Cartago, the old capital of Costa Rica, offers the visitor a marvelous mix of historical places and places of great natural resources. Both characteristics adorn the panorama that is within view everywhere. In only a few hours one can travel through a large part of the province and admire sites that are full of history, places where lived those who laid down the basis of the country that we currently enjoy.
When arriving in Cartago you must take the Florencio Del Castillo road towards east San Jose. Some 30 kilometers separate the two capitals of these provinces. Cartago preserves buildings and natural areas that reveal a great part of the colonial history of Costa Rica that developed among the mists that are habitual in this area. At the first site you find the Ruins of Cartago, a place where, in colonial times, a temple was located that was destroyed by multiple earthquakes that thrashed the zone. The walls of stone of this temple are silent witnesses to the passage of time and of the development of the humble lives of the peasants and brilliant politicians who lived in this ancient metropolis.
One half kilometer beyond the Ruins we find the imposing Basilica de Los Angeles, a place of great cultural and religious interest to the Costa Rican people.
It is believed that around 1635 an effigy appeared in stone of a woman with a babe in arms, to whom the popular religiousness had declared as the Virgen de los Angeles ( the Virgin of Angels). The tiny statue was found by Juana Pereira, a humble peasant of the area, who was walking down a path when she found a beautiful little statue. She carried it to her house and kept it. She returned to the place where she found the statue and saw another. She picked it up to take to the house. But when she returned to the house, the first one had disappeared. The same occurrence repeated itself until the young girl became so alarmed that she spoke about it to the local priest. From that moment, a fervor unleashed itself among the inhabitants of little Costa Rica for the Virgen, and in April of 1782 she was declared "Patron Saint of Costa Rica" This same fervor draws 2 million ticos every August second in pilgrimage to the Santuario de los Angeles (The Angels Sanctuary) with the purpose of pledging promises or asking favors from the Mother of God.
With country style
To arrive to the Orosi Valley you must take the road that takes you to Paraiso. Along the road at this time of year, the farmers of the area put out their stands and offer delicious harvests to the passers-by: tomatoes, onions and ornamental plants form a part of this offering. Four kilometers from central Cartago and before arriving at the town of Paraisowe find Jardin Lankaster (Lankaster Garden), a research and exhibition center for orchids. It is under the administration of the University of Costa Rica, the principal university educational center of the country.
Here, you can admire a great quantity of flowers whose coloring and beauty not only attract birds and insects, but also the people who appreciate the delicateness of the examples.
In the area there are quite a few "bed and breakfast inns with a wide range of prices. Some are located along the side of the road and to get to others one has to go through small streets. Although the tourism empresarios are obliged to put up signs for their places of business, street signs are scarce. Therefore a map or stopping to ask a local resident if you are on the right route is the most convenient way to go.
After passing through Paraiso and continuing towards Orosi you find the Mirador Ruta Turistica, Valle del Reventazon (Tourist Scenic Route, Bursting Valley). Under the administration of the Institute Of Costa Rican Tourism and open seven days a week, this facility opens its doors to visitors and places at their feet the Orosi Valley. The Reventazon River runs through the center of the depression and along its sides the impetuous mountains raise their heads. The little town of Orosi and the coffee lands adorn the panorama. Here you can have a picnic in a very natural and tranquil ambiance.
The road continues and is adorned with coffee plantations and reminds ourselves that Costa Rica is a country whose principal sustenance is agriculture. You cannot visit OrosÃ without going to the Colonial Church, a little hermitage where the people still attend Mass. Besides, adjoining the temple you find a Museum of religious art. Inside are exhibited liturgical articles and icons that date back to the period between 1699 and 1766. Among them are a wooden pulpit, a confessional and a conventual chair. Also we find works of art that are attributed to the Mexicans Luis de Morales and Juan Coreo, belonging to the Mexican school of the XVIII century. Also is found icons and ornamentation used by the priests of the era.
Cachi and Ujarras: nature and history
A hammock bridge traverses the Palomo River. It is a one way bridge only, which must be perceived if some vehicle is coming from the other side before you cross the river from these heights. Many residents have ceded to the demands of tourism and have installed small restaurants in their houses, where they offer traditional dishes. The true flavor of the Costa Rican kitchen is discovered in these spots.
None the less, if you want something more formal, the La Casona del Cafetal has been converted into the ideal site in the area. This is an ample restaurant where they serve local dishes and specialties prepared using a coffee base. They also offer horse and carriage rides and around the lake formed by the river and the Cachi Dam.
From the road one daily sees the employees of the dam performing labor to endow electrical energy to a good part of the national population.
Nature and human ingenuity unite in a steel and concrete structure that takes advantage of the force of the river for the benefit of the people.
The journey cannot end without a visit to two sites of great importance: Ujarras and Tapanti. The first contains the ruins of an ancient temple, where an icon of the Virgin Mary was sheltered, which is believed to have saved the town from an attack by pirates. Because of its close proximity to the river and the poundings by nature, it was abandoned and today it is preserved as an historical site that can be visited any day of the week.
The biological reserve of Tapanti, for its part, is a perpetually green spot where the word "life" acquiesces itself in every tiny corner and in each species of flora and fauna. The trilling of the birds is a sample of the grand biodiversity that is found in the region. Insects and reptiles cross the path and alert us, seeing as with every step we are observed by their curious eyes.
Amidst the greenness sprout flowers of brilliant colors: reds, yellows, oranges. And centuries old trees tell us that for years they have sunk their roots into this soil and will continue to purify the air that we breathe, as long as we allow them to do so.