Following a disastrous attempt by the French in the early 1890’s, the Canal was redesigned and built between 1904 and 1914 by the US Army Corps of Engineers. It transformed the world shipping trade and it is one of the most iconic and influential engineering achievements on the planet. Ships using the canal avoided the lengthy and costly Cape Horn route round the southern end of South America. This amazing 48-mile phenomenon has been named one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
This really is a canal with a difference. It comprises massive locks 1,000 feet long, immense man-made dams that have trapped lakes 27 metres above sea level and a spectacular cutting though the mountainous backbone of the country. One way to appreciate it is to take a journey along its entire length. In the centre is the Gatun Lake, at 180 square miles, once the largest man-made lake. Locks take you up to the lake – and down again when you have sailed across.
The lake is surrounded by dense tropical rainforest – the Soberania National Park. Take a canoe and explore the backwaters that teem with animal, reptile and extraordinary bird life and visit an Embera village.
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