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Thursday, 19 October 2006

Holy Smoke:€“ Visiting Costa Rica'€™s Volcanoes - Page 4

Written by Thomas Lera & Sandy Fitzgerald
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As a traveler, I find myself schizophrenic. I’m unbearably optimistic in the planning stage, and utterly certain the night before departure I shouldn’t be going and of course have forgotten to plan and/or pack something utterly essential to the success of the trip. My wife is a meticulous and organized packer, who actually uses detailed checklists to ensure we have everything we might possibly need, without over-packing.

Volcán Irazú

Imagine having to clean out your gutters, and sweep off the roof and sidewalk of your home to rid them of the tons of ash that fall from the sky daily, or to drive with the headlights on in the daytime. These are not scenes from a weird end of the world movie. This actually was the case after Volcán Irazú erupted on March 19, 1963. For the next two years, the volcano daily spewed showers of ash that made its way as far as 45 miles north to San Jose, damaging crops and homes in its wake.


Irazú Volcano National Park ($7 admission) covers 5,700 acres, its highest point being 11,260 feet above sea level. On a clear day, there is a spectacular view of both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. The park is remarkable, however, because of its surreal lunar landscape. There are two main craters: the “Diego de la Haya” Crater holds a strangely colored lake, which is sometimes light green or gray and at other times red; and the central crater, which is more than an astounding 985 feet deep. Even the sparse, austere vegetation contributes to the other world feel of the place. Another unique quality of this place is its average temperature of only 45 degrees. Frosts aren’t uncommon, especially at night. Luckily, there is a snack wagon near the entrance that provides hot coffee and chocolate, as well as warm food. For our one night here, we were grateful for the warm food, comfortable bed and relaxation at our friend’s home.

For many reasons, travel stirs up both my fear of mortality and my awareness of the meaning of life. My wife and I agree, however, we are able to forget our fears in moments of shear delight…. as we peek over the rim of Irazú with its bubbling and florescent green sulfur water, remember the stark and dangerous Costa Rican volcanoes of the Pacific Ring of Fire, soar through the jungle canopy on zip-lines or walk above it on hanging bridges. We use these moments to remind us that life this side of eternity is the ultimate adventure for the willing traveler.

road stop


Other Volcanoes to Visit

The Parque Nacional Guanacaste ($6 admission), one of the least developed and visited national parks in Costa Rica, contains Volcán Cacao (5,443 feet). The park is contiguous with Santa Rosa National Park and Volcán Orosí (4,879 feet). Legend has it, if one listens closely, one can hear emitting from the depths of the Orosí Volcano a powerful, echoing voice repeating, "Plata, no; oro, si." ("Silver no, Gold Yes.").

The Miravalles Volcano, located in the Miravalles Forest Reserve, is almost perfectly conical and the highest in the Cordillera de Guanacaste at 6,654 feet. This is an active volcano with plenty of boiling mud pools and fumaroles.

(Page 4 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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