A day trip to the Irazú you never knew
This article of mine originally appeared in The Costa Rica Star, please stop by and have a look around. Thanks, Solson
I still get excited when I can see the top of the Irazú Volcano from the Central Valley. You get used to looking east and seeing a wall of mountain with clouds on top, but then every so often in the dry season it clears up and you get to see the top–view killing antennae and all. When I see it like that I want to head that way, just not all the way up, I have a more interesting trip in mind. Yep, I have a new favorite part of Irazú: Prusia.
The first time a friend suggested we go to Prusia, I had an immediate flashback to high school history and visions of pointy-helmeted mustachioed generals. After my confused silence, I was informed that the Irazú park has a second entrance, with woods and trails and no crater.
I often tell people that the best part of taking a day trip to Irazú isn’t the crater, it’s the drive and the views.
The crater is nice the first time. You putz around for a few minutes, wait for the clouds to clear, ooh-and-ah and the colors in the lagoon (if it’s not dry), shiver, marvel at how out of shape you feel and head home. Forty-five minutes, tops. If you have never been, it’s probably worth it once here’s a preview:
I’ve done it enough times, so now I day trip to Prusia, and stop at the creepy Sanatorio Durán for pictures. Both areas share the same, not too well marked access in Tierra Blanca. The best way to spot it is by keeping an eye out for the the Sanatorio which is pretty obvious (it’ll be on the left as you head up).
Prusia is a reforested section of the volcano that was damaged during its eruption in the 1960’s. It’s full of little creeks, tall mist-shrouded trees and giant sand-paper like plants (botanists help me out here). It features four trails and one even leads to the source of the Reventado river–cool.
You may want to pack lunch and definitely bring sturdy shoes (preferable water-proof) and rain gear for you and your camera. There isn’t much infrastructure near Prusia but check out Mirador Paso del Quetzal for some simple home-made food and baked goods. It’s not fancy but it’s run by honest folks and you may even spot a quetzal at the right time of year.
Taking pictures of the landscape within Prusia is tricky since the forest is quite dense and can yield some not-quite-right results. It can be pretty misty lessening your contrast and light, or if the sun is out you could have too much contrast. Try reducing your scope and shooting flowers and plants instead. If you are going to shoot the landscape try placing someone in the shot to give a sense of scale to the trees or the leaves.
If you aren’t happy with your photography options in the park, or the the climate doesn’t cooperate, Sanatorio Durán has enough ghost-story-and-rust appeal to it to whet your photographic appetite, all for a nominal entrance fee. A history as a tuberculosis hospital and a juvenile jail, plus 50 years of disuse make for some hair raising ghost tales and good photos. I pity the care-takers who sleep there—bold souls to be sure. It’s often used for photo sessions though the goose-bump factor is usually diminished by packs of screaming tweens on weekends. Try visiting during the week (and in the wet season) for a more serene experience. Rumor among photographers has it that professional looking photo gear could get you hit with a surcharge (about $5). I haven’t been charged yet but I can’t disprove it so you are on notice.
For residents wanting a change of pace or visitors who want a little extra a day trip to Prusia and Sanatorio Durán may be just the ticket. Just please watch your step, both places.