One of Panama's biggest attractions, both tourist and business, is the Panama Canal. In fact it has become fairly synonymous with the country. It is not only a symbol of great pride to Panama but also to all countries that benefit from the passage it offers vessels and cuts down on sailing time.
The Panama Canal is considered to be one the biggest achievements of the engineering world. It connects the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean and allows ships and vessels to quickly reach their destination by reducing their journey and travel time tremendously. The economic benefits of the canal were assessed and understood by countries close to Panama as well as those who had interests in this area. The plans and efforts to build the canal had spanned over four centuries. The first efforts to build a canal in this area were undertaken by the king of Spain. Thereafter, the French also tried to build it. However inhospitable conditions made it nearly impossible for workers to carry out their work and in the end efforts were given up.
In 1903 the United States of America sought and received permission to build the canal and also administer it. Plans to build the canal didn't just include architectural plans for it but also for the infrastructure that was essential to get the job done. Massive medical efforts were also made to control the diseases, malaria and yellow fever, that were common in the area and affected workers and stalled the construction of the canal. Finally on 15th of August 1914 the Panama Canal was inaugurated and the Ancon, a cargo ship was the first to gain passage through it.
The canal is 80 kilometers long and an important source of economic activity and tourism in the country. Panamax is the name given to maximum size of vessel that the canal can allow entry to. The canal includes several man made lakes and channels and locks. After the US Navy requested the locks were increased in size so as to allow navy ships passage through the canal. A Panama Canal Expansion Program is planned in order to design and create new locks for the waterway.
Experiencing the Canal
One of the best ways to experience the magnitude of the Panama Canal is on a cruise. You could also add a trip to the San Blas islands to your cruise and make it truly unforgettable. If you are in Panama for a holiday or a business visit then you could take a one day cruise on the canal and enjoy the passage through it. Also on offer is a ride on the historical Panama Canal Railroad that gives you a whole new perspective of the canal.
How about staying at a hotel that is close to this architectural wonder? This will not only give you a great view of the canal but of the area around it. You can enjoy a trip to the canal museum. The museum offers quite a learning experience for the young and the young at heart, and helps you truly understand what went into creating this engineering marvel. You could also plan a trip to the lakes and locks.