Southern Region

Tell a Tico you're going south along the Pan-American Highway through the Cordillera de Talamanca and the look of bewilderment that will spread across his face is unfailing and immediate. From south of Cartago to the Osa Peninsula, the central southern district of Costa Rica is almost an undiscovered, or more likely forgotten, region. Your journey takes you through Siberia and beyond to Cerro de la Muerte (the Mountain of Death) - hardly names to inspire a journey through paradise - before making a slow and steady descent through the valley of the Río El General.

But the southern zone has some very real charms, which may be the highlight of your visit. This is where the smart money goes for guaranteed quetzal sightings. The highest point in the country, Cerro Chirripó, at 3820 m, is a steady and rewarding hike from San Gerardo de Rivas, close to San Isidro de El General. For the entire length of the Talamanca Mountains, stretching beyond the border with Panama, a handful of opportunities exist to explore this vast protected area.

Further south, culturally depleted indigenous communities struggle to adapt to an ever-changing world. From San Vito in the far south, it's a short trip to the world famous Wilson Botanical Gardens, from where a spectacular road drops rapidly to the western lowlands around Ciudad Neily.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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