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Cartago is a city in Costa Rica. It is the former capital.


Get in[edit]

Bus 300 leaves San Jose frequently from a station on Avenida 10, between Calles 5 and 7. Fare is C625, and the journey takes about 45mins. You buy the ticket from the bus driver.

Get around[edit]

There are many buses running between San Jose and Cartago. For c300 you will be able to catch a bus downtown or most anyplace along Av 2. They run every 15 minutes. "Indirect" buses from San Isidro de El General to San Jose stop on the outskirts of Cartago next to a stop for local buses.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Irazú Volcano Located around 30 km (12 miles) from Cartago downtown is one of the most famous volcanos in Costa Rica. This volcano erupted in 1963 when John F. Kennedy was visiting Costa Rica, right now is extinguished. On Sunday mornings only, a bus from San Jose takes on passengers at an unmarked point near the bus terminal in Cartago sometime after 8:30AM (4000 colones return) and return at 12:30PM from the National Park. Park entrance fee for foreigners only: $US10 / 5020 colones.
  • Orosi Valley Beautiful landscape. Orosi is a small town about 12 km (8 mi) east of Cartago where you can see one of the first churches built in Costa Rica. Is surrounded by beautiful mountains and coffee plantations. Easily you can find hostels, hotels and restaurants in the area.
  • Cachi Dam Is next to Orosi around 7 km (5 mi) east. A Dam was built in the 70s. The artificial lake is surrounded by beautiful mountains. Cachi is also a little town where "casa del leñador" or the woodcutter house can be found. It is a place to buy woodcraft made from the coffee roots. Some very good restaurants are located around the lake, the speciality is "Trout"

Trout growers are very often in this area of Costa Rica and you can catch the fish for yourself and just wait to be fried afterwards. The area has experienced a significant increase of people who look for properties specially foreigners. Few years ago a five star Hotel was opened RIO PERLAS and another is on paper right now that will offer stay for people who are in Costa Rica for a special health treatment.

  • Turrialba Is the second city of the Province. It is located around 40 km (25 mi) east of Cartago downtown. Is the house of the best rafting of Costa Rica. Very good hotels are here (Casa Turire, Pochotel) specially around the lake that was created for a big Dam. The Turrialba volcano is active and you can see it from different places (gases only) Hotel Turrialba Lodge is one that is very close to the volcano. Also in Turrialba you can find the only big archaeological site of Costa Rica, Guayabo.
  • The Lankaster Botanical Gardens in Paraiso, just outside of Cartago (4 km east). Home to Central America's largest collection of orchids and epiphytes, Lankaster is a must see for plant lovers. There is small simple Japanese garden as well. 10 USD entrance fee for foreigners.
  • The Basilica home of "La Virgen de los Angeles"

The legend:

Basilica of Cartago
On the 2nd of August 1635 Juana Pereira, a young girl went into the forest near her house to play by the river. There she found a piece of rock in the shape of the Virgin Mary with a small child. She thought it was a doll and played with it. Later she took it home and put it in her room. The next day she returned to the same spot and again found a very similar representation. That evening she returned with it and went to put it with the first one she found. However, the first one was no longer in her room. On the third day she returned to play by the river and, again, found the Virgin. This time she ran right back to her room and again, found that the ones she had taken home were not there. She then reported this to the priest in Cartago. He went with her the following day and took the statue they found there back with him to the city. There he locked it in a coffer. The next day they returned to the river to find yet another (or same?) statue there. When he returned to check the locked coffer he discovered it empty. This was taken as a sign that a church should be built on the site the statue kept returning to.

It is believed by a great many Costa Rican's that it is this virgin that protects Costa Rica from natural disasters. Every August 1st over a million Costa Rican's walk to Cartago from all over the country to commemorate the date, recently many tourists join the trip which is around 25 km (15 mi).

  • Las Ruinas

The legend:

Ruins of Cartago
One day two brothers went to the city of Cartago, one was single and the other a priest. There began a bitter rivalry as they both fell in love with the same woman. The woman chose and married the single brother, who was the more friendly and was loved by all. The priest only became all the more bitter and did everything he could to destroy his brother. In 1577 during the celebration of mass on new years he saw his brother in the church. That day he killed him with a knife. In penance for the deed he build a church for the city of Cartago. On the year it was completed an earthquake destroyed it.

The church has been rebuilt, but each time it was brought down by earthquake. The city abandoned the church as cursed after the final destruction in 1910 and left it as the ruins you can now see when you visit the town square.

Do[edit][add listing]

Good Friday Procession
Good Friday Procession A massive spectical beginning with the Romans marching into the city early in the morning arriving in the center of town around 9AM. They arrive at the church and then carry Christ off around 10am taking a long rout to the Bacilica.

Romero Starting the end of July some 1.5 million people WALK to the Bacilica in Cartago to honor the Black Virgin. Streets are filled, traffic redirected, vendors are out in force. Final day of the walk is 2 August (see above for the legend).

street decorations
Return of the Virgin After the Romero the Virgin travels around Costa Rica for a month. Then she returns to Cartago. Another procession from the church in the center of town to the Basilica. Before the procession begins the path of the procession is decorated. Sand paintings, flowers, paper sculptures...a beautiful and unique expression of adoration for the Virgin.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Go to the "Basilica de los Angeles" and buy a souvenir there. "Casa del soñador" Dreamer's House is a must visit in Cachi.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Ask for "comida tipica" or typical food when you get to Cartago. These restaurants are found specially on the way to the tourist areas as Irazu Volcano, Paraiso, Orosi or Turrialba. In Cartago downtown besides typical restaurants and International food you can find chains like Burger King, Mc Donald`s, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Pollos Campero and Pollos AS.

Drink[edit][add listing]

"Chaguite" is the name of a beverage that was invented in Cartago many years ago. This drink is hard to find nowdays but you can go to the central market and ask for it. It has a sweet flavor like anis. "Guaro Cacique" is the national drink of Costa Rica and is like a vodka. This drink can be found in bars, restaurants or supermarkets

Sleep[edit][add listing]


  • Casa Aura B&B, Calle 1, avenida 6 y 8 (25 meters North of ICE), (506) 25918161 (, fax: (506) 25510852), [1]. checkout: noon. Centrally located, cable TV, free wi-fi, breakfast included. Double with private bathroom: $60.  edit
  • Pensión la Provincia, Avenida 10, between Calle 3 and Calle 5. Cable TV, free wi-fi (very slow). Double bed with private bathroom: 14,000 CRC (about $24 USD).  edit

Stay safe[edit]

Get out[edit]

The bus terminal for San Jose is located a half block north of the train station.

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