Fuerte San Lorenzo

(continuer en français) – Published: October 29, 2020

Since 1601, the San Lorenzo fort has guarded the entrance to the Rio Chagres. In combination with Portobelo, the fort contributed to the defence of the Caribbean coast of Panama. Before the construction of the canal, the river gave navigable access to the large Lake Chagres inland, leading halfway to Panama City. Passing through there would allow the city to be taken from behind.

Located on a cliff, the fort overlooks the coast on one side and on the other side it covers the entire mouth of the river, making its navigation perilous under cannon fire. Several batteries are arranged to keep these two navigable facades.

In 1670, the pirate Henry Morgan successfully attempted to seize the fort so that he could then attack Panama City by land. As a result, the fort’s defences were reinforced, particularly to protect it from a land attack.

Ditches were dug deeper on the part not facing the cliffs.

A surrounding building was also constructed, increasing the height of the defensive wall towards the outside.

An elegant entrance pavilion was even added to the new fortification. Nowadays, a decor appreciated by the inhabitants for their celebration photos.

On the plateau, the old barracks have badly withstood the test of time.

Fortunately, consolidation work has been carried out to stabilise the structure of the fort, however daily maintenance seems rather negligent. Negligence that can be illustrated by the centuries-old canons, left lying in the grass rather than joining the presentation of the fort.

Fort San Lorenzo was reused by the Americans for the defence of the Panama Canal. From 1916 to 1999, the United States had therefore installed a defence system, while ensuring the preservation of the fort.

At the same time as Portobelo, San Lorenzo was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980. After the departure of the Americans, the Panamanian authorities placed the forest surrounding the fort under protection, but by 2012 the site was declared endangered.

The Caribbean coast between Portobelo and San Lorenzo is a pleasant place to visit, but tourism is not very well developed. Visitors to the Atlantic coast mainly visit the islands. To get to Fort San Lorenzo, it is necessary to cross a protected natural park, where the Americans are said to have left some mines.


From 1903 to 1999 the United States directly administered the Panama Canal and an area of 5 miles, 8 kilometres, on each side was placed under their control, as well as the extension to Fort San Lorenzo.

Up to 100,000 Americans lived in this protected area. Sheridan was one of those villages built for the Americans along the Canal. Since their departure, the houses have been left derelict and present their torn walls to travellers on their way to Fort San Lorenzo.

At the time of my trip along the Caribbean coast of Panama in 2017, the Canal crossing was still done by ferry. The Atlantic Bridge was still under construction. Since its completion, access to this bank has been made easier and could lead to increased visits to Fort San Lorenzo.

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Articles about Panama:

The Panama Canal

Panama City: Top 10

The canal, of course, obliterating the homonymous country and city. Though the capital of this small country cut in two by the canal has a much older history than the famous seaway. The marks of this past can be found scattered throughout an agglomeration that is a somewhat intimidating place for the visitor. It is important to know what to visit and to organize accordingly.

Portobelo, the Spanish safe

Portobelo on the Atlantic coast of Panama served as a safe for the Spanish during the early days of colonisation, when the dominant idea was to extract as much gold and silver as possible and transport it to Spain. All the resources collected in the south passed through Lima, then crossed the isthmus by land and re-embarked in Portobelo

Portobelo, Panama
Entrance to Fort San Lorenzo, Panama

Fuerte San Lorenzo

Since 1601, the San Lorenzo fort has guarded the entrance to the Rio Chagres. In combination with Portobelo, the fort contributed to the defence of the Caribbean coast of Panama. 

Boquete and its coffee

The altitude provides Boquete with a pleasant, constant temperature all year round. Taking advantage of this climatic feature, many Westerners have long since settled there, notably to create coffee plantations.

Boquete, Panama
Bocas del Toro, Panama

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro is the most successful Caribbean version resort in Panama. It is an archipelago of a dozen islands located at a short distance from the coast, half an hour by water taxi off the Atlantic coast. In the past it was a banana port, but after the crisis of the banana industry, it has been able to reconvert itself while keeping its character and without turning into a concrete town.

The Pan-American in Panama

The Pan-American Highway is one of the most attractive road trip dreams. From Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Ushuaia in Argentina, the Pan-American Highway runs from one end of the American continent to the other for 15,000 miles.

To be informed of upcoming articles, register here (it’s free).


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