Hiking routes through Cartago

In1536, the Spanish conqueror Juan Vázquez de Coronado established the boundaries of what would be later known as the city of Cartago between the Coris and Purires rivers. This event is considered the beginning of the colony and settlement which became the capital of the province at the beginning of the XIX Century.

At the end of the XVII century and the beginning of the XIX, the city had some 40 blocks and streets that had begun to be paved with stone.

In 1635, the Virgen de los Ángeles was discovered and the 23rd of September was declared a day to pay respect to the States’ official patron saint.

In 1835, after a military conflict, the capital was moved to San José.

The city of Cartago has suffered the consequences of many powerful earthquakes like the ones in 1841 and 1910 which destroyed the city completely. After the last one, adobe materials and wattle and daub which was used for construction were abolished leading to homes made of wood and sheet metal.

Monument to the Virgen de los Ángeles

This monument was unveiled on July 31st, 2010. The image is carved from marble and was sculpted by Chinese artisans. In total, the monument measures some 20 ft. in height and the sculpture itself, 8 ft. in height.

It is located at a strategic point that is visible by visitors upon entering Cartago, where the Virgen de los Ángeles National Sanctuary is located, which is Costa Rica’s patron saint. The image of the virgin was a gift to the city from the Calvo Solano family.

Cartago´s Cemetery

The Cartago´s General Cemetery was established by the Royal Order on November 6th, 1813, which stated that cemeteries were to be located outside the city. Due to the struggle between the State and the Church as to who would manage the cemetery, on July 19th, 1984, the Secularization of Cemeteries law was established. A great victory for the country.

There are many marble and stone sculptures, as well as artistically beautiful mausoleums. The cemetery was declared a Historical Landmark in 1991.

The María Auxiliadora church

This church was originally the chapel for the Orphan Hospice and the Salesiano School.

After the earthquake in 1910, the hospice collapsed and the chapel was restored to the structure seen today.

The interior is a series of esthetic and architectural decorative elements and is one of the few examples of neo-gothic architecture that is preserved in the province of Cartago.

During 2010, there were important efforts made to renovate the external part of the church such as the façade, the bell tower, the pinnacles, and lateral walls.

The structure was also painted red, which was determined the original color of the temple after inspecting the walls. They were repaired using traditional wattle and daub technique, which were used in construction in Cartago before the earthquake. It was declared an Architectural National Heritage in 1999.

Cartago Municipal Amphitheatre

It is located in the Independence Memorial Plaza next to the María Auxiliadora Church. It has a capacity for 400 people, 394 in the stands, which have clothed seats and three balconies with wheel chair access.

The facility provides residents of Cartago and visitors to enjoy theater, dance, music, expositions, among other cultural events. It is designed to blend in with the surrounding environment along with the María Auxiliadora Church, Independence Plaza, and the Municipal Theater.

Pirie building

This was the home of the Pirie family, which came from England. It was then converted into the Pirie Pharmacy and later used for various governmental institutions. Currently, it is acts as the Casa de la Ciudad (City Home) for the Costa Rica Technological Institute for various artistic groups.

This emblematic building, designed in French Neo-Classic style, is one of the few structures that survived the earthquake in 1910 and was declared a historical-cultural landmark in 1986.

Apostle Santiago Cathedral

Before being destroyed by the earthquake of 1910, it was the San Nicolás Tolentino Church. It currently serves as the Apostle Santiago Diocese Cathedral.

The current design is in Art Deco style. Its construction began in the 1950’s and its interior houses 24 religious murals, created by the Italian painter, José Claró. The murals illustrate biblical events.

Cartago Cultural Center

This structure built in 1924 in Neo-gothic style, served as the Cartago Agricultural Credit Bank (Banco Crédito Agrícola de Cartago), and was later converted to the Mario Sancho Public Library.

Currently, it serves as the regional branch of the Youth and Culture Ministry and was declared a Cultural Heritage in 1987.

Here visitors can participate in various artistic activities, such as cultural recitals, painting, drawing, and sculpture exhibitions, among others.

Cartago Club social

This structure was declared Costa Rica´s Historical Architectural Heritage in 2000.

The current building is in Neo-Classical style and was constructed to serve as a meeting place for the social elite in the province, such as presidents and other important figures. Currently, it serves as home to the Cartago Rotary Club and Garden Club.

Municipal Palace

Since the colonial period, this place served as the office for government officials in Cartago and Costa Rica until 1823 when the so-called "Battle of Ochomogo" took place. The capital was then moved to San José. The Independence Act was signed and sealed here on October 29th, 1821. There is even a plaque commemorating the event on the outside of the building.

The new building of modern architecture was inaugurated in 1958. It currently serves as the local governmental administrative offices.

Cartago Plaza Mayor

With more than 400 years of history, Cartago Plaza Mayor was the first plaza set up by the Spaniards in the Central Valley during the conquest.

After 1821, Plaza Mayor was changed to Plaza Principal and later Central Park. Currently, it is called by its original name, Plaza Mayor, and was declared a Cultural Heritage site in April 2007.

Apostle Santiago Church Ruins

The Apostle Santiago Church was founded between 1577 and 1580 by the Franciscans and is located on the east side of Plaza Mayor. Over time, the temple went through several reconstructions and renovations. The current structure was built stemming from plans by the German architect, Francisco Kurtze, and approved in 1862. Construction began in 1870, but was delayed due to lack of resources. The earthquake of 1910 prevented its completion.

The design falls under the Romanic architectural style and represents the only example of this type of architecture in Costa Rica. In the portico is the Liberty Bell which announced Costa Rica’s independence in 1821. It was declared a Cultural Heritage site in 1982.

Jesús Jiménez School

This was the home of the illustrious ex-president Jesús Jiménez Zamora. After his death in 1897, the site was transformed into a school carrying the name “Jesús Jiménez” in his honor.

The building was reconstructed after the earthquake in 1910; the second stage of the building was finished around 1936.

San Luís Gonzaga School

San Luís Gonzaga School was founded in 1842 and is the first higher learning institution in Costa Rica.

Construction of the current building was completed in 1928 and inaugurated in 1930. Its style belongs to the Neo-Classic genre.

Ascensión Esquivel School

It was declared a Historic Architectural Landmark in 1990.

The Ascensión Esquivel Ibarra School was created in 1902. After the earthquake of 1910, the structure suffered severe damage and was torn down. It wasn’t until 1934 that the current structure was inaugurated, after a lot of effort to complete construction.

Suggested hiking trails

For the visitor’s convenience, there are three routes that make it easy to see the main tourist points in the city, differentiated by three different colors:

    West to East in a straight line

  • South of the city leaving from Plaza Mayor

  • North of the city leaving from Plaza Mayor

Convent for the Franciscan Priests

When the Capuchin Order first arrived to Costa Rica in 1878, they built the first convent in the area. After the 1910, the structure had to be demolished due to severe damage. The construction of the current convent began in 1961 and they managed to conserve the altars and stain glass windows from the back of the building. Currently, it is home to the Franciscan Order.

Saint Francis of Assisi Sculpture

This work, sculpted by the artist Max Ulloa, is located in the gardens of the Franciscan Priest Convent and it conveys the love and brotherhood of the saint toward Mother Nature. It measures 7 ft. in height and is made of fiberglass.

Jesús Jiménez Zamora House

This is the birthplace of the ex-president Jesús Jiménez Zamora. Its importance stems from the fact that Jiménez, distinguished countryman, established the Free and Obligatory Education of Costa Rica. The house was declared Historic Architectural Landmark in May of 1985.

PANI Center

This facility was constructed around 1920 and was acquired by the government of Costa Rica during 1945. It is currently home to the regional offices of the National Child Care Services (PANI in Spanish).

In 2003, it was declared a historic architectural heritage site in Costa Rica.

Father Peralta School

The founder of this school was Father José Francisco de Peralta López, who was born in Cartago in 1788. He died in 1844, leaving in his will resources and land for the foundation of a school, which was constructed in 1845. After the earthquake in 1910, the current structure of the school was built.

The current building is in Neo-Classic style and was declared a Historic Architectural Heritage site in 2003.

Cartago City Market

Between 1575 and 1886, Plaza Mayor was the site for commercial trade in Cartago. Then, in 1886, the local government hired English Construction & Co., to construct a building for the market.

The 1910 Santa Monica earthquake destroyed the building and it is the same company that constructed the current building.

Historic City Station Gallery

This structure was built at the beginning of the XX century, and served as home to the Atlantic Railroad Station.

It was declared a Historic Architectural Heritage site in 1997.

It has been recently remodeled and restored by the City of Cartago and serves as an art gallery.

Jesús Jiménez Park

This site survived the 1910 earthquake and represents an important urban space in the daily lives of those from Cartago. Inside, visitors can find the monument to Jesús Jiménez Zamora.

Since 2009, the City of Cartago has restored the park and installed kiosks where traditional flowers are sold, which are symbols of the city and liven the view.

Jesús Jiménez Zamora

He was born in Cartago and completed his higher education studies in Guatemala and obtained his degree in medicine. As president of Costa Rica (1863-66), he pushed for public education and a route to the Caribbean.

He incorporated in the country’s constitution free and obligatory education, establishing an elementary school in each of the main towns.

There is a canton and a school with his name. He was declared a national countryman on July 22nd, 1886.

Cartago City Museum

This building was constructed during the Ricardo Jiménez administration (1910-1914) under the direction of the architect, Luis Lach. It was declared a Significant Historical Heritage site in 1984.

This facility played an important role during the 1948 revolution and, over time, was home for security forces and the public police force.

Since April, 2010, after a complete renovation led by the City of Cartago, the building was established as the Cartago City Museum, in response to the city’s concern for preserving its historical, social, and architectural heritage; as well as to understand the history, culture, and natural value of Cartago.

Our Lady of los Ángeles Basilica

It was constructed in honor of the apparition of the Virgen de los Ángeles in 1635. She is the patron saint of Costa Rica and her image was sculpted from stone, which is located in the temple.

The first building (chapel) was erected in 1639 and was later expanded, rebuilt, and renovated for various reasons.

The current building is in Byzantine style and was constructed between 1912 and 1930 and designed by the architect Luis Llach. The façades were designed by the engineer Fabio Garnier. It was declared a Historic Architectural Heritage site of Costa Rica in 1999.

Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles Basílica is a first-rate National Sanctuary. Hundreds of thousands of Costa Ricans make the pilgrimage to this site to profess their faith. It is one of the most important religious events in Costa Rica.

Víctor Manuel Sanabria Martínez

This figure was a priest and bishop dedicated to caring for his flock. In Rome he obtained a Doctors’ Degree from Cannon Law, and in 1921 he was ordained as a priest. In 1938, he became the bishop of the Alajuela Diocese, and in 1940 was named Archbishop of San José.

He was an eminent researcher of the Ecclesiastical History of the Church and left behind many writings and publications. He defended the most important sectors of the country and workers’ rights. He helped form the social laws of 1943 and the Workers’ Rights Code.

The work was done by Gerardo Martí and is located in front of the Los Ángeles Basilica.

The Cross at Caravaca

By the year 1635, during the colonial period, there was a neighborhood called Pueblo de los Pardos. This area was separate from the city of Cartago since it was home to many mulattos. It was a custom throughout almost all Spanish-America to separate the mulattos from the white people.

In order to maintain control over the separation, the Cross at Caravaca was put up as a boundary line.

The monument is currently located on its original site.

Quircot Colonial Church

This is a historic and cultural relic. It is perhaps the oldest church in Costa Rica and is located in Quircot, San Nicolas, northeast of Cartago.

The church was built in the second half of the XIX century and its architectural style is representative of the Franciscan religious order. The site has furniture and images that date back to the XVI and XVII centuries.

About the hiking routes:

It’s worth mentioning the International Horse Parade in San José, which has been declared a “Cultural Interest” event by the Culture Ministry and is held in every year in April.

Associations and professional horse riders offer visitors the opportunity to see different breeds of horses. It also demonstrates its traditions since participants can see typical clothing worn by those native to the area.

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