Climbing Ancon Hill is free and can be done every day of the year. With 199 meters above sea level, it is considered the highest point of Panama City. It was important since the Spaniards had to move the location of Panama Viejo to Casco Viejo. It served as a surveillance point since 1671.
To get there, you must drive to Quarry Heights and announce at the checkpoint that you will go up. There are spaces to park next to the sentry box. It can also be accessed through Mi Pueblito. You have to climb a series of stairs and it is more difficult than from Quarry Heights.
The journey lasts 4 miles (2 kilometers) on a paved street. Only authorized cars can enter, in the old times any car could go. It is a fairly easy walk that anyone with normal physical conditions can perform. If you get tired you will find some benches on the way or you can always stop and enjoy the views that include El Chorrillo, Casco Viejo, Panama Canal, Albrook y Panama Ports.
Three natural water springs descended from the Ancon Hill’s slopes. The one in the center had the greatest flow and was located near what is now the Chinese Cemetery. It was known as ‘Chorro’ and was used to supply the city with drinking water. People washed their clothes on the site and planted plantains, oranges, coconuts, bananas, among others. From ‘Chorro’ comes the name ‘Chorrillo‘ that identified the place.
Water was carried in carts pulled by mules and oxen, to be sold at 5 cents a can. This business was controlled by the Italians until the Americans arrived and sealed the water sources. They considered this practice unhealthy and their goal was to clean up the city to control the mosquitoes that were causing tropical diseases. On July 4, 1905, the first aqueduct of Panama City was formally inaugurated which can be seen in Ancon Hill. A plaque marks the location of El Chorrito del Chorrillo, first water intake of Panama City.”
Part of the Canal Zone
Ancon Hill, due to its location and elevation, served as a planning site for the construction of the Panama Canal. From its slopes, more than 3 million cubic yards of rock were extracted for the construction of the Miraflores locks on the Pacific side and Gatun in the Atlantic. Administrative offices, hospitals and residences were built in the excavated areas.
When it was under the administration of the Southern Command of the former Canal Zone, it had a military use including communications and security. When passing through the second gate you will see a bunker that is evidence of this. It was built in 1942, during the Second World War, as a refuge from a possible military attack on the Panama Canal.
Yearnings of sovereignty
At the top of Ancon Hill is the largest Panama flag in the whole country. It measures 15 by 10 meters, similar to the size of a basketball court. This flag has been permanently hung since October 7, 1977.
It is considered a symbol of national sovereignty over the former area occupied by the Americans that was reverted thanks to the signing of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties on September 7, 1977.
Many poets have been inspired by Ancon Hill, including the poet Amelia Denis de Icaza, who has a statue just before reaching the flag. She wrote the verses “You are no longer my idolized Ancon. What have you done with your splendid beauty? Of your wild beauty that I admired? Of the mantle that with regal gentleness in your skirts, of free, that I contemplated?”
This place is one of the ‘Urban Green Areas’ that you can find in Panama City. Ancon Hill is a protected nature reserve where hunting, felling, burning and destruction of natural resources are prohibited. This reserve has 48.25 hectares and contains a tropical humid forest.
Ancon Hill is truly is a natural paradise blessed with a high biodiversity. It contains more than 68 species of animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Some of the species you will find are monkeys, agoutis, sloths, white-tailed deer, armadillo, painted rabbit, butterflies, bats, toucans, parakeets, black buzzard, iguanas, frogs, snakes and migratory bird sightings.