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Cartago Province, Costa Rica

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Cartago, Costa Rica is a small and peaceful province located in the central valley of Costa Rica, bordering the provinces of San José and Limón. It is a visually stunning province with a cool climate and 8 cantons teeming with vast sugar cane fields, extensive coffee plantations and rich farm lands.

Cartago was formerly the capital city of Costa Rica until 1823, when the capital was changed to San José, making it the wealthiest province in colonial tradition.

The province of Cartago is also famous for its beautiful Basilica of our Lady of the Angels, an amazing Byzantine style church where, according to Costa Rica’s religious community, an image of the Virgin Mary miraculously appeared to a young girl in 1635. Each year on August the 2nd, thousands of people, not only from Costa Rica but from around the world, still peregrinate to honor the virgin of ‘Los Angeles’ and to render homage to wishes answered and unanswered.

Other locations in the province of Cartago that are well worth the visit are the ruins of the old “Parroquia” in downtown Cartago. These ruins are surrounded by a nicely conserved park in the middle of town, the city market, with all its delicatessens on display, and the weapon’s barrack, best known as the ‘Cuartel de Armas’. The province of Cartago is known for its historical significance, and for being the country’s religious shrine, as well as for its captivating natural beauty.

The main natural monuments in the province are:

Irazú Volcano National Park (Parque Nacional Volcán Irazú)
This popular destination is situated in the Cordillera Central 31 kilometers northeast of the city of Cartago, and is part of the Prusia Forest Resever. The Irazú Volcano is the highest active volcano in Costa Rica, and has several craters, one of which contains a green crater lake of variable depth. This beautiful national park is about a 1 hour and 30 minute drive from the capital city of San José and is visible on a clear day.

Tapantí National Park (Parque Nacional Tapantí)
This highly visited national park is located in Paraíso de Cartago (Orosi district), Tapantí National Park is one of the rainiest places in Costa Rica and probably one of the most significant as well, when it comes to flora and fauna abundance.

Guayabo National Monument (Monumento Nacional Guayabo)
This park is located in Turrialba 19 kilometers northwest from Turrialba’s city center. It’s the biggest and most important archeological site in the country and it is believed that it was influenced mostly by South and Middle American cultures.

Turrialba Volcano National Park (Parque Nacional Volcán Turrialba)
Turrialba volcano is a large, densely forested, active volcano. Described by many as Irazú’s twin volcano, Turrialba has unique natural attractions such as hiking along the trails, which allows visitors to witness several lava flows, evidencing the once flowing rivers of hot magma.

Death’s Hill (Cerro de la Muerte)
Death’s Hill is a 50-kilometer stretch of the PanAmerican highway that gives visitors a glimpse into Costa Rica’s highlands, flora and fauna.

Lankester Botanical Gardens (Jardín Botánico Lankester)
This internationally recognized garden located in Paraíso, Cartago, was established in 1973 as a center for the exhibition, conservation and research of tropical plants. Lankester is home to a wide collection of plants such as orchids, bromeliads, cacti, heliconias, bamboos and palms.

Orosi Valley & Cachí Reservoir and Dam
Beautiful Orosi Valley is less than a 1 hour drive from the capital city of San José. The town of Orosi is home to Costa Rica’s oldest church, which is still in use by faithful locals.

On a clear day, the splendorous Orosi Valley, along with its flowing river can be visible from the top of the Irazú Volcano.  The Orosi River flows out of the Talamanca mountains and Tapantí National Park, through the valley and into a lake which was formed by the construction of the Cachi Dam.

One interesting attraction between the village and the dam is La Casa del Soñador (The House of the Dreamer), a small house made of coffee trunks, each one sculpted into unique forms and figures.

The road around the south side of this artificial lake will take you through the village of Cachí and to the dam.  Continuing across the dam, you will get to the village of Ujarrás, known for its ruins, dedication to coffee production and beautiful gardens.

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