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Aerial view of majestic Irazu Volcano

Irazu Volcano / Orosi Valley / Lankester Gardens

[ Not available Mondays or Tuesdays] Bring: walking shoes, a hat, sunscreen, a light jacket or sweater, and your camera

In route to the southern part of Costa Rica along the Pan-American highway, you start to ascend the giant Irazu Volcano. The winding road traverses the fertile volcanic soil now cultivated in vegetable gardens as the old capital of Costa Rica, Cartago, appears farther and farther below. At the top, on a clear day one can see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The air is thin and cool and fresh. You walk across a moonscaped field a half mile deep in cinder and grey lava to peer deep into the shockingly green water of the most recently formed crater. It looks small but is nearly half a kilometer across.

Soon you are back on the bus descending two vertical kilometers into the warm, humid Orosi Valley, stopping at the Basilica of Los Angeles, a traditional pilgrimage center for all Costa Ricans once in their lives, and to Lankester Gardens where 800 native species of orchids and bromeliads are protected. The majestic Orosi Valley is home to the remains of the oldest colonial church in Costa Rica, Church of San Jose de Orosi, built in 1735 by the Franciscans. Here a delicious lunch is provided. You will enjoy the specialized agriculture that has developed over the years, coffee plantations on the sides of the valley, and on the bottom, ornamental flowers, and palmito, a meaty tree, often used in local salads. On your way back to San Jose, you will visit the rustic Casa del Sonador, well-known for its authentic Costa Rican art.