Costa Rica is not only about nature and adventure, or not only about beaches and volcanoes. This time we want to bring you something out of the usual, although it is a place that might not be completely absent from some touristic recommendations, it is definitely one not in any travel guide (except this one of course): Sanatorio Duran.
It was 1915, up in the mountains near the Irazu Volcano in Cartago, Costa Rica. A place where the chilly air filters in between every wall, and hugs every tree. A place where night is lonely and cold, dark and mysterious. A place where very little is going on. And a perfect place to build a hospital for respiratory diseases, up high, in the fresh cold air of a volcanic surface.
The Sanatorio Duran took place and a health rehab project began successfully as first world class hospital, giving a life opportunity to people affected seriously on the lungs by a common bacteria producing Tuberculosis, a disease that requires intense treatments but most of all, fresh and healthy air.
Founded by MD. Carlos Durán Cartín, and holding approximately 300 beds, this hospital ran until 1963 (48 years), when the Tuberculosis epidemic was finally controlled and eradicated. The hospital was then used as a jail until 1973, when it closed completely due to volcanic eruptions by the Irazu Volcano, provoking serious damage to the structure.
Since that year, the former hospital remained abandoned…adding up years to every wall, every window, and every memory to all patients who once lived there, recovered there or passed away along its walls. Many patients went through this amazing hospital, as many doctors, nurses, and all kind of staff did too. People lived there, produced their own organic food. It was more than just a hospital; it was a community.
Many stories have certainly happened here. Some were told and passed along the years becoming a legend. Others didn’t. But every soul had its moment. And every legend is still written somewhere in there.
The old abandoned buildings are open to visitors nowadays. Foundations are trying to rescue the ruins in order to save a place of national importance and legacy, which might have been forgotten along the years and is now trying to come to live again.
Costa Rica is proud of the Sanatorio Duran, and it is well deserved to save it and restore it. And as a traveler, is definitely a place we must recommend. For the haunted stories, for the paranormal activities people talk about. For its history, its legacy, for the memory of people back in time. For many reasons that built a story deserved to be told.
The Sanatorio Duran was and will always be a place for recovery, with a natural energy. One you will only know and understand after you get to visit this important but mysterious former hospital.
Province of Cartago, just 45 minutes (32 kms) from downtown San José. Or just 20 minutes (7 kms North) from downtown Cartago; and 20 minutes away from the Irazu Volcano National Park as well. A great area for a day trip or a relaxing weekend getaway on the chill.
$2 – Voluntary fee for all those who want to cooperate with the Board on the restoring process.
Easier way will be traveling by car. There is no public transport going directly to the Sanatorium, but there is public transport going by the main road, from where it is possible to see the place and walk from there, aprox. 15 minutes. It will might be even nicer to arrive by foot…as part of the entire experience!
From San Jose by Bus
Bus departing from the National Theatre daily at 8:00 am ONLY, going all the way up to Irazu Volcano, with stops in between. And returning at 5:00 pm ONLY. Probably better to take separate public bus services in order to assure some more schedules running during the day. Price: $5 round-trip.
From Cartago by Bus
- Bus station located 275 mts North from the Northeast corner of the Cathedral Ruins.
- Take the bus going to Tierra Blanca/Volcan Irazú. Get down at the stop Prusia. Since it is a rural area, buses don’t go frequently.
- Buses depart every hour, except in rush hour (between 5:00-7:00 am / 2:00-10:00 pm) running every 30 minutes. Always ask the driver in advance.
- Price: $1 one way-trip
By foot or bike. This place is one to be discovered by foot for sure. There are many diverse things that can be sensed if taking the time to walk, to stop, to sit down, enjoy the views, smell the old rotten structure and the abandoned rural wooden homes aside. The fresh smell of grass all year round or the wooden fire kitchen smoke coming from neighbor homes. Take the time to really listen, see and feel this place.
What to Do
Walk through the abandoned complex: hospital, church, staff’s homes, barns and more.
Bring your own picnic and relax.
Hiking / Biking
Camping at night (Scary? Maybe!)
Graffiti Art and Talking Walls
Haunted stories and legends
Visit the public library project at the entrance
More Images from the Sanatorio Duran