Founded in 1563 by Juan Vazquez de Coronado, CARTAGO, meaning “Carthage”, was Costa Rica’s capital for three hundred years before the centre of power was moved to San José in 1823. Like its ancient namesake, the city has been razed a number of times, although in this case by earthquakes instead of Romans – two, in 1823 and 1910, almost demolished the place. Most of the town’s fine nineteenth-century and fin-de-siècle buildings were destroyed, and what has grown up in their place – the usual assortment of shops and haphazard modern buildings – is not particularly appealing. Nowadays, Cartago functions mainly as a busy market and shopping centre, with some industry around its periphery. The star attraction is its soaring cathedral, or basílica, dedicated to La Negrita, Costa Rica’s patron saint.

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