Why visit Colón
The province of Colón is home to Panama’s Afro-Caribbean culture and a rugged coastline once the object of many a pirate assault. Explore the rich culture and UNESCO sites such as the forts of San Lorenzo and Portobelo. Inland on the Chagres River, Embera indigenous communities reside and welcome visitors to experience their customs and traditions.
Located on Panama’s Caribbean coast the province of Colón neighbours the autonomous state San Blas to the East and and Cocle and Veraguas to the South West. Its capital, Colón has long been associated with cruise ships and most famously, known for the Duty Free Trading Zone.
The historical bay of Portobelo is home to a delightful old port town and the better accommodation in this region. Once the most important American port during the colonial times, Portobelo saw all of South America’s wealth that left its shores. A major defence system was built to protect the trade and the fortifications are still evident today and have been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. Portobelo also has a national park of some 86,000 acres, a fifth of which are marine areas thus protecting both the reef and forest communities.
San Lorenzo Fort is another outstanding example of colonial military architecture in the area which guarded the mouth of the Chagres River; a key trading route between Europe and the Americas and link between the two oceans. Conquered by Henry Morgan 1668 and again in 1739 by Admiral Vernon, the fortress was rebuilt three times and used as a prison. It is a fascinating site to explore.
- Travel to Colón by train; the railway runs parallel to the Panama Canal
- Visit San Felipe Church, home to the life size effigy El Cristo Negro (Black Christ) since the 17th Century
- Include a visit to Customs and Booking-Keeping House dedicated to the story of slave trading in Panama
- Take a boat tour of Gatun Lake, a protected area of the Panama Canal, rich in wildlife
- Spend the day with the Embera community and learn about their traditions
Beyond the Ordinary
For a novel alternative to visiting San Lorenzo Fort, approach from Gatun Lake by boat for a fantastic coastal view of the impressive battlements.