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Flashback Friday: Cartago, Costa Rica

An easy half-hour public bus ride ($2USD) from San José is Cartago, one of the oldest Costa Rican cities and a great day trip for the budget traveller. Overlooked by many travellers this city has a rich history and incredible architecture and ruins.

Cartago is in the Central Valley of Cartago at the foothills of the Irazu Volcano. The former capital city was founded by Juan Vasquez de Coronado in the mid-1500s, during the Spanish colonial years. Until a volcanic eruption in 1732, it was the largest city in Costa Rica. It remains one of the most important cities in the country as a transportation and economic hub, and the agriculturally-rich valley surrounding the city.

The pride of the city is the beautiful Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles (Our Lady of the Angels) and the Las Ruinas de la Parroquia (Parish Ruins) in the central park, found about 500m from the bus station. The Basilica is sanctified with a Black Madonna shrine.

A series of earthquakes caused repeated damage and instability. In the early 1900s, a restoration project was undertaken. This is an important site for the faithful every August, when over 2 million people make a 22 km pilgrimage (some on their knees).