The Orosí Valley is one of the oldest cultural landscapes in Costa Rica and the last to be discovered for tourism.
In addition to historically significant places and buildings, the region also has countless natural attractions to offer. The village of Orosi lies in the valley of the same name south of the Cachí dam. The coffee grown here at the fincas on the mountain slopes is world famous. There are hot volcanic springs in the area where you can swim. The less visited Tapantí National Park, the volcanoes Irazú and Turrialba, the Lankester Garden, the church ruin of Ujarrás as well as the national monument Guayabo are also easy to reach. Legend has it that in 1666 the inhabitants of Ujarras managed to expel English pirates with the help of the Virgin Mary. An annual procession, in which the statue of the Virgin Mary is solemnly carried to the church, commemorates the rescue that took place at that time. The remains of the church of Ujarras are among the few testimonies of Costa Rica’s colonial past and are now considered a national monument.
The ruins of Guayabo are much older. The heyday of this city, which was inhabited since 1000 B.C., is dated between 300 and 700 A.D.. The remains of buildings and aqueducts, which can be visited today, also date from this period. There are indications of South American influences as well as elements that indicate intensive contact with the Meso-American advanced civilizations of the Olmecs and Nahua groups in Mexico.
The Irazú is the highest volcano of the country with its 3432 meters. It is located 31 km northeast of the provincial capital Cartago. The road, which reaches up to a few hundred meters to the lagoon of the main crater, makes it easily reachable. The Irazú has a total of five craters, three of which are easily accessible. The main crater with its steep, 300 m high walls has a diameter of more than one kilometre. At its bottom, the lagoon glows in sulphurous yellow-green. In the barren landscape of the crater region there is hardly any vegetation and no animals, apart from the “Playa Hermosa Crater”, where birds can be observed. Although the volcano is covered by clouds most of the time, but in the morning hours you often have a good visibility, and then the visitor is offered tremendous views. The volcano has been active several times since the first documented eruption of the Irazú in 1723. After a strong eruption in 1963, an ash rain fell over Cartago and San José, while the then US President John F. Kennedy visited the capital. The last eruption took place in 1994 on the north face of the crater. Today “fumaroles”, smaller lava flows and light quakes prove that the “Mountain of Earthquakes and Thunder” has its right nickname. For a visit of the Irazú National Park one has to be weatherproof, because there is a strong wind in the height and there are temperature fluctuations from -3°C to +17°C, which can occur very suddenly. People with sun-sensitive skin should bring a strong sun protection. At the summit there is a small café where you can get snacks and coffee.
A visit to the Irazú National Park can be easily combined with a visit to the Lankester Botanical Garden outside of Cartago. The attraction of the 11 hectare area are thousands of orchids, among countless other plant species typical of the tropical rainforest. Especially popular are the gardens dedicated to butterflies and hummingbirds.