By: Victoria

Panama with kids: Ancon Hill

Ancon Hill

 

 

Shrouded in thick vegetation and visible from most parts of Panama City, Ancon Hill is one of the capital’s most prominent landmarks (besides the canal of course!). Located in the former Panama Canal Zone, Ancon Hill was once used as a small US military base for communications and security. Today, it remains largely untouched by urban development and is one of the best places in the city to spot wildlife, particularly if you are an early riser.

Up until recently, cars were allowed to drive to the top. However this is no longer the case and the only way up is on foot or by bike (if you a serious biker I should add).

 

Ancon Hill with Kids

Panama with kids: Walking up Ancon Hill

The only way up Ancon Hill is by foot or bike

 

Although the gradient is reasonably steep (the hill is 200m high), the tarmac surface of the road makes the climb fairly easy going and stroller-friendly (providing you have the muscle power!). I even spotted one papa pushing his child up the hill in one of those kiddie-size cars. Kudos!

 

Panama with kids: Stroller-friendly Ancon hill

The path is stroller-friendly, depending on how fit you are!

 

Panama with kids: Walking up Ancon hill

Walking up Ancon hill

 

 

Halfway views of the city

Panama with kids: Views from Ancon hill (midway point)

Views of Panama City from a midway point

 

The walk to the summit only takes around 30 minutes. However, if you have little kids and are unable to make it to the top, you can still enjoy impressive views of the city skyscrapers to the east and Casco Viejo to the south from a half-way vista point.

 

Panama with kids: views from Ancon hill

A vulture-eye view of Panama City

 

 

The Flora and Fauna of Ancon Hill

Panama with kids: Ancon hill rainforest

The rainforest that cloaks Ancon Hill

 

The trail cuts through thick neon-green rainforest that is home to more than 68 animal species. These include monkeys, sloths, agoutis, coatis (gato solo), white-tailed deer, armadillos, butterflies, bats, toucans, parrots, black vultures, iguanas, frogs, snakes and countless migratory birds.

On our visit a toucan swooped over our heads, a pair of orange butterflies performed a courtship dance just inches from our noses, a beautiful Blue Morpho fluttered over our heads, an enormous spider went about fixing its magnificent web, a couple of vultures pecked on their breakfast at the side of the road and an unidentified bird that croaked like a frog kept us guessing. If we had been in an animated movie, this would mark the point at which all the Ancon chorus animals burst into song and dance!

 

 

With such large areas of impenetrable rainforest, it’s easy for the imagination to wander off the tarmac road. But alas, no dancing sloths on this visit.

 

Panama with kids: Ancon hill heart-shaped seed pod

A heart-shaped seed pod! (We were warned not to touch the furry insides!)

 

Panama with kids: Ancon hill spider web

A busy spider

 

Panama with kids: Ancon hill vegetation

Some of the pretty vegetation we encountered on Ancon Hill

 

 

The views from the top of Ancon Hill

Panama with kids: the views from the top of Ancon hill (city centre and Casco Viejo)

The views from the top of Ancon Hill

 

Panama with kids: The city skyscrapers, as seen from the top of Ancon hill

The city skyscrapers, as seen from the top of Ancon hill

 

In addition to a hearty walk and show-stopping wildlife, Ancon Hill offers some of the finest views of the city. Looking south from the top, the views stretch from the modern city centre in the east to Casco Viejo to the south. From the other side of the hill, the views follow the canal inland, from the Bridge of the Americas in the south, to the Miraflores Locks sitting north-west and up to the Centenario Bridge in the far distance.

 

Panama with kids: Views of the canal from Ancon Hill

Views of the canal from Ancon Hill

 

Panama with kids: Views of the canal from Ancon Hill

Views of the canal from Ancon Hill

 

 

National Symbols 

Panama with kids: The National Flag at the top of Ancon Hill

The National Flag at the top of Ancon Hill

 

At the summit there are two notable landmarks:

Firstly, the Panamanian Flag. Roughly the size of a basket-ball court, this giant flag was hoisted up the flag pole on 7 October 1977 to mark the signing of the Torrijos-Carter treaties. This US-Panama agreement guaranteed that Panama would take control of the canal from 1999.

Secondly, a statue of the Panamanian poet, Amelia Denis de Icaza. At the turn of the 20th century, she wrote a poem entitled ‘Al Cerro Ancon’ about the changes and suffering of Ancon hill. The poem, which reflected her thoughts of a US-controlled canal zone, is one of Panama’s most cherished patriotic odes.

 

Panama with kids: Amelia Denis de Icaza, Ancon Hill

Amelia Denis de Icaza

 

 

How to access the footpath up Ancon Hill

Panama with kids: How to access Ancon Hill road

How to access Ancon Hill road

 

Walking up Ancon Hill is the easy bit. Finding the start of the trail is where it gets tricky. There are no signs, nor is there any official car park. If you are taking a taxi (Uber works well here) ask to be dropped at ‘Mi Pueblito’ (this is where I parked our car, although when I returned to the car I noticed someone had placed cones around this area and so I don’t know if it is privately owned??).

From Mi Pueblito, it’s a short walk up the hill to the foot of some steps (see photo below). There are two flights of steps which lead to the start of the trail. Continue up the hill and from here, it’s very straight-forward. As there is only one road up, you must descend the same way. It would be very hard, if not impossible, to get lost on the hill itself so hiring a guide is not necessary.

 

Panama with kids: How to access the Ancon Hill road

How to access Ancon Hill road

 

 

What to bring

Panama with kids: what to bring

Bring lots of water!

 

Water! You’ll need at least one bottle per person, and having a few snacks at hand is always a good idea when travelling with kids.

Binoculars might also come in handy.

 

Mi Pueblito

Panama with kids: Mi Pueblito

Mi Pueblito

 

At the foot of Ancon Hill sits Mi Pueblito, a reconstructed village portraying three Panamanian cultures: Afro-Caribbean, people from the interior, and indigenous groups such as the Kuna and Embera indians. We didn’t have time to visit it after our walk but it might be worth a peek if you are passing by? From what I’ve read about it online, it’s not going to win any tourist awards just yet but for kids, it might be an interesting concept. Pastel-coloured Caribbean-style houses sit alongside thatched huts, showcasing some of key cultures that form the backbone of Panama.

 

Panama with kids: monument outside Mi Pueblito

Monument outside Mi Pueblito

 

 

You May Also Enjoy The Following Posts:

Visiting the Amazing BioMuseo

The Punta Culebra Nature Centre

The Panama Canal with Kids: The Miraflores Visitor Centre

Discover the Metropolitan Park!

A Guide to Panama with Kids

 

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Panama with kids: Walking up Ancon Hill via @globetotting