Let us tell you what the experience of visiting the Panama Canal is like. Miraflores Visitor Center, schedules, prices. Prepare your trip.
This was one of the first places I was able to visit during my stay in the country, the famous Panama Canal. A monumental work of engineering that is the great pride of the Panamanian nation. In this article I tell you what you can see during the visit to the Miraflores Visitor Center and I give you the details for your visit.
Information to visit the Panama Canal
The place where I made the visit is at the Miraflores locks.
How much is it?
10 balboas per person.
Which are the schedules?
From Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00AM to 5:00PM
Can you take photos?
Yes, without problem.
You can take an excursion to the Panama Canal along with Gatun Lake, which in this case takes us to visit the Agua Clara locks.
Miraflores Visitor Center of the Panama Canal
On the way through the canal a ship has to go through several locks, these are the ones that make the ship go up or down depending on what is needed to continue sailing. A modern center has been installed in the Miraflores locks section so that visitors can learn about the canal, the region’s flora and fauna, and of course watch the ships go by.
Of course, for this you have to stand in line to get in 😀 sometimes you might pile up with school groups and oh well… That’s where one realizes how popular the channel is, both for locals and foreigners.
To get the most out of the center you have to go through the following stages:
Terraces and observation galleries
The terrace to watch the boats, that was the first place I jumped at since just as I arrived a boat was about to pass by. And that boat was the last one in the morning, so I was right to go there first. Keep in mind that the boats are passing during the night and they stop doing it around mid-morning so that around 2 in the afternoon boats begin to pass but in the opposite direction. The fact is that the center opens at 9, so either you have to arrive early or you have to arrive in the afternoon (there is also the option of staying all day).
When you get to the terrace you have to know how to get into the crowd very well to be able to see the boat since that is the main attraction of the place and nobody wants to miss it XD
Watch a ship go by in your visit to the Panama Canal
It is very curious to see how a huge ship slowly passes by, to see that the margin of error is so tiny, to see how the cranes are carrying it without any problem. But what beats everything is that although one is taking photos of the boat and it seems that the ship’s workers are our show, in turn for them we are the show 😀 it was very funny to see how they greeted us and they took pictures just like we did with them.
Everything I am going to tell you is much better explained in the museum, but I will tell you:
How the Panama Canal works: it turns out that it is not exactly “a normal canal” that is, a space of land through which water passes and that’s it. It must be remembered that this channel is artificial and in the first attempts made to build it, the point that the space of the isthmus that is traversed, although short, has ups and downs, that is, it is not flat land, was ignored.
So each time the ship advances through the locks there are stages in which a closed area fills with water causing the ship to rise (or empty of water in the opposite direction so that it falls). You have to understand how it comes, it goes up, it comes, it goes up… it crosses the isthmus, it comes from the other side… it goes down, it goes, it comes down, it goes, it has already arrived to the other side.
To make it clear, here’s a video that illustrates it better 🙂
Did you know how much a ship pays to cross the Panama Canal?
A lot 🙂 thousands of dollars, to cross. I cannot give an exact amount, but to give you an idea, paying between 200,000 and 300,000 dollars is not unreasonable. Of course: you have to keep in mind that they still save a lot of money. This is because they avoid having to go all the way down South America to be able to cross America by sea.
The museum is divided into several floors and begins with the history of the first who tried to create the canal, the French. Wow they tried. But they erroneously followed the same strategy as with the Suez Canal and as we saw above in Panama it was not possible. After many years, in which the workers suffered from illnesses for which they were not prepared, of trying and insisting. No way, they had to abandon the dream of a channel. Years later, the Americans arrived. They realized that in this field they could not follow a “classic” strategy to create a canal. Thus the lock system was born.
In another section of the museum they show us the fauna and flora of the area and the country. In an aquarium with tilapias they explain to us that they are there because the Americans introduced them in their time so that they ate things that interfered with the channel. The problem is that now there are only tilapias in the area, since they have become an invasive species. Luckily, they are edible…
You can also see models of local insects, of which dragonflies and blue butterflies stand out. These last ones I was lucky enough to see later in person.
There are sections of the museum where one can feel as if one were at the helm of a ship crossing the canal. It is very well made, it vibrates and makes all the noise that you could have on the channel itself. Keep in mind that when crossing the locks the ship itself is not “turned on”. What happens is that it allows itself to be towed and that is how the movement is slow and precise.
The Canal movie
There is a room in the visitor center that shows a film telling the story of the Panama Canal. They tell, for example, how the administration of the channel was in the hands of the United States for many years. It was not until 1999 when Panama gained complete control.
Expansion of the canal: in 2016 a new, larger set of locks was inaugurated. With this it was possible to solve the problem that some ships could not cross the channel. In the film we are shown the inaugural crossing of a huge ship with the name COSCO written on it.
In the film they say a phrase that remains with me “Panama is a small country, with giant dreams.” We should take this message for all of us, let no one tell us that we cannot achieve a dream because it is unattainable.
The Panama Canal is one of those places that should not be missed when visiting the country, do not miss it.