Discovered by the Spanish Colonists of the Montijo and Santa Fe area in the early 1600s, Santiago de Veraguas (simply known as Santiago) is the capital of the province of Veraguas in western Panama. Sprawled by the Panamericana Highway, and at the crossroads of the country, Santiago is one of Panama’s largest and most important cities in Panama. Santiago is also known domestically as a transportation hub in the country. Furthermore in its repertoire, it is a bustling hub of commercial activity. With a currently developing tourist infrastructure and its situated strategic position, Santiago is an up and coming economic force in the country, as well as building its reputation as a tourist destination to the outside world.
If you are looking for an interesting stopover in a pretty colonial town on your way to Costa Rica, or travelling within Panama, Santiago is a great place to recharge your batteries while sightseeing an interesting town.
What are the top attractions to visit in Santiago de Veraguas?
Located in the historical centre, St. James the Apostle Cathedral was declared a historical monument in 2014 by the Vatican Rite. The year it was built is unclear, but the beauty of the buildings exterior and interior are truly antiquated and clear. It is especially nice to visit the cathedral in June, in honour of the patron saint of the city, St. James. The unique interior of the cathedral is a deep red colour with a beautifully hand painted altar and tabernacle. Sit in the pews to meditate, or to marvel at the beauty and history that has traced in and out of this building!
San Francisco de la Montana Church
North of the city of Santiago, in the town of Francisco is the Church of San Francisco. This beautiful Baroque structure has been beautifully maintained since 1630.. Inside the church was painted by a vegetable-based paint by the local population for the last hundreds of years, and is still touched up with the same type of paint.
Other features of the interior of the church include an interesting bowl is presented in the church that is used for the christening and baptism of children. The altar is built out of 480 pieces, and the tabernacles are hand-carved and hand-painted. See yourself go back 400 years and marvel at how much this building persevered through all the storms and earthquakes. Follow the sign outside of the church to visit the beautiful waterfall nearby. After visiting the waterfall, it is recommended to visit the local bakery to munch on some delicious homemade goods!
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Veraguas Regional Museum
Opened in 2004, the Veraguas Regional Museum exhibits over two thousand years of the region’s history. Funded by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, they have contributed many different exhibits and exhibitions to the museum. The museum itself is an early 20th century relic and was actually the town’s prison dating back to 1855. It became the police headquarters until the late 1990s, and was narrowly destroyed in a fire in 2000. It was converted in the 2000s with 10 exhibitions in the building.
The museum features a room for archaeological, ecological, stonework and lithic as well as pre-Columbian ceramics. This is a great opportunity for people who are interested in getting to know the colourful history of the Panamanian interior, as well as a great place for kids to explore and channel their curiosity.
If you miss the ocean, the sea is not far off. Take a taxi or a bus to the Torio beach for a beachside escape. It is a great opportunity to let the kids run wild as there are several opportunities to find seashells and sand dollars as well as starfishes. The beach is not crowded, so you can revel in the opportunity that you can have a beach all to yourself.
The area itself is absolutely lovely with uninhabited scenery and vegetation as well as a deep blue ocean. Take a dip as the ocean is awfully mild and at the perfect temperature. Make sure to be careful when the tide comes in, as the rip currents also tend to be its strongest. A great family activity and also a great time to spend the day away from the Panamanian inland.
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Italia Guadalupe Panama Aquatic Park
For a fun excursion for a great splash or a day of cooling off with the kids, the Italia Guadalupe Aquatic Park is a great place to do so. This waterpark is located near the city centre, and is a great value for a fun day in the water. The facilities are not too crowded, and the park itself is extremely clean. There is a choice of swimming pools and wading pools, and there are a few water-slides sprinkled throughout the park with lifeguards and security ensuring the safety of the swimmers.
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La Yeguada Reserva
A bit of a drive away from the city lies the beautiful wilderness of the Panamanian wildlife. This is an amazingly unique experience because most of this park is consumed almost solely by pine trees! The lake is not a very popular lake because of its proximity almost an hour and a half away from the city. With this being said, the lake is famed for its camping and fun summer evening activities. The grounds are protected by the Panamanian government as a natural reserve, so the place is extremely well kept, clean and immaculately maintained year-round. It is far out in the wilderness, so you are able to keep yourself in blissful isolation for a day (or night if you are looking to camp out). The air is said to be clean and there is complete peace and quiet with the exception of birds chirping and calling out.
The lake in the centre of the park is one of the main attractions as it is crystal clear blue waters from the minerals within the lake. The lake itself was created by a volcanic crater that came to be after a major eruption thousands of years ago. Set up a bonfire, or a tent! Bring some friends, or your family for a little bit of exploration, adventure, and pure outdoor fun!
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