The city of Cartago was first established in 1563 by the Spanish conquistador Juan Vásquez de Coronado. The original village was situated between the Coris and Purires Rivers, several kilometers to the southwest of the present day city. This location proved to be poorly chosen since the settlement was flooded so often that it came to be known as the “City of Mud”.With five National parks in this region it can be a great place for nature lovers and hikers. However, lately landowners have opened their properties to tourist for a small fee and offer unique tours of their farms and forests. The rural villages of Cartago are a unique site. They are characterized by old aged buildings built using the old adobe style.
This region is also home of the Pacuare River which runs wild and free in this area. A very popular attraction and can be booked by an agent or even in San Jose. Many raft down the Pacuare to get a unique view of the rainforest with lots of wild life visible during the rafting trip.Cartago is also home of the miraculous Black Madonna. The statue is in Basilica De Nuestra Senora which is the biggest church in the city. This statue is said to have healing powers and many make a pilgrimage to come visit it once a year.
Irazu Volcano is among the most frequented sights in Cartago. This is the tallest Volcano in Costa Rica. It is located near the city and it only takes a short time to drive to the site. It is 50 kms east of San Jose and is accessed by driving on the Cartago highway. Keep your eye open for unique restaurants along this highway. A local secret is a small restaurant where you catch your own trout. They cook it on the spot and serve it with black beans, plantains and white rice.