Welcome to the colorful city of Sarchí! Everything here is painted in vibrant, geometric patterns. From the church to the street signs, the colorful decorations can be found throughout the entire town. Sarchí is Costa Rica’s famous center for arts and crafts, and it is especially known for being the home of the world’s largest ox cart. In this article, you will learn all about it and why you shouldn’t miss out on visiting this colorful town.
Why visit Sarchí – Costa Rica’s most colorful city ?
Although the city is well-known throughout the country, Sarchí is often overlooked by travelers. Still, you can find small, brightly decorated oxcarts as souvenirs in every gift shop in Costa Rica and keep wondering what they are all about.
That’s not the only reason why a trip to this colorful town is worth it, though. Sarchí is also located in a quite beautiful area off the beaten tracks of Costa Rica.
On the way there, you get to see a completely different side of Costa Rica, characterized by hilly landscapes, fields, cattle pastures, and plantations of all kinds.
It is the pristine and rural Costa Rica.
Passing through small, secluded villages, follow the winding road and be constantly rewarded with impressive views of green forests and plantations that stretch to the horizon.
Until the houses and streets suddenly start becoming more and more colorful – you have arrived in Sarchí.
How did the colorful ox carts become Costa Rica’s national symbol?
Everyone in Costa Rica knows them; they are the symbol of Costa Rican workers and have long since become the country’s unofficial national souvenir: the carretas, brightly painted ox carts.
THE CARRETAS AND THE COFFEE BOOM
They originated toward the end of the 19th century. During the coffee boom, they were needed to transport coffee sacks from the central highlands to Puntarenas on the Pacific Ocean, a journey that would take one to two weeks. Because of all the hardships on the poor roads, Costa Ricans eventually provided the carretas with the typical massive wheels.
At the peak of the coffee boom, up to 10,000 of these oxcarts were on the road in Costa Rica!
SYMBOL OF COSTA RICA’S PERSEVERANCE
As the production of the Carretas grew and improved, their beauty and design became increasingly important. This led to the creation of the colorful paintings, and the Carretas gradually became a national symbol.
For Costa Ricans, the Carretas represented their work, perseverance, patience, and joy. And so, even when motor vehicles could have taken over the work, the Carretas remained in service.
FROM SYMBOL TO UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
The Costa Ricans were proud of their carretas and had developed the ambition to make the carts even more beautiful and stable by using bright colors and high-quality wood.
Eventually, the carretas became today’s symbol of Costa Rican labor, their peacefulness, and also of their democracy.
In 1988, they were even officially declared a national symbol by the president and became a UNESCO world heritage site in 2005!
What to see in Sarchí today?
Today you can not only find the famous carretas and their workshops in Sarchí, but also numerous other handicraft products. From furniture made of leather and wood to colorfully decorated tableware, there is so much to discover for art and craft lovers.
But the main attraction is and remains, of course, the (most certainly) largest and most colorful ox cart in the world. It can’t be missed in the small park of Sarchí, from where you can also take a look at the colorfully painted church.
If you happen to be in the region of Alajuela anyway, you should definitely take a look at the small colorful town!
How to travel to Sarchí?
The city of Sarchí is divided by the Río Trojas into two districts, Sarchí Norte and Sarchí Sur. Since Sarchí stretches for several kilometers along the main road, it is best to park or get off the bus in Sarchí Norte. Because that is where the big ox cart and the church are located.
Travel to Sarchí by public bus
Getting to Sarchí by public bus is easy and budget-friendly.
From San José, buses leave three times a day to Sarchí. It is best to check the departure times on site.
Duration: 1.5 hours, cost per ride: ₡ 1,200| $ 2.25
From Alajuela, buses leave about every 30 minutes to Sarchí, but not from the main bus station, but a side street!
Duration: 1h15, cost per ride: ₡ 900 | $ 1.65
From Grecia there are also buses every 30 minutes to Sarchí, so you can easily explore both places in one day.
Duration: 20 minutes, cost per ride: ₡ 500 | $ 1
Travel to Sarchí by car
The roads to Sarchí are in good condition and easy to drive. From the direction of San José, take the Interamericana and leave it at the Grecia exit, heading north to Sarchí. As soon as you see the first colorful carretas, you have arrived.
Do you have any other travel tips for Sarchí? How did you like this colorful place? Let me know below in the comments.