**NOTE – Sunday Special will not be posted for the the next three weeks as I will be away travelling. However, do keep an eye out for photo updates of my upcoming trip!
An engineering marvel, the Panama Canal has been connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and allowing ships to pass through its intricate system since 1914. Passing through the Isthmus of Panama, the canal’s three lanes of lock systems (the most recent one finished in 2016) raise and lower water levels that allow the ships to pass through. Developed to cut down shipping costs and times incurred by navigating around South America it now used in both shipping and tourism. In its inaugural year 1,000 vessels took advantage of this new route. In 2008 the numbers were over 14,000.
Through my research I found that there are several ways to see and experience the locks. Of course if you are on a Panama Canal cruise you would experience first-hand passing through the locks. There are both full-transit and partial-transit cruises. The former pass from one side of the ocean to the next. The latter goes from the Atlantic side to man-made Gatun Lake and then turns around returns, often heading to the Caribbean. Though that is not the only way to get up close and personal with the Panama Canal. Let’s take a look:
- Miraflores Visitor Center – Learn about the canal with a short 3D video and exhibits about the history and how the locks work. Then take in a view of the ships passing through from several observation areas.
- Centennial Bridge Panama – One of two bridges that cross the canal, the Centennial Bridge was built to ease the traffic on the earlier constructed Bridge of the Americas. It is often lit up at night.
- Atlantic & Pacific Restaurant – Located within the Miraflores Visitor Center, enjoy a lunch or dinner during your visit to the canal. Request a balcony table and you can observe the vessels passing through.
- Tours of the Panama Canal – A variety of companies offer tours to see how the locks work.
- Panama Canal Expansion Observation Center – This new centre has great views of the canal, photo exhibit, history and more.
As you can see, there is plenty ways to see and visit the Panama Canal. Panama is on my bucket list so it will be great to see this aspect of this Central American country.