Cartago Tourist Information and Tourism

(Cartago, Costa Rica)

Cartago is the former capital of Costa Rica and resides just to the south-east of the current capital, San Jose. Due to its founding in the 16th century it has some impressive structures, which include incredible ruins and a noted basilica, although many of its most prized buildings have been lost forever, due to the Irazu Volcano erupting in the 1720s, and serious earthquake damage in 1841 and again in the early 1900s.

Today Cartago serves as the provincial capital, being a fairly compact modern city and straightforward to negotiate on foot, plus it makes a good base for exploring the mountain surrounds, including the stunning Orosi Valley with its rich heritage of coffee plantations. These days Cartago relies heavily on tourism and tourist information is best obtained at your hotel reception, since there is no official tourism office within the city.

Cartago Tourist Information and Tourism: Top Sights

When it comes to tourist attractions in Cartago, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels (Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles) is by far the most important and eye-catching, and contains the Black Virgin (La Negrita), Costa Rica's patron saint. Although the basilica has been rebuilt and restored on a number of occasions, it is still as impressive as it ever was, with its traditional colonial architecture complemented by some distinctive 19th-century Byzantine features, thrown in for good measure. Each year at the beginning of August, literally thousands of pilgrims descend upon Cartago from all over Costa Rica and beyond, coming to worship at the basilica during the Fiesta of the Virgin of Los Angeles.

Sightseeing tourists may also like to explore the 16th-century Santiago Apostol Parish Ruins (Las Ruinas de la Parroquia) before taking a leisurely stroll around the outlying Paraiso and Lankester Botanical Gardens (Jardin Botanico Lankester), or perhaps catching a football match at the Jose Rafael Fello Meza Stadium (Estadio Jose Rafael Fello Meza Ivankovich). More information about Cartago Tourist Attractions.

The Plaza Mayor forms the centrepiece of the city and many grand buildings surround this large public square / park, along with a selection of terrace cafés should you wish to stay here a while and soak up the atmosphere. Another notable city landmark is the Technology Institute of Costa Rica (Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica - TEC), a prominent university boasting a number of scenic riverside trails. Further sights of interest lie just outside of the city environs and include the Quircot Church (Iglesia de Quircot), which many believe to be the most historic church still standing in Costa Rica. Something quite different is the Cachi Dam (Presa de Cachi), less than 30 minutes to the east, which is fed by the Rio Grande de Orosi river and powers giant hydroelectric turbines, doing its bit for renewable energy. More information about Cartago Landmarks and Monuments.

Although Cartago was the Costa Rican capital until 1823, it is not blessed with an abundance of museums and cultural offerings. The centrally located Elias Leiva Museum of Ethnography (Elias Leiva Museo de Etnografia) may well be of interest, with its colonial exhibits and related information, while the Kirieti Indian History Museum (India Kirieti Museo de Historia) at neighbouring Tobosi clearly documents the past civilisation of Kirieti Indians. For some exposure to old religious art works and treasures, allow time to check out the Our Senora del Pilar Religious Museum (Nuestra Senora del Pilar Museo Religioso), or pencil in a visit to the religious museums located just outside of Cartago, within the nearby town of Paraiso. More information about Cartago Museums.

Many people flying into Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) choose to rent a car upon their arrival, and once you have your own set of wheels, the whole of the Central Valley and Costa Rican Highlands area is at your fingertips. Cartago functions as a good holiday base, being within comfortable driving distance of a number of attractions, including both the famous Irazu Volcano National Park (Parque Nacional Volcan Irazu) and the Orosi Valley (Valle de Orosi). At just 45 minutes to the south of Cartago, the Tapanti National Park (Parque Nacional Tapanti) is something of a tourist magnet, with its observation area, beautiful waterfall, and resplendent hummingbirds and parrots.

Of course, a day trip or longer to San Jose is a must, particularly since Costa Rica's proud capital is so close. For a bit of an adrenaline rush, head to the town of Turrialba and try your hand at white-water rafting. Tourists who prefer history to foaming rapids may like to admire the archaeological excavations at nearby Guayabo National Monument (Monumento Nacional Arqueologico Guayabo), which date back some 3,000 years. More information about Cartago Attractions Nearby.

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