Irazu Volcano National Park
Duration: Half Day
The tour begins by ascending the breathtaking summit of the Irazu Volcano, which is the highest and most active volcano in Costa Rica, towering 3,432 meters above sea level. The name Irazu aptly means "Thunder and Earthquake Mountain". The volcano has a long history of eruptions, and although it still remains active today, the last major eruptions took place between 1963 and 1965. Irazu has remained dormant for almost 40 years, aside from occasional small eruptions and lava flows. You will be relieved to know that the activity in the crater today consists only of fumaroles releasing steam.
Established in 1955 to protect 2309 hectares around the volcano, Irazu Volcano National Park is unique because of its surreal lunar landscape. It is the only place in the Central Volcanic Range system that has both a rainforest and treeless plains. The flora here has undergone considerable changes as a result of the volcanic eruptions. There are many types of craters within the park, lined with scorched trees; some have small lakes that vary in colour from rusty red to bright lime-green, depending on the minerals present in the water.
Three different ecosystems exist in the park: Premontane Rain Forest, Montane West Forest and Montane Rain Forest. Little vegetation can be found in the areas around the craters, but the lower you get, the lusher the vegetation. The wet forest is covered with lichens, open grass and scrublands, whereas the secondary forests and remaining primary forests are made up of conifers and other exotic, native species.
Due to deforestation, high altitude and volcanic activity, Irazu’s wildlife is sparse, but certain species do inhabit these diverse landscapes, including clay-coloured robins, volcano hummingbirds, owls, ant-eating woodpeckers, volcano juncos and mountain robins. Red-tailed squirrels, rabbits, armadillos, grey foxes, tiger cats, porcupines and coyotes can also been spotted here.
There are a number of hiking trails throughout Irazu Volcano National Park, which take you on a fascinating trek between the Principal Crater, Diego de la Haya, Playa Hermosa and La Laguna. There is also a small visitor centre, holding interesting displays explaining volcanism, and a coffee shop in which you can relax and take in the scenic views of the volcano. If diverse landscapes fascinate you, this tour is a must during your holiday in Costa Rica.
What to bring: Sun block, walking shoes, light jacket, camera and hat. Length of tour: Half day.
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