Irazú Volcano National Park
Founded in 1955, the Irazú volcano covers an area of 4,942 acres (2,000 hectares). It is located in the province of Cartago, 31 km from the province capital also named Cartago. At 11,260 feet (3,432 m), the Irazú is the highest volcano in Costa Rica, and due to its unique lunar landscape a very special place.
In this nature reserve a large number of streams and rivers flow into the large rivers Reventazón, Sarapiquí and Sucio.
In addition, the lower section called Prusia is very popular for runners. The national park is a popular excursion destination, especially in good weather, for both national and international visitors.
Irazú Volcano National Park is located in the province of Cartago, about 19 mi (31 km) northeast of the provincial capital Cartago. San José is about 34 mi (54 km) away.
Places to see
The national park is divided into two beautiful and scenic imposing zones: the Crater Area and the Prusia Sector.
The Crater Area
With a maximum altitude of 11,260 feet (3,432 m), the Irazú is the highest volcano in Costa Rica. It is an complex volcano with an irregular subconic shape and an unique lunar landscape with a total of five craters.
The main crater is 3,444 ft (1,050 m) wide and 984 ft (300 m) deep and contains a bilious green sulfur lagoon, which can be seen in good weather conditions.
There is also a spectacular view of the rainforests of the Braulio Carrillo National Park and the Turrialba Volcano National Park. On a clear the view can reach even both seas and the Cocibolca lake in neighboring Nicaragua.
The Prusia Sector
This area is located 9 mi (15 km) before the entrance to the volcano and is a popular destination for runners. There are several natural trails surrounded by pine trees, cypresses and eucalyptuses that invite you to walk or run.
Flora and Fauna
The birds that you can observe in the National Park include the following:
- Sooty thrush
- Rufous-collared sparrow
- Sooty-capped bush tanager
- Volcano junco
- Volcano hummingbird
- Bay wren
- Large-footed finch
Mammals that inhabit this area:
- Pocket gophers
- Cottontail rabbits
- Gray foxes
- White-nosed coatis
- Mexican tree porcupine
- Long-tailed weasels
Reptiles you can find in this area:
- green spiny lizard
You can find these plant species on site:
- Common myrtle
- Large-leafed “Poor Man’s Umbrella”
- South American mountain bamboos
The main activities in the Crater area are undoubtedly the visit of the crater and enjoying the impressive view.
In the Prusia Sector, running, hiking and walking are among the main activities. You can also admire the unique nature during a delicious picnic. However, while it is prohibited to feed the natural wild life surrounding you, always pay attention to the raccoons and white-nosed coatis who are just looking for an opportunity to steal your food!
Weather und Climate
In the Irazú Volcano National Park the climate is cold and humid with average temperatures between 41 °F (5 °C) and 48 °F (9 ° C). The average precipitation in the Crater Area is about 94 in (2,387 mm) per year, in Prusia it rains significantly less with 60 in (1,527 mm).
Best time to visit
The craters are almost always covered with fog. The best chances for good weather without clouds and fog are in the dry season from January to March in the early morning.
After founding the Irazú Volcano National Park in 1955, the nature reserve was extended to a size of 4,942 acres (2,000 hectares) in 1988. The last volcanic eruption that covered San José and Cartago with volcanic ash and dust took place in 1963.
The national park owes its name to an Indian tribe named Iztarú, who lived on the huts of the volcano. In their native language, Iztarú meant “quake and thunder hill”. In the course of time, the name changed through the verbal communication to Irazú.
Due to its geographical location in the central mountain chain and its altitude, the Irazú volcano is a strategically valuable location for national telecommunication companies.
How to get there
The Irazú volcano is about 54 km from San José and you can reach it via two different ways. You drive either via Cartago or via Rancho Redondo. Afterwards you pass Tierra Blanca and San Juan de Chicuá and follow the street until you get to the entrance of the volcano. The second route leads through beautiful rural landscapes, but the condition of the roads is unfortunately not optimal and it is recommended a 4×4 vehicle. Both routes last approximately 1.5 hours.
To get to Prusia, turn left towards Sanatorio Durán, also an interesting place to visit and explore, 2 km after Tierra Blanca and follow the road until you get to the entrance. For this route we also recommend a SUV.
The Irazú Volcano National Park is opened form 8 am to 3:30 pm, 7 days a week, including national holidays.