This tour takes you to the very top of Irazu Volcano for a half mile hike around 3 different craters, with steaming fumaroles and luminous lagoons. The Irazu Volcano, sitting at an elevation of 11,260 feet, is the highest active volcano to be found in Costa Rica and the only one with roads leading all the way to the top.
Viewing it from the surrounding cities, you’ll see it’s iconic conical shape with smooth angular sides in the distance. But at the top it looks anything but conical with its five deep craters, some of which contain vibrant emerald green lagoons. The last large eruption was in 1994 and it is currently considered in a dormant stage. However the steaming fumaroles scattered at the top provide evidence that this volcano is still active.
Your day will begin when you are picked up from your hotel and driven through the picturesque town of Cartago and up into the higher elevations where it is typically chilly. You’ll enter into the Irazu Volcano National Park encompassing almost 6,000 acres of both cloud forest and upland tropical rainforest. As you ascend the volcano, you will know you are getting close to the top when the foliage starts to disappear and the terrain begins to look other worldly.
Arriving at the top, the tour bus will park in the paved parking lot where you will have a chance to use the washrooms. Your guide will then take you for a half mile hike along the trails that loop around three of the craters called, “Diego de la Haya", “La Laguna”, and “Playa Hermosa.”
You’ll notice that in terms of wildlife, the land up here is pretty barren but you may catch a glimpse of the Volcano Junco and the Volcano Hummingbird - the only two bird species that actually thrive in this harsh volcanic climate.
Speaking of harsh volcanic climate, the height of the volcano on most days surpasses the clouds in the sky, providing tourists with a break from tropical heat only to be exposed to almost freezing temperatures. Yet at this elevation the sun is very strong, and combined with a lack of cloud coverage raises the risk of sun exposure. You will want to bring along both a sweater plus sunscreen to prepare for the unique climate.
On a very clear day, it is possible to see both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans from the top of this volcano. And even if the day is not so clear, the unusual landscape within the National Park can provide amazing photo opportunities.
After spending time at the volcano, you’ll head back down to the historical town of Cartago. Your guide will point out interesting architectural features including the mysterious ruins of the old Parish. You will visit the Basilica, called “Our Lady of the Angels”, a beautiful ornate church that looks like it came straight from the Byzantine era. You will then be driven back to your respective hotels.
This tour includes a bilingual guide, entrance fees, and transportation from Alajuela and San Jose. One way transport to the volcano typically takes from 1.5 to 2 hours depending on the location of your hotel. Combined time of touring Irazu Volcano and the town of Cartago with round trip transportation usually takes between 5 and 6 hours. Please wear comfortable enclosed walking shoes and bring rain gear, sweater or jacket, sun block, camera, plus extra spending money if you would like to purchase souvenirs or snacks.