Panama: Panama City – Casco Viejo

When the old settlement of Panama Vieja was destroyed by pirates in mid 17th century, the city was rebuilt on a peninsula jutting into the sea about 20km north of the original locations the peninsula was heavily fortified and better to defend. Today, this is the historic old town of Panama City aka Casco Viejo. The area is compact, but packed to the rim with churches and cathedrals and historic 18-19th century buildings along very narrow cobblestone streets. The entire old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among the highlights are the Metropolitan Cathedral and the waterfront Palacio de las Garzas, the presidential home. There are also very old Iglesia de la Merced and Iglesia de San Jose, both with many relics inside. Interestingly, every single church in Casco Viejo includes a whole room of a religious Bethlehem diorama, insane in detail and craftsmanship, as if every church is competing against each other for the best diorama in town.