Cartago – The First Capital of Costa Rica


If you are staying in San Jose, and want to take a day trip, or even spend a few days in a great little town, visit Cartago.

At the East of San Jose, you will find Cartago, the province in Costa Rica that is probably the most conservative one, yet with a certain charm. First you have to know that Cartago was Costa Rica’s first capital city, which was later changed to San Jose, because Cartago wanted to add Costa Rica to the Mexican Empire, while San Jose and Alajuela wanted to stay as a Republic. Until this day, Cartago seems to hold resentment for that, although it’s mostly addressed as pranks and humor in a rivalry between them and the inhabitants of San Jose. Here’s a list of the 5 top places to visit if you go to Cartago:

1. Basilica de los Angeles

Costa Rica’s most important religious holiday takes place at this church every year on August the 2nd. Legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared in the form of a little statue in the place where the Basilica now stands. The statue was found by an indigenous girl who took it home several times, as the statue kept disappearing and reappearing back at the spot where the girl found it. Eventually, it was interpreted as a sign of the Virgin Mary, telling people to build a church there. Every August the 2nd, thousands from all over Costa Rica, and even neighboring countries, walk all the way to the Basilica from their homes to the statue of the Virgin and show their appreciation for miracles she performed for them or just as an act of displaying their faith.


2. Sanatorio Durán

Whether you like to see old buildings in ruins that still show some of the glories of the past or you are into ghost stories, the ruins of Sanatorium Duran is your place. This is a building that has been abandoned various times and legends have come forth. It is not a building that has seen anything good. First it served as a sanatorium for people with tuberculosis. People would bring their sick relatives and abandon them here, while telling others that they were just travelling abroad or making another excuse for their absence. It eventually became a jail for underaged criminals. It is also been said that it served as an orphanage but because of spirits roaming the halls it scared the children too much. You just have to get there and pay a minimum fee to get in and then you are left to roam on your own…if you dare. The sanatorium is also very close to the Irazú Volcano National Park, a nice place to visit and make it a full day.


3. The Valley of Orosi

Little town of Orosi lies in a valley that you can see from atop a lookout where you can have a very nice picnic while enjoying the view. If you head down to town, you can visit a little colonial church that has been preserved to conserve the town’s roots. Very close to the town is the Tapanti National Park, where you can take a stroll surrounded by nature. You can also go to the Lankester Botanical Gardens and appreciate the beautiful orchids.

Valle Orosi

4. The town of Turrialba

In Turrialba you have to try their famous cheese, it is a must. And while at it, go for some of the local gastronomy and ask for a good coffee and cheese tortilla, you will like it for sure. In Turrialba, you have a lot of choices that go from visiting the nearby volcano, named after the town, visiting the Guayabo National Monument, a pre-colonial indigenous aqueduct, or getting extreme and going white water rafting.

5. Costa Rica Craft Brewing Company

If you want to have a good cold beer while learning about the process to make it, take the beer tour they have to offer. It is quite an experience and you will enjoy good artisanal, natural brewed beers.So, as you can see, Cartago has it all: adventure, legends, nature, traditions and good drinking… no reason not to enjoy it all!

Hotels in Cartago Costa Rica

Stay tuned or a Cartago Costa Rica real estate guide.

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