engineering achievement cut trips by water between New York and San Francisco by 7,872 miles! In fact, the Panama Canal is such a busy waterway that it’s assessed to generate around 30% of Panama’s GDP, and is currently undergoing an expansion project!
Panama shares a boundary to the west with Costa Rica and to the southeast with Colombia. To the north, it also has a shoreline along the Caribbean Sea and to the south along the Pacific Ocean. In fact, Panama is the only place in the world where you can watch the sunrise on the Pacific Ocean and the sunset on the Atlantic Ocean.
Because Panama is an isthmus, measuring less than 40 miles at its thinnest point, at certain high elevations, you can see both oceans at the same time. Overall, the terrain in Panama represents a delightful mix of rugged mountains and grasslands with rolling hills.
Panama, unlike North America, doesn’t have four seasons instead here you get the wet, or the “winter” season, and the dry “summer” season. In fact, Panamanians enjoy a tropical maritime climate with hot and humid weather. From January to May there’s a dry season and from May to January, there’s a rainy season.
Panama is a centre of biodiversity! This tropical environment is home to some of the most different and exotic species of plants and animals on Earth. Immense tracks of rainforests, mangrove wetlands, and mountain cloud forests are covering almost half the country’s land surface. This naturally bio-diverse country has more species of birds than the USA and Canada combined!
8. Export and import
The country’s industry involves machinery, metal products, food processing, chemicals, and textiles. Panama grows bananas, coffee, cotton, tobacco, and sugarcane, and the Panamanians rear cattle and catch fish. Panama’s main export goods are coffee, shrimp, lobster, tobacco, cotton, and bananas, while the main imports are machinery, transportation equipment, fossil fuels, chemicals, and chemical products.
Fascinating facts about Panama
9. Home to the oldest operating railroad
In the creation of the Panama Railroad, which is the oldest continually functioning railroad in the world, a total of 12,000 lives were lost. The Panama Railroad still works as it transports passengers between Panama City and Colon.
10. Not one, but two independence days
Yes, fascinating but, true! Panama celebrates not one, but two independence days. The first one was celebrated when Panama gained its independence from Spain in 1821. Panama’s independence from Colombia in 1903 was the second one celebrated 82 years later.
11. Populated and run by indigenous people
The San Blas Islands, off the eastern coast of Panama, are populated and managed by an indigenous tribe called the Kuna. Even though they consider the San Blas islands to be theirs, they’re very welcoming to visitors. So while in Panama, don’t forget to visit these magnificent islands!
12. The royal jewel
The pearl known as “The Pilgrim” was found in the Pearl Archipielago of Panama and given to Don Pedro De Temez, the Spanish Crown administrator in Panama. Then, it became part of both the Spanish and English crown royal jewels, finally ending up in the hands of Elizabeth Taylor as a gift from Richard Burton.
13. Two ocean views
Besides the fact that while in Panama you can see the sunrise on the Pacific Ocean and set on the Atlantic Ocean from the same spot, Panama is the one and only country in the world where you can swim in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the same day! So give it a go, it’s an experience of a lifetime!
Do you have any interesting facts about Panama? Share them in the comments below!
Are you fascinated with Central America? Check out these fun facts about El Salvador!