Cartago, Cartago

Located near the foothills of the Irazu Volcano in the Central Valley of Cartago, the namesake capital city is one of the oldest towns in the country. Cartago was once the capital of Costa Rica, but it was partially destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1732, and San Jose later took over as the cultural and entertainment center of the country in 1832. After the eruption, much of the city was left untouched, and it remains one of the largest cities in the country.


Founded in 1563 by Juan Vasquez de Coronado, the Spanish settlement remains one of the most important cities in the country. In fact, the city was bigger than San Jose before it became the capital. Today, visitors can still see ruins that date back to the 16th century, most notably in the city's central park. While they city's close proximity to the Irazu Volcano adds to the stunning landscape, it has caused a number of devastating events that destroyed buildings, including Cartago's first basilica.

Cartago is surrounded by rich soil in the Orosi and Central Valley, making it a prime agricultural center. Potatoes, onions and orchids are the most prominent crops in the region. Lankester Botanical Garden is one of the best places to view flora of the area, most notably orchids.

Things to See

Built in 1575, Las Ruinas de la Parroquia's outer walls only remain today after being destroyed by two earthquakes, but the unique architecture and intricate design is still worth a visit. This isn't the only area of ruins that are worth a peek. Las Ruins of Cartago has a deep-rooted past that began with two brothers who were fighting over the same woman. After one brother killed the other one night, he decided to build a church on the site. Each time it was constructed, an earthquake destroyed it. After devastation in 1910, the ruins were left as they were, and it remains as the town square today.

There are few better ways to explore a city than its food, and La Puerta del Sol abides by this rule. Opened in 1957, this establishment has been serving up Tico specialties with vintage photographs of the past.

While most of Cartago's sights are historic, Museo Municipal de Cartago opened in 2010 and serves as one of the most technologically advanced attractions with a digital library, multimedia exhibitions and live performances.

Planning a visit in August? This is one of the most important times of the year, as pilgrims from across the country venture to the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles to say their most important prayers. This church is the sight of the famous black virgin, which was rumored to appear on a rock day after day, even when a little girl took it home to play with. Locals took it as a sign from the heavens that a church needed to be built on the site.

Guanacaste Escape Adventure Tour
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Around Beautiful Costa Rica Tour
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Where to Stay near Cartago

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Hotel Rio Perlas Spa & Resort
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Pacuare River Lodge
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Paraíso Orocay Lodge
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Paraíso Quetzal Lodge
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