For the Tourist: What to see and do in and around Cartago, Costa Rica
If you are a tourist and want to get “off the beaten path in Costa Rica, visit the very interesting city of Cartago, the last remaining original Spanish settlement. You can drive a rental car from San Jose, it’s only 15 miles (around 25 km) east of San Jose and the road is good. Easy to find on a Costa Rica map provided by the rental car company.
Not to be missed is the most holy shrine in Costa Rica, the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles. Take a look at my previous article titled Cartago, the Oldest Existing Spanish Settlement in Costa Rica. I talk a lot about the Basilica and have included a photo of this magnificent structure. It is a Catholic Basilica.
Walking to downtown Cartago, a short distance from the Basilica, you will see the “ruins” or remaining walls of the Iglesia del Convento. This was built by the Spaniards in 1575 as a shrine to St James the Apostle, and was partially destroyed in the 1910 earthquake.
There are two local small museums worth visiting which give an insight into Costa Rica’s pre Colombian cultures. First is the Elias Leiva Museum of Ethnography which houses very interesting historical artifacts. Located at Calle 3 between Avenues 3 and 5 and is open 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday thorough Friday. May be closed on holidays, So please check Phone 2 551 0895.
The second museum is the Kirieti Indian History Museum located 6 km southwest of Cartago in Tobosi. 2 573 7113. Open 10 am until 4 pm Monday through Friday. Call first to make sure they are open since it is a small museum.
There are several small hotels in Cartago. Such as the Hotel Dinastia at Calle 3 US $13- $16. phone 2 551 7057. This is an older hotel and the rooms show age but it does have hot water in the private baths. Another is Los Angeles Lodge Calle 4 between Calle 14 and 16. and includes breakfast. The price around $35. phone 2 551 0957. It’s balconies overlook the Plaza de la Basilica and the room are comfortable with private bath and hot water.
Eating: La Puerta Del Sol is a soda located opposite the Basilica . This is a typical small eating place which serves Costa Rica dishes at very reasonable prices.
Cartago is not a large town so if you need directions just ask one of the locals.
Weather: Cartago is around 4,000 feet above sea level, so the temperatures are cool and often cloudy and rainy.
The surroundings of Cartago offer magnificent views and very nice day tours. So if you have a rental car this is spectacularly scenic. Or you could purchase a day tour or hire a driver. 1. Irazu Volcano 2. White water Rafting 3. Orosi Valley and coffee plantations 4. Lancaster Botanical Gardens.
Best time of year to visit: Rains less in the dry season of mid December thorough mid April. However the months of May through November also bring a lot of visitors, just bring along a rain jacket and umbrella, and comfortable walking shoes.
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