The City of Cartago Costa Rica, is one of the oldest population settlements in the country, perhaps we should say, it’s the town of Costa Rica with the most history and curious stories from the entire colonial time. This city is the former capital of the country, which was moved to San Jose back in 1823 after a civil war.
This city is well known for its high practice of the Roman Catholic Religion, as a matter of fact, the most important church of the whole country called “The Basilica de Los Angeles” is located near the city’s downtown area. The story says that back in 1635 a pilgrim girl was washing clothes in a nearby river where the church is settled today and found a tiny statue of a black Virgin Mary siting on a rock. She took this statue and gave it to the local priest, but surprisingly, it appeared again in the rock the next morning; this happened day after day until they determined that it was a miracle and understood that the Virgin Mary was asking to build a cathedral in her name in that particular place… Until this day, “La Negrita” is our countries virgin-patroness that most Costa Ricans look up to and respect. Speaking of church and religion, in Cartago also stands the church of Santiago Apostol. This church is one of the most beautiful buildings in all Costa Rica, however, from the time that it was built until today is has been brought down many times… not by man, but by nature. This church has been through many earthquakes, by just as many times as it has been taken down; it has also been rebuilt, till it got to a point in 1910 where it was left as is and in present time is no longer referred to as the church of Santiago Apostol, but it’s now called, “the ruins of Cartago”, but don’t get me wrong, as it stands, it’s a beautiful monument to look at.
Costa Rica is filled with beautiful volcanos; there is probably a volcano nearby no matter where you are in the territory. Cartago is not exception; it is home to two of the most important volcanos in the whole country, the Irazu Volcano and the Turrialba Volcano (currently the most active in Costa Rica). The Irazu Volcano is completely dormant, its actually available to be visited on any given day; on the flip side the Turrialba Volcano is so active that its completely restricted from any kind of access, the last time that this volcano had any activity was back in early 2016, these eruptions had caused for the local population to be evacuated several times in the past years.
In Cartago, one of the most important means of economy is agriculture, as a matter of fact, Cartago is commonly referred to as the city of potatoes, simply because this region is responsible for most of the potatoes that are consumed in Costa Rica and also exported out, this is due to the cold and humid climate, ideal for the cultivation of this particular crop. Also in the district of Alvarado (also part of Cartago) there is a place called Juan Viñas, where A LOT of sugar cane is cultivated.
Tourism is just starting as an industry in this particular region, being the Irazu Volcano and the Basilica de Los Angeles Cathedral the only famous attractions of this whole territory. Some hotels have being built in the country side of the Province of Cartago, but these accommodations try mainly to bring out the cultural aspects of the area; its farmers and their lifestyle.
Some of the main touristic points of interest that can be accessed from Cartago are:
The Tapanti National Park: This is one of the most dense-unexplored jungles of the country, where ALL kinds of wildlife from Costa Rica can be found. The park has beautiful nature trails that provide gorgeous views of the local rivers.
Irazu Volcano: This is tallest volcano in all Costa Rica; there is access by vehicle all the way up to its crater. The views of the mountains and farms on the way to the Volcano are simply spectacular.
The Turrialba area: So far, this is the place that has more touristic development of this whole region, with a few hotels and activities, such as white water rafting, nature walks, mountain biking, farm tours, waterfall rappelling, horseback riding, among others.
Guayabo National Monument: This is one of the most interesting historic sites of Costa Rica, just outside of the mentioned are of Turrialba.
Orosi Valley: This place is just a few minutes out of Cartago, a gorgeous Valley with many rivers and plantations, mainly coffee and a squash called “chayote”.
Los Santos: The region of Los Santos is starting to develop some activities for the tourists, such as coffee tours, nature walks and observation of the amazing resplendent quetzal, one of the most rare and beautiful birds of Costa Rica.
If you plan to visit Cartago, you can be sure that you will find an authentic Costa Rican town, filled with culture and untouched nature!