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Useful information for excursions in Colón
In the following paragraphs, you will find information about the cruise port, the most beautiful sights and a lot of useful information for shore excursions in Colón.
The most beautiful sights in and around Colón
Colón is the capital of the province of the same name and is located on the Caribbean coast in northern Panama. The country lies as a narrow strip between Costa Rica and Colombia and has separated the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans until the construction of the impressive Panama Canal. When visiting the gigantic locks, with a bit of luck you can even watch a ship passing through. Furthermore, Panama enchants with an incredibly rich biodiversity in lush green rainforests. The modern Panama, on the other hand, you get to know in Panama City. But the metropolis also has a historical old town that is worth seeing.
So with Colón you can expect a port city from which you can discover the different facets of Panama. Whatever you choose for your cruise stay, you will surely take unforgettable impressions with you.
Colón is the second biggest city in Panama and is located at the northern entrance of the Panama Canal. The city is named after Christopher Columbus (Spanish: Cristóbal Colón), who stayed in the province during his fourth journey. The history of the city itself dates back to 1850, when Colón was founded during the Californian gold rush. The city was at the beginning of the famous Panama Railroad, which was of great infrastructural importance. Before the construction of the canal, the gold diggers used the railway line as an important connection between the oceans.
Colón itself is today not very touristical and offers hardly any sightseeings. The only thing worth seeing is the white catholic church “Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción” (“Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Mary”). Furthermore, the city is mainly known by tourists for its shopping facilities. On the one hand, there is a secure mall with numerous shops and restaurants for cruise ship guests directly in the harbour area. Close to the port there is also the huge Zona Libre de Colón, which is one of the largest free trade zones in the world. There, there are hundreds of shops for duty-free shopping. Additionally, Colón offers another shopping centre, the Plaza Quatro Altos, which is easily accessible by taxi.
In general, Colón is very poor and characterised by a high unemployment rate and a worrying crime rate. If you want to stay in the city during your cruise, you should therefore not carry valuables with you and if possible only travel in groups. It is advisable to set off on an organised shore excursion. Accompanied by a local tour guide and in a group, it is easiest and safest to discover the sights in the surrounding area.
Fort San Lorenzo
The historic Fort San Lorenzo is located about 8 miles (13 kilometres) west of Colón at the mouth of the river Río Chagres. During the colonial period, the fort was completed in 1601 by order of the Spanish King Philip II. The fortress, in which looted Inca treasures were stored, was supposed to serve as protection against pirates on the Atlantic coast. However, after several destructions by attackers, the Spanish had to build a new fortress in 1680. The colossus was enthroned 78.7 ft (24 metres) above sea level on a rock. After further destruction and looting, the fort finally lost its importance and instead served as a prison for about 100 years.
Since 1980, the remains of the fortress, considered one of the oldest Spanish fortifications in the New World, have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. During a visit you can marvel at the ruins of walls, watchtowers and cannons. You also have a beautiful view of the surrounding lush green landscape.
The tranquil port city of Portobelo is about an hour north of Colón. It owes its name to Christopher Columbus. In November 1502 Christopher Columbus described the bay as a “beautiful port” (translated: porto belo). From 1561 onwards, the bay became an important port for the Spanish silver fleet and part of a well-known trade route for transporting the captured silver and gold. A fortress was also built here for protection against pirates. However, it was destroyed by the English during the colonial war War of Jenkin’s Ear in 1739.
Portobelo lost further importance with the construction of the Panama Railroad and later with the construction of the Panama Canal. Nowadays, the small harbour town with about 4.600 inhabitants lives mainly from tourism. The remains of the fortress have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980. Also popular are kayak tours through the winding waterways and the dense mangrove swamps in the surrounding Portobelo National Park.
Surrounded by tropical rainforest, near Colón is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. A dam was built to dam up the nearby river Río Chagres. This flooded whole villages. Even former hills of the former rainforest today only look out of the water as islands. By this way, the Gatún Lake was originated between 1907 and 1913. The reservoir was necessary for the construction of the Panama Canal and with its 18 miles (29 kilometres) it is a part of the canal.
Boat trips on Lake Gatún are particularly popular. You can learn a lot about the interesting history of the Panama Canal. With a little luck, one even sees some ships in the canal that one can meet later in one of the locks. Furthermore, one has the chance to get an impression of the exotic flora and fauna around the lake. So you have the chance to see capuchin and howler monkeys, iguanas, sloths and crocodiles. The lake itself is home to a large number of fish species from all over the world, which once entered the lake through the locks by ship. Lake Gatún lets you enjoy nature in all its beauty.
Indigenous tribe of the Embera
A trip to the original Panama can be experienced on an excursion to the Embera people. About 7,000 Panamanian natives live in an autonomous indigenous territory in Panama. The settlement area is located in the tropical rainforest at Lake Gatún and Río Chagres and can only be reached by small boats. Until the 1970s, the Embera followed a semi-nomadic way of life as hunters and gatherers. Today they have concentrated on fishing and have partly opened up to tourism. With their dances and handicrafts they give visitorsan insight into their life and culture and remain true to their natural way of life to this day.
The Panama Canal is the must see when you are in Panama and is probably one of the most famous shortcuts in the world! Surrounded by rainforest, the artificial waterway crosses the isthmus of Panama and thus connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The 51 miles (82 kilometre) long route saves more than 14,000 ships a year the trip around the stormy Cape Horn or through the Strait of Magellan. Ships need an average of about twelve hours from one end of the channel to the other. During this time they pass through three locks, which regulate the encounter traffic of ships and serve as a precautionary measure for maintenance work.
Agua Clara Locks
During a visit to the lock facilities, with a little luck you can experience a ship passing through the locks up close. On one hand, the visitor centre of the Agua Clara locks at the Atlantic estuary close to Colón can be visited. The facility was opened during an extension of the canal in 2016 and since then, it also enables bigger ships to pass the canal. Until then there were the smaller Gatún locks, which brought the ships to the 85.3 ft (26 metre) higher level of Lake Gatún. From an observation deck, one has a fascinating view to the locks and the lake. There is also a restaurant and a souvenir shop.
On the other hand, there are the Miraflores Locks near Panama City. Coming from the Pacific Ocean these are the first locks of the Panama Canal. They were completed in 1913 and are 1 mile (1.7 kilometres) long. Here, too, you can experience at close quarters from viewing terraces how the arriving ships are brought back to the level of the Pacific or the canal. Small towing locomotives help in the process of driving and stabilizing the ships. There is also a visitor centre and even an IMAX cinema with a 3D film about the canal. In addition, a panoramic restaurant can be visited at the lock, from where you can watch the technical work in a relaxing atmosphere.
Many organised excursions also take their guests to Panama City. The city was founded in 1519 and is the capital of Panama since 1903. The current city is located a few miles from its original location after it was destroyed in a fire. The new city was rebuilt in the 17th century. Over time, it has developed into a seething metropolis and an important financial sector.
From Colón, one gets to the harbour city after approximately one hour drive. It is located on the Pacific coast, at the other end of the Panama Canal and fascinates its visitors with its contrasts. On one hand, there is the modern side of Panama City, which is characterised by huge skyscrapers. A view of the city’s breathtaking skyline is a popular photo motif.
One gets to know a completely different facet in the picturesque old town Casco Viejo. It impresses with its nostalgically renovated colourful colonial buildings and teaches about the history of the city while strolling through the narrow alleys. Other buildings still have to be restored. The quarter is even a UNESCO World Heritage Site and should therefore not be missed when visiting Panama City.
Map of the cruise port in Colón
The cruise port of Colón has two berths and is located in the east of the city, quite central. In the year 2000 Terminal 1, also called Colón 2000, was put into operation. As its capacity no longer met demand, a second terminal, the so-called “Home Port Cruise Terminal“, was opened. From both terminals, the secured Colón 2000 Mall with a wide selection of duty-free shops and restaurants can be reached quickly and safely on foot. The colourful facade of the shopping centre welcomes you as soon as you arrive.
In addition, there is the industrial port Cristóbal Pier in the west of the city. However, this port is only used by cruise ships in exceptional cases.
Due to the too high security risk it is not recommended to explore Colón on foot on your own. Colón itself also offers hardly any sightseeings. Instead, it is recommended to discover the numerous highlights in the surroundings on a guided shore excursion. With the knowledge of a local guide and the safety in a group you can experience the country best. If you book a shore excursion through us, you will of course be picked up in the immediate vicinity of the harbour.
Things to know before your trip to Colón
Cruise lines and routes
The international shipping companies such as Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and MSC call at the port regularly. Especially during the high season from early November to April, Colón is a popular destination for cruises through Central America and the Caribbean. Other destinations on these routes are often ports such as Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, La Romana, Puerto Limón, Cartagena de Indias, Belize City, Cozumel, Costa Maya, Samaná, Philipsburg (St. Maarten) or Fort-de-France (Martinique).
Entry and visa
British nationals don’t need a visa to visit Panama except if arriving by sea. You must have a return or onward ticket and the equivalent of US$500 or a credit card. … An initial stay of 180 days is granted on entry to Panama.
Please also note the US entry regulations if you are entering or leaving via the USA.
We generally recommend that you obtain information about all valid entry requirements directly from your cruise line or from the Federal Foreign Office in good time before your cruise.
Taxi and public transport
Colón itself is primarily known for its shopping facilities. Moreover, the city has hardly any sightseeings and is classified as dangerous. If you want to go to one of the highlights of the area, it is recommended to book an organised shore excursion for Colón. In this way you will be safe in a group and a tour guide will provide you with interesting information.
However, if you have not booked a transfer or guided shore excursion, you can take a taxi to explore Panama on your own from Colón. Taxis are usually available in sufficient numbers directly within the port area of Colón 2000. There are also other taxis available outside the port area. Taxi rides to the most popular destinations directly in the port are advertised on large signs. The tours are advertised per person in the currency Balboa and are usually organised in such a way that the driver stays with you the whole time.
To be on the safe side, it is nevertheless advisable to fix the price with the driver before the start of the journey. You should also be reassured that the price is for the outward and return journey and not just a single trip. You should also take into account the distances of the different destinations when planning your trip and make sure you allow sufficient time for the return trip.
There are two official currencies in Panama. One is the Panamanian Balboa (PAB), for which there are no banknotes but only circulation coins up to one Balboa. The currency is pegged to the US dollar at a value of 1:1. The US dollar is the second and also legally recognized currency in Panama. An exchange in Balboa is therefore not necessary. You can easily pay in US dollars. You can exchange them before you start your Caribbean cruise.
Panama has a tropical climate with an average of over 27 degrees and high humidity. Due to the proximity to the equator, temperatures fluctuate only slightly during the year. Consequently, there are no classical seasons, but a dry season and a rainy season. The rainy season not only brings a lot of precipitation in the form of short, heavy showers, but also an unpleasantly high humidity. The most pleasant time to visit Panama is therefore during the dry season between December and April. But even then you can be surprised by short showers. At the same time the humidity is a little lower. At this time most cruise ships call at the port of Colón.
Website port operator and tourism organisation
Video: Impressions of Panama
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