Stone Spheres of Costa Rica – UNESCO World Heritage
Costa Rica is usually associated with nature, exotic landscapes, waterfalls, beaches and amazing natural settings. However there is so much more to visit than natural landscapes, there is culture!
The south of the country, other than being home to one of the most intensely biodiverse rainforests on the planet according to National Geographic, holds some of the most astonishing archeological sites from Costa Rica. This trip was meant to visit the only cultural world heritage UNESCO-listed site in Costa Rica.
The Diquis area holds at least four archeological settlements which are considered unique, due to their complex social, economical and political systems of their communities. These tribes present around 300 B.C. to 800 A.D. carved a host of stone spheres which remain somewhat of a mystery up to this day. The spheres range from 0.7m to 2.5m in diameter, carved entirely from stone and no one has been able to certainly describe how they were made, transported and what purpose did they hold.
I find the spheres quite enigmatic so this trip was definitely worth a visit. I organized it into a day trip which allowed me to cover all four sites which contain the largest collections of stones across the south of the country.
Driving down from Dominical, I took a detour to Ciudad Cortés, just 1 km away one finds Grijalba site. However actually getting to the site is kind of tricky, since there are no signs and the trail to get there is not well marked. Just a short walk away, one finds the archeological site, which could be the least interesting site, since it hasn’t been properly dug out yet. However one can get a feeling of the conditions present surrounding the spheres. My stay at Grijalba was just of thirty minutes and I encourage you to do the same, since there are many more interesting sites ahead.
In case of choosing this area as your stay, there are quite a lot of accommodation options near Ciudad Cortés town center and several restaurants to stop and eat.
Back into the Coastal Highway, the drive should be somewhere under 6 kilometers. On your way south you’ll clearly find the entrance to Batambal. You can reach the site straight from your car, since you can drive all the way up to the site. The road is in very good conditions. There’s a decent collection of stones around the site, even some which were broken by locals since it was common belief that they held treasures inside.
Batambal is perfect to sit, rest and enjoy a very beautiful view of the Térraba River which runs adjacent to the site. You can walk the site in under an hour, or spend some more time if you decide to take a picnic.
C. El Silencio
El Silencio is, out of the four sites, probably the least known and less visited of all. It’s a bit off the beaten path, however the drive is worth it. Although this site holds only one discovered sphere, this one is the largest one of any of the other sites. It’s diameter spans over 2.5 meters and weighs over 24 tons. This site should only be a quick visit, but if you’re really interested in the spheres, it’s a visit you can’t miss.
D. Finca 6
Finca 6 is the most popular visit and the best equipped site of all. I drove down the road that leads to Sierpe and took the detour which drives all the way up to Finca 6 -there are signs all the way, so getting lost shouldn’t be an issue-.
Once there, you’ll find that the National Museum of Costa Rica has built some facilities and has become their base camp in order to carry out archeological studies throughout the place. All around the gardens you’ll be able to see a wide host of spheres of multiple sizes, some which remain located at their original site since placement by the local aboriginal tribes.
You can walk around the gardens, read some of the history and even request -upon availability- a guided tour. In case of wanting to spend the night or finding somewhere to eat, you’ll find both in Sierpe, the closest village to the site.
Would like to see more? There are several places around the area with stone spheres which are beyond the scope of the World Heritage Site. Many of them were relocated in public places like schools or parks, but a few are still located at their original site. Take a look at: