The Panama Canal is one of the greatest human made wonders. It links the Pacific side (Panama City) to Atlantic Side (Colón), for about 82 km long. The water level that has to be bridged is about 26 meters up and down again. The canal has three locks sets up and three locks down, with triple lanes of locks. The stops are at Miraflores and Pedro Miguel and Gatún. The ships pass through the artificial lake Lago Gatún, which is created by the Gatún Dam. If the locks are not there the fresh water of this lake will be spilled into the ocean.
The Panama Canal suffered a lot of lives (±20,000) during the building that started by the French in 1881, the yellow fever and malaria where the main cause of dead. In 1914 the canal was competed with the help of the Americans. The third lock lanes opened in 2016; now more than 14,000 ships pass this 8-10 hour journey that generates around $2 billion per year!
Miraflores Visitor Center
The easiest way to visit the Panama Canal is by taking bus from Albrook bus terminal in Panama City. Ask for the bus to Miraflores Locks, which is about 12 km. Then is takes only 15 minutes’ walk to the Miraflores Visitors Center. Even easier is a taxi for about 30 minutes but that will cost you about 15$ to get there, instead of the 1$ for the bus.
The entrance fee of the Visitors Center is 15$, I do recommend paying a visit to this museum. It gives a good impression of the history and endurance of building this economic wonder. What I really liked is the animation of begin on the big tall ship that is going through the locks. After visiting the museum you can go to the deck where you have a good overview over the three Miraflores locks.
Tip: To make sure if a big ship will be passing you can check the webcam in advance or go between 9 to 11 AM or from 3 to 5 PM
In the back you see other lock Pedro Miguel with the boats coming to the Miraflores lock. You can spend a lot of time here to see the whole process. Which are quite impressive, huge boats navigating through small locks, guided by mules. Mules are electric locomotives, which help to stabilize the big ship through the lock chambers. Then see the water rising and lowering by opening of the huge lock gates.
Tip: You can spend hours in the sun outside to see the whole process or waiting for a ship, so bring water and a hat to cover your head! Some parts of the deck are covered but it could get crowed too.