Guayabo National Monument, Cartago

Guayabo National Monument
Guayabo National Monument

A mystery that is thousands of years old awaits your discovery in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. Guayabo National Monument, just north of the town of Turrialba, is situated on the lush slope of the Turrialba volcano. Opportunities to explore at the monument include guided tours, educational opportunities, camping, and experiencing the Guayabo butterfly farm.

One of the largest and most important archeological finds in Costa Rica, Guayabo National Monument is likely to have been the residence of approximately 10,000 people about 3,000 years ago. The monument’s mission is to protect past, present, and future archeological exploration by safeguarding the structural remains of this ancient city. Significant restoration has already been completed, and awareness of the pre-Colombian period is actively promoted.

An Ancient City With a Mysterious Past

Visitors to the monument will find the largest pre-Columbian ruins that have been discovered in Costa Rica to this date. A bustling city at around AD 800, archeologists believe the site was populated from 1000 BC to 1400 AD. For no known reason, the city that many believe was a key regional center for politics, culture, and religion became a desolate landscape.

What Happened?

No one knows what led to the depopulation of the city before the colonialization period began. Two popular hypotheses are that a war or a plague killed most of the population. Only the evidence of the residents’ construction remains in the form of circular mounds, cobblestone pavements, and sophisticated aqueducts.

Exploration Opportunities

During your visit, you can explore the city’s infrastructure and discover petroglyphs and tombs that were discovered by archeologists in 1968. The priceless artifacts that were found during excavation have found a home in the National Museum located in San Jose.

There are even more ruins to be excavated at the monument location that are surrounded by lush rainforest. The fertile environment is host to a variety of birds such as toucans and brown jays, as well as armadillos, squirrels, and coatis. Basic visitor services including bathrooms are available at a ranger station on site.

Shop in Turrialba

In nearby Turrialba, a vibrant local farmer’s market is open every Friday and Saturday. If you are going to the Guayabo National Monument on one of those days, take advantage of the opportunity to shop with locals. People from all over the surrounding area come to visit and catch up on the news while purveying and purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables and handmade products including locally crafted cheeses. This is a great chance to try local produce that you may have never tasted before as well as meet people from the area.

Visit El Coloso

When you are in the Guyabo National Monument area, be sure to take time to visit Irazú Volcano National Park. The park is near the city of Cartago and is easily accessible from San José. The volcano itself is called “El Coloso” by the locals and is the tallest active volcano in Costa Rica. Views from its summit offer a panorama of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans along with the stunning Costa Rican landscape. Visitors hiking the forest trails will be able to see vibrant hummingbirds, elusive foxes and owls, and exotic armadillos.

Overall, the Guayabo area offers exotic adventures sure to intrigue and delight every member of your travel group. The Central Valley of Costa Rica offers a varied selection of activity choices spanning from the ecological to the cultural environments. The mystery at the Guayabo National Monument may not be solved anytime soon, but you can spend your vacation time relaxing while exploring the rich botanical landscape, viewing exotic animals living wild, and taking in the rich cultural tapestry that is Costa Rica.

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Where to Stay near Guayabo National Monument

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Things to Do near Guayabo National Monument