Las Juntas de Abangares
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Las Juntas, at the base of the Cordillera Tilarán about 50 kilometers north of Esparza and six kilometers east of Highway 1 (the turnoff is at Kilometer 164, about 12 kilometers north of the Río Lagarto and the turnoff for Monteverde), is splashed with colorful flowers and trim pastel-painted houses. A tree-lined main boulevard and streets paved with interlocking stones add to the orderliness.
Small it may be, but Las Juntas figures big in the region’s history. When gold was discovered in the nearby mountains in 1884, it sparked a gold rush. Hungry prospectors came from all over the world to sift the earth for nuggets. Las Juntas was a Wild West town. Inflated gold prices have lured many oreros (miners) back to the old mines and streams (about 40 kilograms of gold are recovered each week).
The pint-size locomotive—the María Cristina—that sits in the town plaza once hauled ore for the Abangares Gold Fields Company and dates from 1904. The oreros are honored with a statue in a triangular plaza on the northeast corner of town.
The road northeast from the triangular plaza leads into the Cordillera Tilarán via Candelaria and then (to the right) Monteverde or (to the left) Tilarán; a 4WD vehicle is recommended. In places the views are fantastic.
Centro Turístico Pueblo Antiguo
Pueblo Antiguo Tourist Center (tel. 506/2662-0033, www.puebloantiguo.com, 8 a.m.–10 p.m. daily, $5), near the hamlet of La Sierra, three kilometers east of Las Juntas, enjoys a tremendous setting amid 60 forested hectares.
This complex has two hot thermal pools and a cold-water pool, plus a cavern-style stone-lined steam room and two whirlpool tubs. It has bars, a restaurant, and a lake stocked with trout and tilapia.
Nature tours are offered, as is a Gold Mine Adventure down dank candlelit tunnels ($20, helmets and flashlights are provided). Farther downhill, and belonging to the Centro, is the Ecomuseo Las Minas (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Fri.), displaying mining equipment at the entrance of an old mine. It is usually closed; call ahead.
Mina Tours (tel. 506/2662-0753, www.minatours.com), in Las Juntas, also offers tours of a miners’ cooperative, or book direct through the Asociación de Mineros (tel. 506/2662-1705).
Hotels and Restaurants
Cabinas El Elcanto (tel. 506/2662-0677, from $12 s, $15 d), 100 meters northeast of the triangular plaza, has 14 clean, simple, modern air-conditioned rooms with fans, cable TV, private baths, and cold water.
Centro Turístico Pueblo Antiguo (tel. 506/2662-1913, www.puebloantiguo.com, $33 s, $49 d) has 10 spacious wooden cabins for up to five people each. All have tile floors, fans, rattan sofas and chairs, two queen-size beds, basic kitchens with microwave, clean modern private bathrooms with hot water, and verandas with rockers.
Getting to Las Juntas de Abangares
Transportes Las Juntas (tel. 506/2258-5792 or 2695-5611) buses depart San José from Calle 14, Avenidas 1/3, at 10:45 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. daily. Return buses to San José depart Las Juntas at 6:30 a.m. and 11:45 p.m. daily. Transportes Caribeños (tel. 506/2669-111) has a bus from Liberia at 4 p.m., returning at 5:30 a.m.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition