Historic Costa Rica: Guayabo National Monument

Unlike Guatemala's Tikal or the Incan ruins of Peru, Costa Rica tours are not exactly famous for their archaeological history. But veiled in the shadow of the Turrialba Volcano - like a mythical "lost city" from a storybook - lies a mysterious ancient city that was home to over 10,000 people who seemed to have vanished just before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. This region, known as Guayabo National Monument, is the most important archaeological site visited on Costa Rica tours.

Although it lacks the towering pyramids of Tikal or Machu Picchu, Guayabo does not lack for mystery or intrigue. Little is known about the habitants of this region; archaeologists have yet to discover even the name of the city and its inhabitants. Excavations began in 1968 by Dr. Carlos Aquilar Piedra, an archaeologist from the University of Costa Rica. But within the 218 hectares of this national monument, only 10% of the site has been excavated. With all its mystery, with all its uncertainty, Guayabo is a perfect place for imaginations to run wild during Costa Rica tours.

Who were these early residents of Costa Rica? We can only piece together their history through the clues they left behind. Paved stone roads stretch into the surrounding forest for miles. Was trading part of their economical structure? After 2500 years, the carefully designed aqueducts lined with tiny stones to filter drinking water are still usable today. Were they a community of engineers? Tombs are found throughout the site. Was religion a prevalent part of the society's structure? Tapering wooden houses once sat on the remnants of rock-based foundations of different size and proportion. Were they a democratic culture - a chiefdom? Evidence suggests they were a people of great religious and political importance, but details on their civilization have yet to be uncovered.

Costa Rica tours to this area also showcase a breathtaking display of wildlife. Colorful butterflies and a spectacular variety of birds populate Guayabo today. Sloths, armadillos, rabbits, frogs, and lizards find shelter in the dense foliage of the surrounding rainforest. Ferns and orchids can also be spotted on a peaceful walk along the ancient roads and pathways. Adventure Life's new 10-day Discover Costa Rica tours give you the opportunity to visit this remarkable and mystifying place.

Petroglphs are everywhere. Some represent birds, lizards and giant cats, while others appear to have no clear meaning. Enhancing Guayabo's secrecy, these ancient and abstract carvings continue to baffle archaeologists today. Travelers on Costa Rica tours should look for the petroglph at the entrance of the site. It seems to protect Guayabo, keeping danger out. Or perhaps it is welcoming you in, an invitation into Costa Rica's rich and mysterious history. Guayabo still has much to reveal and much to discover.