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As we all know, the capital of Costa Rica is San José. But it was not always thus. A bit over an hour's drive to the west is a city dubbed the "Vieja Metrópoli" (Old Metropolis). The first successful settlement by the invading Spaniards, in 1563, Cartago - honoured as "Very Noble and Very Loyal" by Spain's parliament - served as Costa Rica's capital till 1823.

Actually, little remains of Cartago's very first location, as the city was moved twice (and then suffered powerful earthquakes, in 1841 and 1910). But time heals all wounds, and a visit to this city of nearly 157,000 (414,000 in the greater metro area) offers a fascinating look back into history in a country not overflowing with historical landmarks, along with some other cool extras.

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