Head southeast of San José past Cartago and on up the fertile farmlands to the top of Irazú Volcano. This volcano devastated the local landscape with millions of tons of dark gray ash between 1963 and 1965, only to end up enriching the soil with its ash that created nutrient-rich sandy loam! Today the volcano sits quietly, although steam vents and small subterranean tremors indicate the volcano is dormant, not extinct. The landscape at the volcano’s 11,000 ft peak is composed of dark sand and hardy vegetation adapted to the high elevation’s rugged conditions. After Irazu, you will continue on to the lovely Lankester Gardens. Lankester is operated by the University of Costa Rica to preserve examples of its native orchids. Additionally, it offers visitors acres of cultivated grounds rich with tropical orchids, anthuriums bromeliads and ferns and the birds they all attract. Not only will you enjoy attractive botanical gardens, but you will help support the preservation of native orchids! Continue your journey through the beautiful Orosi Valley where you will see large coffee farms, the forest-clad Talamanca Mountains, the Basilica of Ujarras which are the remains of one of the oldest churches in Central America, the Cachi hydroelectric dam, and the centuries-old monastery of San José de Orosi.