The Panama Canal (Spanish: Canal de Panamá) is one of the most important feats of engineering in the world, and is a must for anyone visiting the city. It was dug out in one of the tightest points and in the lowest part of the Central Cordillera of the isthmus, which links the North American and South American continents.
The Panama Canal is 82-kilometre long ship canal that connects the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a key conduit for international maritime trade.
It takes a ship from 6 to 10 hours to navigate the Canal, which is made up of various elements: Gatún Lake, the Culebra Cut and the system of locks (Miraflores and Pedro Miguel on the Pacific side and Gatún on the Atlantic side). Gatún Lake, whose waters are fundamental for the functioning of the inter-oceanic waterway, was the largest artificial lake in the world for a number of decades.
The locks system, which allows ships to carry out a change in level of 26 metres and soavoid having to circumnavigate South America, used to be the most imposing reinforced concrete structure ever built.
Constructed by the United States between 1904 and 1914, it is 81 km long and is still a symbol of the strategic importance that the isthmus has maintained since the 16th century, and today is still one of the most important communications routes in the world.