At the Atlantic end of the Panama Canal on the Caribbean Sea, lies the country’s second city, Colón. Initially established as the terminus of the Panama Railroad, the town was originally called Aspinwall, after Railroad’s promoter, William Aspinwall. It was built to provide a fast overland route to California and the gold rush, but the local Hispanic population soon renamed it in honour of Christopher Columbus.
Outside the city port are several reminders of Panama’s rich history, including the Canal’s impressive Gatún Locks and Gatún Dam. Fort San Lorenzo, built by the Spanish to guard the strategically important Chagres River, is a well-preserved colonial military structure.The vast Colón Free Trade Zone offers tax-free shopping.