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Reviewed March 19, 2019

This is one of the most fascinating historical places of Panama, on the Atlantic coast. It may be well combined with a visit to the Gatun Lake and to Portobello.

Date of experience: March 2019
Thank Emibru
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 4, 2019

The site is spectacular!! At the western edge of the Caribbean and the mouth of the Chagres River, this is probably the best preserved of the Panamanian Spanish forts. The forts were built by the Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries to protect the plunder (gold and silver) extracted from Central and South America, consolidated in Panama, and shipped ultimately to Spain by way of Havana. The forts were targets of pirates, privateers, and at times, the ships of the European navies. Henry Morgan (for example), variously a pirate and a privateer, destroyed Panama City (on the Pacific side), and also attacked forts on the Caribbean. Adm. Vernon (George Washington's estate, Mt Vernon was named for him) also visited the area.

Unfortunately the stones at the various Panama forts and the ruins of Old Panama City have been pillaged over the centuries, used for new structures, so the remains are not as robust as they should be.

We were pleased to see new placards in Spanish and English that explain the fortress. Work has been done to stabilize the ruins, and safety fencing (unobtrusive, but strategically placed) has been added. I think more areas of the fortress are open now than I remember from our earlier visit.

It was very dry when we visited, also hot, but a nice breeze off the Caribbean helped considerably. (Don't forget to bring water!)

Reading some of the older reviews, it appears that around 2010 the road was paved and in good shape -- it isn't now!!! Limited maintenance and the rainy season are probably major factors. When we visited first (2007), the road was dirt, full of ruts, and awful. Now, despite once having been paved, the pavement is mostly full of potholes, and the road is awful. It's impossible to drive more than a few KPH due to the condition. It takes an inordinate amount of time to go to or from the fortress because of the terrible condition of the road.

There are no tourist services at the fortress (or at the Portobelo forts).

It looks like a small visitor area is currently under construction. Possibly a restroom (definitely needed). There was a tent off to the side, outside the fortress, with some tourist items for sale.

Date of experience: February 2019
1  Thank Soars37
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 29, 2019

As far as historical points of interest within Panama, visiting Fort San Lorenzo is definitely a key site to visit. The Chagres River was a key method of transportation across the isthmus of Panama during the 1500’s as Spain used it to transport gold from its conquests in Mexico and South America to the Caribbean Sea where they could return it to Spain. It wasn’t long before pirates began attacking the ships as they made their way to the sea, so Spain built Fort San Lorenzo around 1560 to protect their ships from the pirates.

The pirates that attacked the ships were not the ones of a Disney movie and were vicious and ruthless. Over the next 40 years, the fortifications at the fort continued to evolve as the fort became more secure. One of the first things that you notice as you visit the remains of the fort is that the canons all face inland and not towards the river. This is because the attacks on the fortress actually occurred from land as the pirates tried to take control of the high point above the river. The cliffs around the fortress are far too steep for anyone to attack the fort from the river. The fortress also has two motes around it providing the ability to trap attackers as the soldiers retreated into the interior walls.

The fort was attacked and pretty much put into ruins in 1670 by the infamous pirate, Henry Morgan (from Captain Morgan rum fame). It was pretty much abandoned after that, but it was used as a prison during part of the 1700’s. Spain abandoned travel through the isthmus in favor of traveling around Cape Horn, but it became a popular route once again during the gold rush of 1848. The fort was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 and is part of the current Panama Canal.

You travel through a national park on your way to the fortress and during our ride, we stopped several times to see monkeys, a tree sloth, and most interestingly, an anteater in the trees. We spent about an hour walking through the ruins and despite being a world heritage site, our group was all alone during our time there. Afterwards, we set up chairs underneath a tree to enjoy some lunch. We did have one visitor during our lunch as a tarantula poked his head out of a hole in the tree to see what we were eating. We would definitely recommend that you put Fort San Lorenzo on your itinerary when visiting Panama City.

Date of experience: November 2018
1  Thank livingtheqlife
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 26, 2019

Road in is terrible.
Once you are there it is very interesting.
They are working on new signs and pathways.
Now they just need yo fix the road.

Date of experience: January 2019
Thank dec0rs
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 20, 2019

located at entrance rio chagres this old fport was the place where captauin Morgan fighted to start the invasion of panama city across the istamus. Beaautiful view on ocean and river. I recommand. it was included in a trip starting with the train from panama city, then san lorenzo fort, agua clara locks etc.. it was with the reliable NATIVA TOURS team that we thank to have discvered this great spot.

Date of experience: January 2019
Thank berni507
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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