20 Apr Panama Viejo & Casco Viejo, Panama : A Tale of One City
Panama Viejo Ruins: The Original Panama City
Panama Viejo, or Old Panama, was founded in 1519 and is the oldest continuous Capital in the Americas. It was a bustling hub for the Spanish conquistadors who used it as their main passage for pillaging, plundering and transporting precious metals from Peru. Many tourists miss this part of Panama’s capital because they confuse the Historic District of Panama with the ruins.
The city was moved to the now Historic District about 8 km away from the original site after it was ransacked and destroyed in 1617 by the infamous pirate Henry Morgan-yes, that Captain Morgan.
In 2003 the ruins were declared World Heritage site by UNESCO. You can walk among the ruins, explore what’s left of the church and climb the bell tower to get a great view of the ruins with the modern city in the background. While you’re there, don’t miss the museum, it’s air conditioned and has a variety of artifacts, many from the indigenous people of Panama. There’s also transport to drive you right out to the ruins site.
Panama Viejo Ruins: A Photo Tour
Those who survived Captain Morgan’s attack abandoned the city and began a new settlement a few miles west.
The new settlement has survived to this day and is also known as ‘Casco Antiguo’ or ‘San Felipe’
The inhabitants of Old Panama brought pieces of the ruined city with them including the entire facade of Iglesis de la Merced( pictured in the gallery below). Legend has it that Captain Morgan was searching for a large stash of Inca gold that was hidden in the church, before the attack by the famous pirate, the priest and parishioners took the gold and hid it on a deserted island…the whereabouts of the gold remains a mystery today…
More About the Area:
Casco Viejo is Panama’s restored historical district, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. This was one of my favorite places in the city to visit; there is something magical about wandering the narrow cobblestone streets soaking in the history and culture of the area. You will find beautiful buildings influenced by Spanish, French and Colonial architecture, some undergoing restoration, many in ruins, and others completely restored, there are shops, restaurants, and bars so plan on spending the day enjoying the sights and sounds of old Panama.