Panama La Vieja and the tale of Captain Morgan

This is our last post about Panama until we go back, and this week we want to share with you our experience in Panama La Vieja and tell you a bit about the tale of Captain Morgan who was actually a real pirate.

Panama La Vieja

Panama La Vieja – The Place in History


Panama La Vieja was the first permanent Spanish settlemente on the Pacific Ocean, and it was founded August 15, 1519, and it had around 100 inhabitants. 

It was founded to replace the two major commerce cities of the isthmus at the time, and later in 1521 the settlement received the status of a city by a royal decree.  At that time it received a coat of arms and everything.

Shortly after its denomination as a city, it served as the center point for several expeditions for conquer interest as well as excavations of gold and silver that were sent back to Spain.

The city grew very quick and by 1610 it had a population of 5000 with 500 houses and convents, chapels and hospital and the cathedral.

Panama La Vieja


Panama La Vieja and Captain Morgan

At the beginning of the 17th century, the city was attacked several times by pirates and indigenous people.

On 28 January 1671, the Welsh pirate Henry Morgan attacked the city with 1,400 men marching from the Caribbean coast across the jungle. Either Morgan and his army started a fire that burned the city or the Captain General ordered the gunpowder magazines exploded. Either way, the resulting fire destroyed the city. Morgan’s attack caused the loss of thousands of lives and Panamá had to be rebuilt a few kilometres to the west on a new site now called Casco Viejo and you can read about it in our previous post.

Henry Morgan was arrested but after proving he knew not of the recent treaty he was freed and later rewarded.

There was one thing the pirates didn’t steal, because it was disguised with mud.  A Golden Altar that was in the Cathedral in Panama La Vieja.  Pictures of the actual altar also in our Casco Viejo post.

Panama La Vieja


Panama La Vieja Today

Today, Panama La Vieja is a place to learn history like few places I’ve been to.  Not only you can see the ruins of many of the buildings that form this great city of the colonial times, but there are many restoration projects in place that helps you put the pieces of the past together.

For us its is always interesting to experience culture and imagine how thigns were before.


Panama La Vieja

Getting to Panama La Vieja.

Panama La Vieja is conviniently located near the happening areas of Panama city in between downtown and the Airport.  If you have a layover in Panama or you are in this great country for few days, make sure to allocate few hours of your time to visit this monument filled with history.

We literally visit Panama La Vieja the morning of the day we were heading back to Alaska.   It was that easy and it was worth it. 

Since there is a clear visitor center I’d say you can get there by Uber super easy.

Being from Panama I’d recommend you that you go there early in the morning buecause Panama La Vieja is one of the hottest places in Panama City.   This monumental place can literally be few degrees hotter than the rest of the city.

Because it’s close to the manglar, mosquitos could be a a bother too, so you might want to bring mosquito repellent with you.

Panama La ViejaIn Conclusion

Definitely add Panama La Vieja to your travel itinerary when you are visiting Panama whether it’s for few hours or few days.

Can’t wait to hear what your experience is.

Until then remember to travel more and travel often because Life is a Getaway!


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