Originally planned by the French, and after a failed attempt in the 1880s, the United States took over and built a 50 mile stretch of the Panama inland. Opened in 1914, this marvel of human innovation was built as a lock canal. A lock canal is a canal built in terrain that is uneven. Rather than shaving down the terrain to make a streamlined canal for ships to freely pass through, which is more expensive and affects the surrounding environment, a lock canal is built to create minimal economical and ecological damage. Examples of a streamlined canal would be the Suez Canal in Egypt. After the handover of the Panama Canal to the Panamanians in 1999, Panama became a country of economic prosperity as well as a beacon of prosperity. This is a wonderful feat achieved in a place where there is massive instability and inequality.
Is it worth seeing the Panama Canal? Where can you visit the Panama Canal?
The Panama Canal has since become a beacon of trade, and a testament to the achievements of human innovation. It is open to the public for people to learn, enjoy and explore this magnificent structure. There are twelve locks that make up the Panama Canal, and most of them are open for public viewing. The most popular and dramatic one is probably the Miraflores Locks, as it involves multiple steps, and is close in proximity to Panama City.
The Miraflores Locks Visitor Centre
One of the locks that form part of the Panama Canal is the Miraflores Locks. These are one of the 12 locks dotted along the canal. The Miraflores lock is one of the most significant as it is a two-step flight that takes each ship up the terrain. This allows transit for the ships to cross through the Pacific Ocean port in Panama City, below the Bridge of the Americas, and into the Carribean sea, or vice versa.
The following schedule for the ships going through the Panama Canal is 06:00 to 15:15 for ships that travel from the Pacific into the Carribean, and 15:45 to 23:00 for ships that travel from the opposite direction. The rest of the times are available for either, however it should be reserved in a slot-based time frame.
A visitor’s centre was built to allow the tourists who visit Panama City to have a full view of the operations of the Panama Canal. Bring some binoculars and a touch of curiosity, as you are going to view one of the most unique facets of human innovation in the world.
The operation itself takes about thirty minutes, and you will be able to have an explanation of all the mechanisms by an operator as well as reading material and observation platforms to view the furthest point with a binocular. The centre has a four floor museum with interactive features. This focuses more on the history, and the effect on the surrounding ecology.
How do I get to Miraflores Locks Visitor Centre?
You can either book a boat tour that will take you along the locks and through some of the other parts of the canal for a 6 hour time frame. You can enjoy the operations of the canal, learn about its mechanisms, as well as enjoy some brunch and sun!
If you choose to go to the Miraflores Lock Visitor Centre on your own itinerary, you can take a taxi or a bus. It is very affordable and an extremely short drive from the actual city. There is a taxi service option that can take you to the centre, where you are able to view the operation for the thirty minute duration. The taxi driver will wait for you as the operation happens, and will be able to drive you back to Panama City. There will be a round-trip price involved, so agree on a price beforehand.
There is also a direct bus to the centre from the Albrook Bus Terminal in Panama City. However, the direct bus services are infrequent, so it is recommended to inquire with the local information centres. For adults, the admittance to visit the Miraflores Locks Visitor Centre is 15.00 USD, with lower rates for children and senior citizens. If you are a Panamanian national, you are able to be admitted for as little as 3.00 USD. The visitor centre is open from 8:00 to 17:30.