Welcome to Colón, the second-largest city in Panama, steeped in rich history and vibrant
commerce. Founded in 1852 during the construction of Panama's railroad, the city was initially
named Aspinwall to honor one of its founders. Colón experienced a remarkable boom during the
California Gold Rush, as North Americans passed through the city to reach California due to its
cost-effectiveness, safety, and efficiency compared to the vast central region of the United States.
Today, Colón is renowned for its duty-free zone, ranking as the world's second-largest after Hong
Beyond its bustling commercial reputation, Colón's surrounding areas captivate with the Agua
Clara Locks, the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal. Visitors can observe mammoth ships
passing through the canal from dedicated viewing platforms, providing a close-up view of the
ingenious lock system that raises and lowers ships between different basins. For an extraordinary
experience, one can journey to San Lorenzo National Park, waiting for the basins to close, and
traversing a small iron street next to an impressive screen to reach the park.
San Lorenzo Reserve, encompassing approximately 9,653 hectares of forest, mangroves,
rainforests, and semi-deciduous forests, is a protected area hosting twelve distinct ecosystems.
This ecological haven is home to an astounding variety of wildlife, with 430 bird species and 81
mammals identified. A significant part of The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, the park is a
paradise for biologists and amateur birdwatchers. Once a U.S. army base called Fort Sherman, this
area trained army officers and astronauts in combat techniques and jungle survival. The crown
jewel of the park is Fort San Lorenzo, an impressive structure built by the Spanish to safeguard the
transcontinental route to the New World from pirate attacks. Today, Fort San Lorenzo and Fort
San Fernando de Portobelo are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, celebrating their historical
The city of San Felipe de Portobelo, founded in 1597 as a Caribbean terminal for the Isthmus of
Panama trade route, rose in prominence, replacing Nombre de Dios after Francis Drake's
plundering. It facilitated the journey from Panama through Camino de Cruces, a land route
continuing along Chagres River to allow transit even during the rainy season, surpassing Camino
Real's route. Portobelo's fairs, coinciding with the arrival of Spanish galleons, enticed merchants
from around the world, making it irresistible to pirates. During the Anglo-Spanish War in 1739,
Admiral Edward Vernon destroyed the fortresses, and in honor of victory, a factory named
Portobelo was established in London. Today, the renowned Portobelo Road stands where the
factory once stood, a reminder of the city's storied past.
Embrace the history and commerce that converge in Colón, Panama, and embark on a journey
through time and vibrant trade that has shaped this remarkable city.