The region of Cartago, Costa Rica, is between the Irazu Volcano and the town of Turrialba. An outdoor adventure awaits within an hour's drive of Cartago -- there are five national parks to hike and two major rivers to raft.
There are stupendous views on a rare clear day from Irazu Volcano. There are two craters that formed a mineral rich lake of blood red and emerald green. Due to the damage from the eruptions of the Irazu Volcano, the landscape is pretty barren and there is not very much wildlife to see.
Tapanti National Park is another nearby destination that sits at a high elevation. Dress warmly and bring rain gear, since it rains daily. It is located in one of the wettest parts of the country. This rainforest contains a variety of flowers unique to its climate. There is a nice hike to beautiful waterfalls, and there is a good slideshow at the nature center.
Cartago is a great place from which to position yourself as a jumping-off point to see the region. There is a beautiful, circular bus trip departing from and returning to Cartago. Taking the bus trip on a loop counter-clockwise, the road passes through the town of Orosi. It then clips the edge of Tapanti National Park, crosses the dam wall of Cachi Dam, and finally completes the circuit following the north shore passing through the Ujarras Mountains before returning back to Cartago.
This area is beautiful and a fine place to hang out, yet it is often overlooked as vacationers rush to more popular beach and national park destinations. Orosi is a small village known for its coffee farms and its nearby kayaking on the flat-water lake of Cachi. Here, there are hot springs in the vicinity to enjoy. There is also a preserved church, Iglesia de San Jose de Orosi, to see. For an outdoors adventure, you could horseback-ride on a trail through the Orosi Valley along the Cachi Reservoir. This artificial lake is used for hydroelectric generation.
The region of Cartago is rich in history and colonial tradition. Until the nineteenth century, when San Jose took over the role of capital, Cartago was the capital of Costa Rica. The Cartago region failed to grow due to regular earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Recently an archaeological site in the area has been found.
Not to be overlooked, the actual town of Cartago has a couple of attractions of its own. There is a beautiful basilica called Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles. It is still in use every Sunday and open for visitors daily. This church and its adjacent basilica are frequently used for prayer. A few blocks from there is La Parroquia, an old parish church that fell into ruins after one too many earthquakes. It has been converted into a garden retreat. It is landscaped and has beautiful flowers where hummingbirds dwell. These two sites are the most visited in Cartago.
Though Cartago was discarded as the Costa Rican capital city, the Cartago region is still full of fun ways to enjoy the outdoors, see its original charm, and learn about its history. Ask at your Cartago, Costa Rica hostel for advice on how to get to the sights and all the area has to offer.
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