Our First Costa Rican Adventure: Exploring Volcán Irazú and Cartago

Travel not to cross countries off a list, but to ignite passionate affairs with the destinations. – Nyssa P. Chopra

After spending the first couple of weeks getting settled in (you can read about that here), we were ready to start exploring the beautiful country we are calling home. We were told that Volcán Irazú was a pretty cool experience that was close to San Jose and an easy day trip, so we put it at the top of our Costa Rica adventure list.

Volcán Irazú is the highest volcano in Costa Rica and last erupted in 1994. It has two crater lakes that range from being completely dried up to being bright blue and green to sometimes even being red. I think we got pretty lucky to see the bright bluish green crater lake.

The trick with this volcano, particularly in the rainy season, is to go early before the clouds come in. We left San Jose around 7am so that we could get to the park just as it was opening. We got there around 8:30 (after an incredibly beautiful drive up and up and up into the mountains) just in time to have some mostly clear sky. Although, the clouds were quickly coming and going which made for an incredibly mystic view. Being so high up, it gets pretty chilly, so sweaters were necessary.

Visiting Irazú doesn’t take a ton of time, so after less than an hour of viewing the sights, taking selfies, and watching the clouds come in, we were ready for a hearty meal. We stumbled upon the cutest like place, Restaurante Sueños del Irazú. It had some incredible traditional Costa Rican food. It even had a little doggo visitor named, Su.

Once we were full, we headed to Cartago, the old capital of Costa Rica, to explore some of the sights and walk around a market. I have to say, I am loving all the fresh fruits and vegetables at the markets. We’ve been testing out new exotic fruits that we can’t name in English or Spanish, but have enjoyed thoroughly.

Cartago is a city full of rich history. Our first taste of history was visiting Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles. Fun fact #1 about this church: this church is home to ‘le Negrita’, a black stone in the shape of the virgin Mary that was found by a child in what was a forest 400 years ago, that despite taking the stone statue home, kept reappearing. And now, it is kept in a shrine on the rock where she first appeared that millions of people come to visit. Fun fact #2: Visitors bring silver charms of body parts that they are hoping to be healed for themselves or for loved ones, or simply help them find solutions to their problems.

Lastly, we visited the Ruins of the Church of Carthage, a church that was destroy many times by earthquakes to the point that they gave up re-building it. It seemed to be a popular spot for group picnics and family outings. It was also filled with sculptures that brought a ‘modern yet apocalyptic’ feel to the ruins.

All in all, it was a great first adventure in Costa Rica. And because everything was so close, we even had time to hit up a department store to buy some patio furniture to finish the day off with dinner on our balcony overlooking San Jose.

If you’ve been to Costa Rica, what places should we be adding to our adventure list?

What are your favourite places and activities? We want to do it all!

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