What to do

Best things to do in Fort San Lorenzo

Sprawled along the coast of the Province of Colon, Fort San Lorenzo and the surrounding ruined village of Chagres are one of the very few standing testaments of the political and socio-economic atmosphere of the Central American seaboard. The history of which is extremely colorful, sometimes violent, and involved many tries to gain control over this beautiful and lush territory. There are multiple components to the fortifications on the site sprinkled across the shores:

  • San Fernando fortifications
    • Lower Battery
    • Upper Batter
    • Hilltop Stronghold
  • San Jeronimo Battery Fort
  • Santiago fortifications
    • Castle of Santiago de la Gloria
    • Batter and Hilltop Stronghold
  • Old Santiago Fortress
  • Ruins of Fort Farnese
  • La Trinchera
  • Buenaventura Battery
  • San Cristobal
  • San Lorenzo Castle
    • Upper Battery

Why is Fort San Lorenzo here?

The examples of the military architecture built by the Spanish Colonial Authority in the New World during the 17th and 18th centuries are best shown in this series of fortifications and castles. The Bay of Portobelo was first planned out to be fortified in 1586 after multiple pirate attacks on the town of Chagres and Portobelo’s harbour in the mouth of the Chagres River. It was significant to fortify the area because these two towns were the Carribean trade stops for the route through Panama from Peru. These trade routes were made to bring Incan gold and silver from South America, through Panama and back to the Kingdom of Spain. Other posts along the route were built in Veracruz, Mexico, Cartagena Colombia and Havana, Cuba. Research has shown that Fort San Lorenzo was part of a greater defense system across the seaboard.

The 400 year old ruins of San Lorenzo and Chagres were constructed primarily of massive blocks of cut coral. The armament of the fort was one of the most impressive in the era. With many historians suggesting that Fort San Lorenzo was actually the most heavily fortified and heavily defended territory in the entire world at the time. 

What’s the best way to see Fort San Lorenzo?

To get a good look at the well-maintained architecture, you can book a tour that will take you through this impressive stretch of human innovation and defense structures. The closest way to get to Fort San Lorenzo is to visit the Carribean city of Colon. You are also able to get through to the ruins from Portobelo as well as from Gatun. It is possible to visit in your way from Panama City to Colon. You can use a private car transfer like Daytrip which enables you to make such stops along the way.

Read our guide: How to get from Panama City to Colon

Do you need to book in advance to visit Fort San Lorenzo?

If you wanna have a tour, prices start at $50, and it is recommended to book your place at least two to three days in advance, and you are able to cancel up to 24 hours to be eligible for a full refund. Fort San Lorenzo is open from 8AM to 4PM.

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