Lankester Botanical Gardens, Cartago

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Costa Rica is the perfect vacation destination for the eco-tourist. While many people come to the country for its white, sandy beaches and sun, many others come to see the beautiful flora and fauna in the mountains, the ocean and the tropical rainforests across the nation. Whether you want adventure or just some peace and quiet for your getaway, you’ll want to make sure to take some time to explore some of the rare and beautiful species of orchids at the Lankester Botanical Gardens.

The gardens are located just outside the city of Cartago and maintained by the University of Costa Rica as a tourist destination and research center. Charles Lankester, British botanist and orchid enthusiast, created the private garden for his own enjoyment. After his death, his family arranged for the University of Costa Rica to maintain the gardens and promote is as a research facility open to the public. Today, it is probably the most important botanical institution in the area.

Lankester Botanical Gardens is home to more than 3,000 species of plants. Orchids and epiphytes make up a large part of the collection. It can be very difficult to find orchids in the wild. Although Costa Rica is home to many different species, they grow high in the canopy of trees or in branches out of sight. At Lankester, the orchids are at eye level, giving you the opportunity to examine these beautiful plants up close. The best time to visit is from February to April, when the most flowers will be in bloom. But with so many different species, you’re sure to find a few in bloom no matter when you visit.

Orchids might steal the show at the garden, but they are not the only species that is featured. Cacti, succulents, bamboos, palms, heliconias, bromeliads and conifers are also represented. Many birds and insects are attracted to the plants. It’s likely you will see many hummingbirds and butterflies when you visit. Many tourists come to the gardens as one of their first stops during their vacation to help know what to look for in the wild. You’ll learn a lot about the natural world to be able to spot different animals and plants when you’re exploring Costa Rica.

Other Places to Visit in Cartago

Cartago was once the capital of Costa Rica, and it has a lot of heritage. When it was partially destroyed in the 18th century, the capital was moved to San Jose. Today, you’ll find many historic museums and landmarks in Cartago. Museo Municipal de Cartago is one of the newer museums with multimedia exhibits, live performances and an extensive digital library. Cartago has many restaurants where you can find Tico specialties such as ceviche, picadillo and casados.

In August, many pilgrims come to the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles to say prayers. A black virgin is rumored to have appeared on a rock at the site where the church now stands. The locals believed that it was a sign that a church should be built there, and they did. There are many beautiful churches in Cartago that you’ll want to view to see the architecture and culture.

Before you leave Cartago area, visit the Irazu Volcano, the Turrialba Volcano Park or the Tapanti National Park. The Guayabo National Monument is the largest archaeological site with roadways, mounds, bridges and many other discoveries of a time past.

Ecotourism at Its Best

Costa Rica is a beautiful place to enjoy nature and relax on the beach. If you love orchids and other botanical wonders, Lankester Botanicals Gardens is a must-see destination. It’s like a trek through the native jungles of Costa Rica without the difficult climb.