This is part of a series of articles I started some time ago. I intend to cover all of parts of the country in order to help future retirees and residents find the best places to live according to their lifestyles. In the last article I talked about the areas immediately east of San José: San Pedro, Curridabat, Tres Ríos and Lomas de Ayarco. Now let’s look at Cartago and the places nearby.
The city of Cartago, to the east of San José, was the first capital of Costa Rica during the colonial period. San José became the country’s capital when an earthquake destroyed old Cartago. The city is nestled at the foot of the towering Irazú Volcano. Its most famous feature is the beautiful cathedral, known as La Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles. Every August the cathedral is the scene of a pilgrimage in honor of the Virgin of los Angeles. Literally millions of people make the journey, coming from all parts of the country and as far away as Guanacaste or the Southern Zone.
Cartago tends to be little more chilly and rainy than San José because of its elevation and can get foggy at times. The air, however, is clean, and the views are spectacular. Fewer expats reside here because of the cooler year-round temperatures and the style of living for expats who do choose Cartago and its environs is relatively more laid-back. Some of the Costa Ricans who live in Cartago work in San José, since bus service is excellent and there is a new commuter train linking the two cities. The city boasts a huge Walmart, two malls and the Max Peralta Public Hospital.
When I originally started my monthly relocation/retirement tours about 15 years ago I included a trip to Cartago, but found my clients we not interested in the area so I stopped going there.
One of the best things about about Cartago is its proximity to the beautiful Orosi Valley, which lies about 60 minutes east of San José. Viewed from above, this Shangrila-like valley is breathtaking. The spring-like temperatures on the valley floor stay constant all year long. Also found in the Orosí Valley is a large man-made lake, Cachí, where one can participate in many recreational activities. The lake is fed by the famous Reventazón white-water river that runs through the Orosi Valley. Other places of interest in the area are waterfalls, nature reserves and several hot springs. The Orosí Valley one of the most beautiful spots in the country and it is surprising that so few foreigners live there.
The Route of the Saints is an area nearby where some expats reside. This part of Costa Rica is one of the few places where you can find dairy farms, coffee plantations, log cabins, country inns, pine trees and fresh mountain air. Surrounded by mountains, the towns in this area are all named after different saints, which is how it became known as La Ruta de los Santos. Tarbarca, San Ignacio de Acosta, San Cristóbal Sur, San Marcos de Tarrazú and Santa María de Dota are the major towns along this scenic “Route of the Saints.”