Last Updated: Jul 22, 2011
Summary: Charming Central Valley town surrounded by sugar cane plantations; voted the cleanest city in Central America.
Landscape: City, Mountains
Attractions: Waterfalls, World of Snakes
Activities: Bungee Jumping, Sugar Cane Tours
Caters to: Day Trippers, Families, Independent Travelers
Nestled in the Central Valley’s rolling hills and sugar cane plantations, Grecia is a picturesque town with a mild climate and several worthy attractions. Known as the cleanest town in Latin America, Grecia boasts an immaculate and beautifully landscaped central park that is dotted with huge shade trees. The park is an ideal place for people watching, taking an afternoon stroll, or enjoying a frosty ice cream.
Location: 27 miles from San Jose; 3 miles south of Sarchi
Average Temperature: 67 to 82°F
Altitude: 3,040 feet above sea level
The east side of central park is bordered by the vibrant Cathedral de la Mercedes. The gothic-style church is constructed of brick-red metal panes, built in Belgium and shipped to Costa Rica in 1987. The panes were shipped as individual slabs to the port city of Limon where they were carried by oxcart, piece by piece, to Grecia. The iconic church is an unusual deep red hue and is adorned with gingerbread trim.
Beyond its charming locals and temperate climate, Grecia is known for unique attractions like the World of Snakes reptile museum and Los Chorros, a pair of pristine waterfalls set in a private reserve just minutes from town. There is also a family-run butterfly garden and, for the history buff, the Casa de Cultura museum has plenty of local folklore and colonial artifacts.
Adventurous travelers will enjoy rappelling down Los Chorros Waterfalls or bungee jumping off a 250-foot bridge spanning the Colorado River. This extreme adventure takes place on one of the tallest bungee bridges in the America. Fly headlong off the bridge, hurtling down toward the rocky river, before springing back through a lush, tropical canyon.
Or visitors can simply relax with a massage or Jacuzzi soak at one of the area’s quaint hotels and inns. The artisan capital of Sarchi is a quick ten-minute drive from Grecia and offers souvenirs, wood handicrafts and a variety of intricate, handmade furniture.
Casa de la Cultura
This small museum appeals to history aficionados, displaying Spanish-colonial artifacts and other souvenirs of times past. There’s also an exhibit on Grecia’s reputation as “the Cleanest Little Town in Latin America,” as well as a large insect collection.
Los Chorros Waterfalls
Located three miles south of Grecia, Los Chorros falls are perfect for an afternoon picnic or a long hike followed by a refreshing swim. Waterfall rappelling tours leave daily and feature an exhilarating 200-foot descent down the cascades.
Declared a National Site of Interest in 1994, Grecia’s 18th-century rock bridge connects the small towns of Puente de Piedra and Rincon de Salas. According to local legend, the elaborate bridge is so otherworldly that it was built by the devil. That may be up for debate, but the structure is definitely unique, and many claim that there is only one similar in the world – in China!
Sugar Cane Tour
Visit a working trapiche, a traditional Costa Rican sugar press that flattens sugar cane, squeezing out its sweet juices. On this tour, you’ll follow sugar from the field to your tabletop, learning how it is first extracted and then processed into granulated powder and your favorite treats. Don’t worry, there are plenty of homemade goodies to sample!
Hours: 11:00 a.m. on Sundays; tour lasts approximately two hours
World of Snakes
Located a mile outside town, this serpentarium also runs an important endangered snake breeding program. More than 40 species are represented; informative guides give tours in English, Spanish and German, offering interesting facts and a bit of snake lore.
Hours: Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Sunday; last tour begins at 4 p.m.
Bus: Public buses depart San Jose for Grecia at the crossroads of Avenida 3 and Calles 18 and 20. The hour-long journey costs approximately $1.75. Buses leave San Jose every 10 minutes between 5:40 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. and every 30 minutes from 6:00 p.m. to 10:20 p.m. (Transportes Grecia: 2258-2004)
Car: Take the Interamerican Highway (Route 1) northwest from San Jose toward San Ramon. About 12 miles outside of San Jose, you will see the sign to Grecia. Turn right and continue to downtown; the red metal church will be on the left. Driving time from San Jose is approximately 35-45 minutes.
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