Irazú National Park, Cartago

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If you are looking for an exciting and fascinating sight to behold while visiting Costa Rica, look no further than Irazú Volcano. This mountain is one of the most famous in Costa Rica, and is even one of the most famous volcanoes in the world. The word “Irazú” is actually derivative of an Indigenous word which means “thunder and earthquake mountain.” This volcano is actve, although it has been many years since the last time it erupted. The most recent eruption was in 1994, but it could become active again at any time. In 1963, Irazú Volcano ended a 20 year silent abruptly on the same day that United States President John F. Kennedy visited.

The volcano actually remained active for two more years after this date, spewing lava in a powerful display. Additionally, the very first documented eruption was in 1723. It was documented by Diego de la Haya and one of the volcano’s craters is now named after him. While the volcano may seem erratic or unpredictable, it is perfectly safe to visit. If it is ever in danger of erupting in a way that could pose a risk to visitors, the park would be evacuated well in advance.

Getting to Irazú Volcano National Park

No trip to Costa Rica is complete without visiting Irazú. Luckily, this is one of the easiest spots to reach in the country and it does not require much time at all to see the volcano in all its natural majesty. It is only about 30 kilometers away from Cartago, which is the country’s former capital city. The car or bus trip from Cartago is very quick, so you can begin exploring the park. If you find yourself in San Jose, which is Costa Rica’s current capital, you can reach Irazú Volcano by traveling the 50 kilometers west to Cartago. While you are making this quick and easy journey, you can also enjoy several of the most scenic sights along the way.

Exploring the National Park

As you would expect, the highlight of the Irazú Volcano National Park is the volcano itself. It is the highest active volcano in Costa Rica, as well as the largest in the country, standing at 11,260 feet tall and 500 square kilometers at its base. The volcano has also made the surrounding area in the park incredible to behold. It is flat and bare for the most part, although shrubs and bushes dot the landscape. A thick rainforest hugs the Caribbean side of the volcano. The volcanic activity has coated the landscape in ash, making the soil highly fertile. Very few plants grow at the volcano’s peak, however. Only those which are acclimated to the harsh conditions can survive. There are also very few animals in the National Park due to volcanic activity. You can, however, still spot robins, owls, hummingbirds, porcupines, rabbits, coyotes, and foxes.

Climbing the Mountain

The most popular attraction at this National Park is the climb to the Diego de la Haya crater. While it is a difficult hike, it is a rewarding one. It is also possible to reach the crater with a short drive. Once you have arrived, you will be treated to a bizarre and unique sight. The crater houses a bright green lake which is 300 meters big. Remember to wear warm clothing if you are planning to venture to the crater, as it is at a high elevation. If it is a clear day, it is even possible to see all the way to the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans. While this is the most famous hiking trail in the park, there are numerous others for you to explore and discover.