The massif of Volcán Irazú dominates the skyline from Cartago, the provincial capital and gateway to the southeastern corner of the Central Valley. Once the ruling quarter of Costa Rica, today the province has a distinctly rural feel. It’s dotted with macadamia nut plantations on the lower slopes, the less exotic products of potatoes and onions on the volcanic slopes, and the dependable presence of coffee where conditions allow.
Exploring the town, it is difficult to see how this quiet spot once mustered up enough energy to lead the nation. Listless and without direction the town continues apparently unaware of, or at least with only limited interest in, its historical legacy. Volcán Irazú is a highly visible reminder of the forces without and within, last erupting in dramatic style to coincide with the arrival of President Kennedy in 1963. The orchids of Lankester Gardens, and the fine views of the Orosí Valley, make pleasant, relaxing trips; while the more adventurous can hike in Tapantí-Macizo de la Muerte National Park, or whitewater raft on the Pacuare and Reventazón rivers close to Turrialba. The Guayabo National Monument, to the north of Turrialba, is the country’s most important pre-Columbian archaeological site.
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