Touted as Costa Rica’s centre for arts and crafts, SARCHÍ, 30km northwest of Alajuela, is famous for producing the brightly painted ox-carts, or carretas, that have become the country’s national symbol. The setting is pretty enough, between precipitous verdant hills, but don’t expect to see picturesque scenes of craftsmen sitting in small historic shops, sculpting marble or carving wood – Sarchí is an overly commercialized village, firmly on the tourist trail, and most of the factories are rather soulless showrooms. In a few of them, however, you can watch carts and furniture being painted and assembled, and at the very least, the ox-carts and rocking chairs are less expensive here than anywhere else in the country.

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