A Stroll Through Old Panama City, Part I: Panama Viejo

Over the last 500 years, there have actually been three incarnations of Panama City: the original settlement, Panama Viejo, its colonial replacement, Casco Viejo, and the thriving modern city. And in April, I was fortunate enough to visit all of them, in the care of Nghiem of Panama Your Way.

Crossroads in the heart of Panama Viejo

Crossroads in the heart of Panama Viejo

The two parts of Old Panama City, Panama Viejo and Casco Viejo, are regarded by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. They’re official referred to as the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá. Today, I’d like to take you on a stroll through the ruins of the earliest of these.

Part of the modern city from Panama Viejo

Part of the modern city from Panama Viejo

An doorway partly made from stone and partly from brick

A doorway partly made from stone and partly from brick

One of the original streets of Panama Viejo

One of the original streets of Panama Viejo

And another

And another

Panama Viejo was actually the first European settlement on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. It was founded by the Spanish in 1519, although there is also evidence of Pre-Columbian peoples at the site. The colonial town was arranged according to a grid system, similar to planned settlements of the time in Europe.

The remains of the Cathedral tower dominate the ruins of Panama Viejo

The remains of the Cathedral tower dominate the ruins of Panama Viejo

Tower and columns

Tower and columns

IMG_3209Throughout the Spanish period, Panama was an important stopping point for captured Peruvian gold and silver on its way back to Spain. Unsurprising then, after surviving earthquakes, fire and slave uprisings, Panama Viejo was eventually destroyed by pirates!

Looking up at the Cathedral Tower - note the spiral staircase part way up

Looking up at the Cathedral tower – note the spiral staircase part way up

Looking down the spiral staircase

Looking down the spiral staircase

In 1671, the city was attacked by the infamous pirate, Henry Morgan. In the aftermath of the fighting, Panama Viejo was utterly destroyed by fire. To this day it remains unclear whether the pirates were responsible for the blaze, or whether it was the result of city’s commander exploding his gunpowder reserves before they fell into enemy hands. Whatever the reason for the fire, thousands of people lost their lives during the pirate attack and Panama Viejo was abandoned.

From up here, the grid layout of Panama Viejo is clear

From up here, the grid layout of Panama Viejo is clear

One of the original 'blocks' of Panama Viejo

One of the original ‘blocks’ of Panama Viejo

The Spanish relocated Panama City to a new site a few miles to the west, which was easier to defend and closer to the river mouth (which would later become the entrance to the Panama Canal). This second colonial settlement is today known as Casco Viejo. I hope you’ll join me next week for a stroll through its streets!

The causeway heading for heart of the modern city

The causeway heading for heart of the modern city and Casco Viejo beyond

The ultra-modern downtown of Panama City from the original settlement

The ultra-modern downtown of Panama City from the original settlement

This post was inspired by Cee’s Which Way Challenge and Jo’s Monday walk.

Rubble from a destroyed building

Rubble from a destroyed building

IMG_3211If you’re the sort of person that loves exploring historic, faraway places, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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About Jaspa

Star of my own award-winning adventure novels, Jaspa's Journey. Geocaching addict & F1 fan. Adventure Journeyer & blogger extraordinaire. Check out my website: www.jaspasjourney.com And don’t forget to download the books and see what the buzz is all about!
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7 Responses to A Stroll Through Old Panama City, Part I: Panama Viejo

  1. Cee Neuner says:

    You have some marvelous photos, but the view looking down the the spiral staircase is so cool! 🙂

    • Jaspa says:

      Thanks, Cee! I was tempted to crop that one to get rid of the air conditioning unit, but thought it would remove too much of the context. What do you think?

  2. restlessjo says:

    I know nothing about the area so this was interesting to read, Jaspa. I like that spiral staircase shot too 🙂 Many thanks for joining me on the walks, and for the link.

  3. Pingback: Panama Hats Come From…? | Jaspa's Journal

  4. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Peaceful Staithes | restlessjo

  5. Pingback: A Stroll Through Old Panama City, Part II: Casco Viejo | Jaspa's Journal

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