VOLCANO—THE WORD COMES from the little island of Vulcano, located off of Sicily. According to Roman mythology, Vulcano was the chimney of the forge of Vulcan, blacksmith of the gods. Watching the island, people could observe hot lava and dust clouds coming from his forge as he beat out thunderbolts for Jupiter and weapons for Mars.
Today, watching volcanoes, with their fire, lava and smoke, still fascinates
us, and is one of the highlights of our Costa Rican journeys. Though
Costa Rica is a peaceful country, its volcanoes are not. Many of them
are active, including the Arenal, Irazu, Poas, and Rincon de la Vieja.
Most of our Costa Rica trips visit the Arenal Volcano. Overlooking beautiful
Lake Arenal, the volcano produces small explosions every few minutes
and occasionally really booms out.
The highest volcano in Costa Rica is the Irazu, located not far from
San Jose. Currently it is quiet but 35 years ago it sent ash and mudflows
rolling down into farm lands, causing at least 40 deaths, and destroying
The Poas Volcano, visited by some of our Nature Explorer trips, has several
craters at its summit, one of which contains a small turquoise lake with
an evil witch's brew of sulfurous steaming water. Occasionally this volcano
also gives forth a violent explosion.
In the Northwestern corner of the country is the Rincon de la Vieja.
Two years ago, this volcano erupted and sent mud flowing down several
rivers, killing fish, but doing no serious damage.
There is a wonderful legend in the area about the origin of the volcanoes
name. It seems that a princess fell in love with the chief of an enemy
tribe. When her father learned of the affair, he captured the young chief
and threw him into the volcano. Heartbroken, the princess went to live
beside the volcano and gave birth to a child. To allow the child to be
with his father, she threw him into the volcano, then spent the rest
of her life nearby. As she grew older, she became a powerful healer,
and people referred to her home as Rincon de la Vieja, “the nook
where the Old One lives.”
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