Coffee And Volcanoes

The park that includes this volcano covers 2309 hectares, its highest point being 3432 meters (approxim. 10,300 feet) above sea level. There are two theories for the name "Irazu", one being that it’s a combination of "ara" (point) and "tzu" (thunder), and the other being that it’s named after "Istaru", a 16th century Indian palisade built in the nearby town of Cot. The park is remarkable because of its surreal lunar landscape. There are two main craters, one is called the "Diego de la Haya" crater that contains a strangely colored lake (some days it’s light green and others it’s red) and the other is 300 meters (900 feet) deep. Even the scarce and austere vegetation contributes to the other-worldly feeling of the place. Nevertheless, there are some species of animals that manage to live in this severe and rugged area - coyotes, tiger cats, long-tailed weasels and some species of birds like the clay-colored robins.

Another factor that contributes to the uniqueness and bizarre quality of the place, is the temperature. The average temperature is only 7.3 c or 45 F, but frosts aren’t uncommon, especially at night. It’s more pleasant to visit the park during the driest months of March or April, since the cold weather is enough to deal with. Luckily, there is a snack wagon near the entrance that provides hot coffee and chocolate as well as food. There are also bathroom facilities and picnic tables near the parking lot.

This national park fits into a half a day or a one-day itinerary, since long walks or other activities aren’t possible. There are many tour agencies that offer trips to the volcano that include lunch at nearby restaurants. Two of these agencies are: Magic Trails (tel.253-81-46) or Universal Tropical Nature Tours (tel.257-01-81). There are also very quaint accommodations at local hotels, like Hacienda Retes (tel.253-81-46/ fax 253-99-37) or Hacienda San Miguel (tel.229-50-58/ fax 229-10-94). Hacienda Retes is a 150 year-old farmhouse that faces the volcano, thus offering spectacular views. The rustic accommodations offer rooms with bunk beds for six to twelve people; activities include horseback riding tours to the volcano (3 hours approx.) or simply enjoying the oak forest that surrounds the hacienda. Hacienda San Miguel is located in Rancho Redondo, and it consists in cozy but modern rooms; the hacienda offers a jacuzzi, a fireplace and horseback rides to the volcano.

Even if you don’t plan to stay near the volcano, you can enjoy the delicious food at Bar Restaurant Linda Vista. As its name suggests, one can observe a breathtaking view from this restaurant, which is located at 2693 meters (8,000 feet); the owners boast about their restaurant being the highest one in all of Latin America! The quaint decoration includes an interesting collection of hundreds of business cards that are pinned to the walls. Several tour companies stop at this restaurant, but there’s always space for lonely travellers.

The Volcan Irazu is behaving itself, but it occasionally emits clouds of hydrogen and carbon dioxide gas at temperatures lower than 100 c. Visitors to the National Park are safe, since volcanic or seismic activity is monitored by national and foreign institutions. Apart from being safe, this park offers a unique and unusual panorama that is every want-to-be-an-astronaut’s dream. Its 400 hectares of volcanic ash and scoria, as well as its strangely tinted lake have a strange beauty to them that you won’t want to miss.

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About The Author, Coffee123
Boake Moore writes about Costa Rica and coffee and volcanoes.His company mission grounds gourmet coffee helps children around the world. www.missiongrounds.com