Panama, bisected by the famous Panama Canal, is the southernmost country in Central America. Despite not being one of the smaller countries here, it has the second-smallest population – only little Belize has fewer inhabitants. In 2018, the population of Panama was estimated at 4.1 million people.
Panama has a post-colonial history that sets it apart from the other Central American countries. After the declaration of independence in 1821, Panama voluntarily joined its southern neighbour Gran Colombia and became a department of that nation. Then, in 1903, Panama left Colombia and became an independent republic – a move strongly encouraged by the United States who wanted to build, and control, the Panama Canal.
The Panama Canal was completed by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1904-1914. It remained under U.S. control until the last day of 1999, when authority over the canal was transferred to Panama in accordance with the 1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaties.
Revenue from the canal makes up a significant portion of Panama´s GDP, although the country has successfully encouraged diversification of the economy – especially for the sectors commerce, banking and tourism.
Where is Panama?
Panama is a transcontinental country in the southernmost part of Central America and the northernmost part of South America. It is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the north, Colombia to the south-east, and the Pacific Ocean to the south.
What´s the capital of Panama?
Panama City (Ciudad de Panamá) is the country´s capital and most populous city. Of Panamas 4.1 million inhabitants, over 1.5 million reside in the Panama City metropolitan area.
Panama City is located just north of the point where the canal reaches the Pacific Ocean.
Panama City was founded in 1519 by the Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Dávila, and became a starting point for Spanish expeditions into the Inca Empire. In 1671, the original city was burned down by privateer Henry Morgan. Two years later, a new city was established on a peninsula roughly 8 km from the original city.
Data from 2010 show that back then, 65% of Panama´s population identified as Mestizo. The largest minority groups were Native Panamanian (12.3%), Afro-Panamanian (9.2%), Mulatto (6.8%) and White Panamanian (6.7%).
A notable feature in the geography of Panama is the mountains and hills that form the country´s “spine”. It is a highly eroded arch in which peaks have been created by volcanoes. The mountain range that enters Panama from Costa Rica is the Cordillera de Talamanca. As we proceed eastward, it is replaced by the Serranía de Tabasará. As a whole, the range between Costa Rica and the Panama Canal is referred to as Cordillera Central. The highest point in Panama is Volcán Barú, at an altitude of 3,475 meters.
The name Panama conjures up images of the bustling canal area and the high-rises of the capital. Much less well-known is the fact that 40% of Panama is covered in jungles and home to an abundance of tropical flora and fauna – including a lot of endemic species.
The Panama – Colombia border region is known as the Darién Gap. The Pan-American Highway has a 106-kilometre long gap here, making alternative modes of transportation a necessity. The Darién Gap is a wild area, which on the Panama side is covered in mountainous rainforest. The Colombian side is chiefly comprised of the river delta of the Atrato River, including large areas of flat marshlands. The Darién Gap is generally avoided by ordinary travellers, due to heavy cartel presence and a history of guerilla kidnappings.
Short info about Panama
Full name: República de Panamá (Republic of Panama)
Motto: Pro Mundi Beneficio (For the Benefit of the World)
Anthem: Himno Istmeño (Hymn of the Isthmus)
Official language: Spanish
Government: Unitary presidential constitutional republic
Area: 75,417 square kilometres
Population: 4,2 million (2018 estimate)
Capital: Panama City (coordinates: 8°58′N 79°32′W)
Currencies: Balboa (PAB) and United States dollar (USD)
Time zone: UTC−5 (EST)
Driving side: right
Calling code: +507
ISO 3166 code: PA
Internet TLD: .pa