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For other places with the same name, see Cartago (disambiguation).

Cartago is a city in Costa Rica's Central Valley. It used to be the national capital before that honor went to San José and is one of the few places in the country where more than a handful colonial era buildings have survived to the present day.

Get in[edit]

By bus[edit]

Take the Lumaca buses in San José. There are many buses running between San Jose and Cartago. For ₡750 (colones) and up, you will be able to catch a bus in San José downtown along Avenida 2. They run every 15 minutes, and take 45 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.

By car[edit]

  • From San José (and the rest of the Central Valley) to Cartago through Ruta Nacional 1 (Interamericana).
  • From the south (Pérez Zeledón, Panamá, etc.) also take Ruta Nacional 1 (Interamericana).
  • From the Caribbean, go through Turrialba.

By train[edit]

There's a commuter train[dead link] from San José. The train has a handful of stops between its Terminus at Estacion Atlantica in San José and Cartago and a few trains continue on to a place called Los Àngeles. Unfortunately there is no train in either direction between 10:00 and 15:00 and the last train leaves Cartago at 18:30 so if you want to take the train, you'll have to arrange your visit to fit the train schedule. The service doesn't get affected by rush hour traffic but it is far slower than taking a bus or driving a car.

  • 1 Cartago railway station (Estación Cartago). Cartago railway station (Q96374516) on Wikidata Cartago railway station on Wikipedia

Get around[edit]

Map of Cartago (Costa Rica)

Cartago downtown is perhaps the smallest of the main cities in the Central Valley, it is possible to walk all around the city in short time.

By bike[edit]

There is an effort by the local city government to make Cartago a bicycle-friendly city, because of that and thanks to a donation, the city constructed a bicycle-only loop track around the city.


Cartago Downtown[edit]

  • Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles
    1 Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (Our Lady of the Angels Basilica). 08:30-16:30. As the legend goes, the Basilica was built on the exact site where a figurine of the Virgin Mary appeared to local native girl Juana Pereira in 1635, the girl brought the figurine to her house but it disappeared, without her noticing she found another figurine and brought it back again to find that the first one was missing, this happened many time and she told the local priest, who locked the figurine in a copher and the same thing happened again, therefore they built this site. Holy Water is available on the premises and is customary to fill a bottle by the visitors to bring back home. Also, the stone where the figurine kept appearing is located to the left and behind the altar of the Basilica. Free.
  • Ruinas de la Parroquia de Santiago Apóstol
    2 Ruinas de la Parroquia de Santiago Apóstol (Saint James the Apostle Parish Ruins). 08:30-16:30. In the middle of the Main Square of downtown Cartago, these carefully preserved ruins include a small garden, but this garden is barred by steel gates most of the time and not commonly open to the public. As the legend goes, two brothers were in love with the same woman, one was single and was chosen by the woman, and the other a priest. In the first day of the year 1577 he saw his brother celebrate Mass, and he killed him in the night. For penance he built the church, which was obliterated by an earthquake the same day it was finished. This happened each time it was rebuilt, and it was never attempted again after the 1910 earthquake. Free.

Irazú Volcano area[edit]

  • Irazú Volcano crater
    3 Volcán Irazú (Irazu Volcano). 08:00-15:00. Around 30 km from downtown Cartago, this is one of the most famous volcanoes in Costa Rica. This now-dormant volcano erupted in 1963 when John F. Kennedy was visiting Costa Rica. On Sunday mornings only, a bus from San José takes on passengers at an unmarked point near the bus terminal in Cartago sometime after 08:30 (₡4,000 return) and return at 12:30 from the National Park. US$10. Irazú Volcano (Q1672472) on Wikidata Irazú Volcano on Wikipedia
  • 4 Sanatorio Durán (Durán Sanatorium). A sanatorium built in 1918 by ex-president and physician Dr. Carlos Durán for tuberculosis patients. The place has been abandoned for years and the local farmers have taken care of it. It is a popular place to spend the night as there are many scary stories regarding the place and the people that lived there. Beautiful views and fresh air year round. Sanatorio Durán (Q6119798) on Wikidata

Paraíso Canton[edit]

  • Japanese Garden at the Lankester Botanical Garden
    5 Lankester Botanical Gardens, +506 2511-7939, . 08:30-16:30. East of downtown Cartago, this garden hosts the largest collection of orchids and epiphytes in Central America, they also have collections in open air of bromeliads, cacti, succulents, heliconians, bamboos, palms, ferns, a secondary growth forest and a Japanese garden donated by the Japanese Embassy. US$7.50. Lankester Botanical Garden (Q3369639) on Wikidata Lankester Botanical Garden on Wikipedia

Orosi Valley[edit]

A beautiful valley town 12 km east of Cartago, with amazing views from the hills. Surrounded by beautiful mountains and coffee plantations. It is easy to find hostels, hotels and restaurants in the area.

  • Ujarrás Ruins
    6 Ujarrás Ruins. Ruins of an ancient church built by the Spanish conquistadors, very peaceful surroundings with a hot spring nearby. Free. Ujarrás (Q10751754) on Wikidata Ujarrás on Wikipedia
  • 7 Iglesia de San José de Orosi (Saint Joseph Church of Orosi). A church built by the Spanish colonists in 1743, still in use and carefully preserved. National monument. Free. Orosi Church (Q18170804) on Wikidata
  • 8 Tapantí National Park. 08:00-16:00. A national park with four hiking trails for all levels of difficulty, with beautiful views of El Salto waterfall, and it is possible to swim in the Grande de Orosi River. US$10. Tapantí National Park (Q4552264) on Wikidata Tapantí National Park on Wikipedia

The next two scenic overlook points are on the road to and from Orosi valley. It is possible to visit one, then go to the valley and visit the other. The usual way to visit the area is to do a loop using National Route 224, which starts and ends in Paraíso.

  • 9 Ujarrás Overlook (Mirador de Ujarrás), National Route 224. 08:00-16:00. Beautiful view of Orosi valley. Free.
  • 10 Orosi Overlook (Mirador de Orosi), National Route 224. 08:00-16:00. Beautiful view of Orosi valley. Free.


  • Cachí Dam
    11 Cachí Dam. A dam was built in the 1970s for hydroelectricity production, and the artificial lake is surrounded by beautiful mountains. Trout is cultivated in many places around the lake. The producers offer the whole experience of fishing the trout and then frying it for you. Plenty of restaurants nearby. Free.
  • 12 La Casa del Soñador (Dreamer's House). This is a place to buy wood crafts made from coffee roots.
  • 1 (Laguna de Doña Ana). 09:00-16:00. A recreation ground with a big pond that has dried up due to global warming; it is advisable to visit it in the wet season.
  • 2 Pedestrian Bridge. A fun river to cross by foot, the locals ask for a collaboration, ₡1,000 or more is appropriate. If travelling in group by car, have the driver drop the group on the east side and then pick the rest of the group on the west side in Orosi town, which for the driver means driving to a road bridge down south, continue north and arriving to Orosi town. ₡1,000.


Good Friday Procession: A massive spectacle beginning with the Romans marching into the city early in the morning arriving in the center of town around 09:00. They arrive at the church and then carry Christ off around 10:00 taking a long route to the Basilica.

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

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.


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


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, McDonald`s, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Pollos Campero and Pollos AS.

  • 1 La Casona del Cafetal, +506 2577 1414. Nice view of Cachí lake, on Sundays an all-you-can-eat buffet is available.
  • 2 Restaurante 1910, +506 2536 6063. Restaurant located in a privileged place where you can appreciate a full view of the Cartago city while having lunch. Named as such because of the 1910 earthquake. Many antiquities on display.


"Chaguite" is the name of a beverage that was invented in Cartago many years ago. This drink is hard to find nowadays 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.


Go next[edit]

This city travel guide to Cartago is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.