Irazú National Park, Cartago

Share on Facebook
Tweet this page
One of the most frequented national parks in Costa Rica is the Irazu Volcano National Park that lies around 32 km from Cartago, the country’s former capital. Home to Costa Rica’s highest active volcano Irazu, which stands at around 11,260 feet, this national park is conveniently located close to the city, and is a short car drive away. To get to Irazu Volcano National Park, you can take the short car or bus ride to from San Jose, which is around 50 km east, and from here you can take the highway to Cartago, enjoying some picturesque scenic views along the way.

‘Irazu’ is actually a derivative of an Indian word, which means ‘thunder and earthquake mountain’. An active stratovolcano, Irazu has had a number of volcanic eruptions over the years. The first documented eruption was in 1723 by Diego de la Haya, after which one of Irazu’s five craters has been named. The last time Irazu erupted was in 1994. However, in 1963 on the day President John F. Kennedy made an official trip to Costa Rica, this volcano spewed to life after a period of 20 years, and then went on to stay active for another two years, before going dormant again.

Extending over 500 square kilometers at its base, Irazu is also Costa Rica’s largest volcano. The volcanic ash from Irazu has made the soil in the surrounding areas very fertile, but there is not much wildlife found here due to volcanic activity. Robins, owls, porcupines, hummingbirds, foxes, rabbits and coyotes are a few of the animals that can be spotted in this national park. The landscape of the Irazu Volcano National Park is actually quite surreal, with most of the park’s forest found on the Caribbean side of the volcano. The surrounding vegetation is mostly a rainforest that has gaps of shrubs and bushes. Atop Irazu’s summit, only a few plants can be found that have acclimatized themselves to the harsh conditions and chilly winds that blow here.

A major attraction of this park is the climb to the Deigo de la Haya crater that has a 300 meter green-colored lake in the center of it. You can drive up to the crater or hike there on foot, but do remember to carry some warm clothing, as it can get quite chilly up there. The best time to visit is between March and April, as there is very little rain, and visitors can view both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans from Irazu’s summit on a clear day. There are many hiking trails in the park, as well as rest rooms, picnic spaces, a snack stall and a souvenir shop.