Once the colonial capital, Cartago now is capital of Cartago province. Founded in 1563, the city still has remnants of its colonial heritage. Tranquility and a genuine friendliness create a pleasant atmosphere. If you like public markets, stop by the one here (Avenida 4, downtown).

The Cartago area makes a great day trip from San Jose, or stay in one of the lodges in the Orosi Valley or near Tapanti National Park. Cartago is 14 miles (23 km) southeast of San Jose.

Things to See and Do in and near Cartago

On Avenida 2, Calle 2, are reminders of the city's colonial roots. Ruins of a stone church (Ruinas de la Parroquia) surround a peaceful garden. This first parish church in Cartago was founded in 1575. During the colonial period it was reconstructed several times, having been almost destroyed by an 1841 earthquake. But it was a 19 10 quake that brought rebuilding efforts to a halt. In front of the ruins is a remnant of a colonial cobblestone street.

Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles is the most famous church in the country; it honors La Negrita, Costa Rica's patron saint. The church was built over the rock where the tiny stone image of a black Virgin first appeared to Juana Pereira, a young wood gatherer, in 1635. (See the rock downstairs to the left of the altar. 'Me image is above the altar.) Cases along walls in the anteroom contain countless tokens celebrating miracles attributed to her.

Outside, behind the basilica, the faithful and the hopeful come to holy water that flows from a spring. On August 2 all roads lead to Cartago, as half a million pilgrims gather at the shrine for the Day of Our Lady of the Angels, many having come on foot over long distances.

Getting There

By bus: Frequent buses from San Jose. By car: From San Jose, take Bernardo Soto highway.

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