The historic first capital of Costa Rica lies just around 15 miles from the modern buzz of San Jose. It is a great day trip to take because there are many historic monuments and natural wonders all set in a more relaxed and local atmosphere.
Getting to Cartago from San Jose:
Bus # 300 leaves San Jose frequently from a station on Avenida 10, between Calles 5 and 7. The most recent bus fare is calculated at C595, and the trip takes around 45 minutes. There is also a train between the two cities: The first train leaves the station in Cartago at 5:30 a.m. and arrives at the Estación del Atlántico in downtown San José at about 6:13 a.m. A train leaves the station every 30 minutes until 8 a.m. Service starts again at 4 p.m. and runs every 30 minutes until 7:30 p.m. A good way to avoid traffic in peak hours.
Things to See:
The heart of Cartago is home to a major town square built around the ruins of a previously proud cathedral. The beautiful gardens that grow within and around the aging church walls give it a natural and appealing look.
Just beyond the town limits of Cartago lies a beautiful panorama. Orosi is a small town set in a lush valley where the first settlement of Costa Rica began. It houses the country’s oldest church and nearby the Cachi Dam makes for stunning water views. This is a great place to stay in a small hotel, enjoy a coffee plantation and delve into local culture.
One will have to venture another 20 miles from the center of Cartago to see this famed volcano. Travelers many book a trip with a guide or hotel (often more costly), but there is an option to go on your own on Sunday mornings. A bus from San Jose picks up near the bus terminal in Cartago sometime after 8:30AM 4000 colones return and returns at 12:30PM from the National Park. There is a Park entrance fee for tourists: 5020 colones.
Basilica La Virgen de los Angeles:
This is a focal point for the entire country being the shrine of the national patron. The church is a masterpiece of woodworking and it is constantly occupied with worshippers. Pilgrims come all year round, but especially at the end of July when 1.5 million people make a walking devotion to the shrine from across the country. It is a spectacle during Holy Week as well.