Cartago's major tourist sight is a hodgepodge of architectural styles from Byzantine to baroque, with a dash of Gothic. The interior of this 1926 basilica is striking, with a colorful tile floor, intricately painted, faux-finish wood columns, and lots of stained glass. Tradition holds that an apparition of the Virgin Mary in the form of a dark stone occurred here in 1635. This "Black Virgin," or "La Negrita," is Costa Rica's patron saint, and she sits high above the main altar. To the left as you face the altar is a room decorated with amulets given in dedication to the Virgin for her intercession in everything from triumphs over disease to triumphs on the soccer field. The basilica gets mixed reviews. Many deride it, saying that photos actually look more impressive than the real thing. Perhaps that's so, but if you're interested in what makes Costa Rica tick spiritually, a stop here is a must.
C. 16, Avdas. 2–4, 7 blocks east of central square, Cartago, 30102, Costa Rica