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( San Jose, Cartago, Alajuela, Heredia, Orosi, Irazu Volcano, Poas Volcano, Sarchi, Grecia,... )
The main entryway to the country, the Central Valley offers a variety of tourist, cultural and natural attractions, including Costa Rica’s best museums: the Gold, Jade, National, Costa Rican Art, La Salle Natural Science, University of Costa Rica Insect and Children’s Contemporary Art and Design Museums. In addition, this region is home to the architectural jewel of Costa Rica: the National Theater. All of these are located in the country’s capital. The national parks located in the Valley—Poás, Braulio Carrillo, Irazú and Turrialba—protect the region’s main volcanoes. All have road infrastructure so that visitors can enjoy their birds, natural landscapes, craters and forests.
The country’s capital, San José, is the seat of most government services; however, the provincial capitals—Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago—offer a variety of quality commercial and tourism services. As a tourism zone, the Central Valley features two extraordinarily beautiful areas that in and of themselves are true tourist destinations: Turrialba and Valle de los Santos. The rural towns, for their part, are highly picturesque, and offer a glimpse of old Costa Rica, with their houses of bahareque (a building material similar to adobe but made of cattle dung and straw), large coffee plantations, sugar mills and dairies.
At 1,149 meters above sea level, San José enjoys an average temperature of 24 degrees Celsius—an ideal climate for short trips to the Carmen, Catedral, Merced and Hospital districts. Here, visitors can admire the lovely architecture of several buildings that have been declared National Monuments of cultural, historical or architectural interest, including the Post and Telegraph Building, the National Theater, the Children’s Museum, the Blue Castle and others. The city offers high-quality options in dining and accommodations, from bed and breakfasts and popular sodas (small restaurants serving local and fast food) to fashionable bars for nightlife, complemented with cinemas and theaters. San José’s December religious feasts and public festivals are traditional events that may be enjoyed by visitors
Some of its attractions ...
“The Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Cartago” was Costa Rica’s first capital, a distinction the city held until 1823. Cartago enjoys a good level of commercial development and state services. Despite seismic activity that has caused considerable damage throughout the city’s history, several important architectural structures still remain. Cartago is home to Costa Rica’s patron saint, Our Lady of the Angels.
Rising 2,708 meters above sea level, this volcano’s gas emissions have notably increased since 1989, causing acid rain that has damaged plant life in some areas of the park as well as neighboring agricultural plantations. The summit features two craters: the main one, at one and a half kilometers in diameter and 300 meters deep; and Laguna Botos, a cold, rain-fed lake that feeds the Río Ángel, a tributary of the Río Sarapiquí that flows into the Caribbean. Currently the volcano emits a great quantity of gases and steam from the various fumaroles located in the crater’s inner cone. Visitor services include information, a park ranger station, trails, restrooms, drinking water, signage, a cafeteria, souvenir shop and several natural viewpoints.
This park protects colossal Irazú, which, at 3,432 meters above sea level, is the tallest volcano in Costa Rica. The active volcano has a long history of eruptions and eruptive cycles. The protected area’s many geological features include the Playa Hermosa, Principal and Diego de la Haya craters, as well as the Sapper formation, the highest point in the massif, from which both Caribbean and Pacific coasts may be seen. Visitor services include information, a park ranger station, trails, restrooms, signage, a cafeteria, parking and several natural viewpoints.
OROSÍ CHURCH AND COLONIAL MUSEUM
Built in 1743 by Franciscan missionaries, this is the only colonial building in good condition in Costa Rica. Many works of art can be admired inside, including paintings, sacred images and the altar. The adjacent museum houses pieces and artifacts used by the Franciscans during the evangelical period, displaying something of the lifestyle of that era. The site was declared a National Monument in 1985
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