Cartago - Costa Rica

Cartago was founded in 1563 by the Spanish Governor, Juan Vasquez de Coronado. It is the oldest city in Costa Rica and was the capital until 1823.

In the past Cartago was destroyed several times by earthquakes. Natural disasters like flooding in the rainy season and eruptions of the volcano Irazu caused additional destruction in the past. Most of the buildings in Cartago are from the 20th and 21rst century, the oldest structure is the ruin of the Iglesia de la Paroquia. The church was completed in 1575 in honor of Apostle Saint James. The church was destroyed by earthquakes and rebuilt repeatedly. Since 1910 has remained a ruin, actually there is a garden inside.

The Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles, which was rebuilt in 1926, is the most well known church in Costa Rica.

Visiting the former capital at the foot of the Irazu volcano...

The story is that a maid found a small statue of the virgin Maria and took her home 1635. The statue disappeared two times from the home of the maid and reappeared in the place where she had found her. That was what led to the decision to construct the basilica in Byzantine style at this special place. A shrine inside maintains the statue of virgin Maria, and each year on the 2nd of August thousands of pilgrims come to visit her.

This is a big tradition and people come from all parts of Costa Rica and even from neighboring countries.

Cartago on the map

Cartago on the map

Facts about Cartago, Costa Rica

  • Cartago is the capital of the province of Cartago.
  • In 1563 the Spanish governor, Juan Vasquez de Coronado founded Cartago, it was the first Spanish settlement in Costa Rica.
  • On August 2nd, each year, thousands of pilgrims walk to Cartago to visit the virgin Maria.
  • Till 1823 Cartago was the capital of Costa Rica.

Driving times and distances

  • Distance from San Jose to Cartago: 18.5 kilometers respectively 11.5 miles.
  • Travel time from San Jose to Cartago: 0.34 hours.
  • Distance from Liberia to Cartago: 229.8 kilometers respectively 142.8 miles.
  • Travel time from Liberia to Cartago: 4.39 hours.