Prusia Sector: Fairytale Forest above Cartago
What comes first to your mind first when you hear Costa Rica: dream beaches, rainforest, colorful wildlife? But this country offers much more, such as the enchanted Prusia forest...
An ancient legend tells that years ago, long before the Spaniards arrived in Costa Rica and Juan Vásquez de Coronado founded the city of Cartago, a fight broke out between two chiefs. For Aquitaba, son of Chief Coo, the situation looked hopeless and the conquest of his lands by Chief Guarco was imminent. So he sacrificed his daughter "Iztarú" on the highest mountain in the area to the gods and asked for their help for the war. During a hard battle, the young leader called for the help of "Iztarú" and the highest mountain began to spit fire and ashes. When stones rained on Guarcos' soldiers, they fled. A river of hot water came from the same mountain and broke down the palisades of Guarco. This is how the giant Irazú Volcano was born.
“The Irazú volcano was born.”
Legends like these have always fascinated visitors to the volcano and the city of Cartago at the foot of the colossus. The old capital is located only 25 kilometres from the current capital San José and, in addition to the Irazú volcano, "La Básilica de Los Ángeles" is another of its main attractions as it is known as the main pilgrimage church in the country. Also in the city, you can see the Santiago Apostle Church popularly known as "The Ruins" of Cartago.
“Las Ruinas” in the city center of Cartago
Meanwhile, "Iztarú" or the Irazú volcano has been quiet and since 1994 no eruption has been registered. The volcano remains moderately active and can be visited without problems. On a clear day, thanks to the incredible height of about 3´400 meters above sea level, it is possible to see both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts from the top of the volcano. The volcanic soil is rich in minerals in combination with the cool climate which provides the perfect breeding ground for potatoes, onions and much more. This is undoubtedly another attraction in the area!
When you are driving on the road you can enjoy its beautiful landscapes, passing by a large statue of Christ, and later you can appreciate the "yellow mountain" because there are many yellow wildflowers that from a distance, paint the mountain of that spectacular colour. This road finally leads to a viewpoint with fabulous views, you have to see it!
From the viewpoint, you can see the meadows and the wild landscape of the area.
If you follow the path to the end, you will reach the crater of the Irazú National Park, where you can visit the famous lagoon, it's incredible! We recommend taking a coat because the average temperature ranges between 5° C and 9° C., but the thermal sensation can be even colder. Also during the morning, it can be clear so we recommend you to use enough sunscreen.
The lunar landscape in the sector of the craters and the famous blue lagoon.
If you decide not to follow the path to the crater sector but prefer to turn at a fork, you will have the opportunity to get to know a completely different area of the national park. On this road you will find the old Sanatorio Durán, a complex of abandoned buildings that were once a clinic for the treatment of tuberculosis and today attracts many visitors because it is said that in this place you can see paranormal activity and is known as "the haunted house". This sanatorium has many legends and mysterious stories have been the scene of Costarican music videos during the nineties and many documentaries about paranormal activity.
Do you want to live a paranormal experience? If this does not make your hair stand up, your place is the Durán Sanatorium.
After the chilling attraction, the paved road leads to another sector of the Irazú Volcano National Park: the "Prusia Sector". This part of the national park is literally like an enchanted forest of a fairy tale.
This park has eight interconnected trails in three levels of difficulty, which together make up a distance of 16 kilometres that cross the forest. The ascent of approximately 5 minutes from the parking lot to the beginning of the trails is steep and challenging. The hiking trails are the main attraction for almost all types of travellers. Here you can stroll peacefully along the path "Los Abuelos", the "haunted" tree and the viewpoint. If you like sports, we recommend you try the challenging "Cabeza de Vaca" route, which leads through the forest.
From this point, you can admire the fog-covered hills of the volcano.
The signage within the sector is excellent and the roads are in good condition so you can take a good walk!
Various trees of the park.
In a tropical country with famous dream beaches and pineapple plantations, among other attractions, this forest covered with pines and cypresses is undoubtedly a popular destination especially for national tourism and is often the perfect setting for the sessions of wedding photos due to its romantic and cosy atmosphere.
What's better than a picnic when your stomach growls after the walk? The administration of the park also thought about it and offers a meadow next to the parking lot to enjoy a tasty picnic around the exuberant nature, without a doubt this is extremely relaxing!
What is hidden in a Costa Rican picnic basket?
Anyone who has experienced a "tico picnic" should know that it has to be abundant. In addition to sandwiches, there is often hard-boiled egg, ground beans with nachos or corn tortillas, tuna sauce with crackers or whole pots filled with rice and chicken, a typical Costa Rican recipe.
Several landscapes within the park.
In general, Prusia is a wonderful destination for a day trip from San Jose and can easily be combined with other attractions, such as the city centre of Cartago, the yellow mountain by the number of wildflowers of the same colour and the mysterious Durán Sanatorium. If you want to visit all the attractions, the crater sector, and the Prussian sector, we recommend you to start your trip early and you should know that, due to time limitations, you can only experience part of the hiking trails in Prussia.
What do you think? The Irazú volcano, with its surrounding attractions and national park, is an excellent example of the diverse landscapes of Costa Rica and adds variety and greater enjoyment of your trip. Everything you want to know about this attraction and many more, please let us know, we can talk and advise you with your trip about the best and most authentic adventure.