Today we present… the Panama Viejo Archaeological Site

Located within the current city of Panama, it’s an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003

The Archaeological Site of Panama is a group of ruins that includes the first European settlement on the American Pacific coast. Consequently, the first city built on the other side of the Atlantic was Emperor Charles V.

15th August 1519. Before the eyes of Pedro Arias Davila, a piece of land between the mouths of the Algarrobo and Abajo rivers. The isthmus of Panama narrows and, at the front, you can already see the coast of an immense sea, until then unknown, and which will take the name of the Pacific.

It is there, on that site, that the first European city was built on the American Pacific coast, and also the first American city founded under the reign of Emperor Charles V.

One place, Panama la Vieja, now called the Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo, which had about 10,000 inhabitants in the seventeenth century, spread over an area of approximately 60 hectares. It was the main residence of the elite on the mainland, as well as the seat of the representatives of the Crown and the local church.

The new city soon became the starting point for the conquering expeditions heading south. However, its strategic role as the hub of one of the most important trade routes of the time placed it in a privileged position, and from then on it became a territory at the service of international traffic.


Until, in 1671, Henry Morgan attacked the city and razed it to the ground. After this attack, the city was never rebuilt and its remains were abandoned for over two centuries. An abandonment that, despite everything, allowed the archaeological conservation of the historical remains of the important buildings and structures. On the contrary, the activity of the city moved to what is now known as the Old Town.

The Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo was designated as such by Law 91 of December 1976. Of those 60 hectares, only 28 remain today, and they include both the ruins of some of the most important buildings from the colonial era, and the archaeological remains from the pre-Hispanic and colonial periods.

Finally, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee included the Archaeological Site of Old Panama in the World Heritage List on July 5, 2003, as an extension of the Historical District of Panama.

PHOTOS: Panama Viejo Board of Trustees website


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