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Cerro de la muerte

Cerro de la muerte

Cerro de la Muerte

Located in the Cordillera de Talamanca, in the province of Limón in Costa Rica. It is characterized by having a cold climate and exuberant vegetation. It is the highest point of the Inter-American Highway. In it is the Tapantí-Macizo National Park.


The Cerro Buena Vista massif (3491 masl), better known as “Cerro de la Muerte”, is part of the Cordillera de Talamanca, located on the central mountain axis of Costa Rica. Located this hill at a height of 3,451 meters above sea level, it is one of the highest points in the Inter-American. From San José it is a trip of approximately 3 hours. In the San Gerardo de Dota valley, at a lower height, the Quetzal bird can be seen in huge oak forests. Its distribution is restricted to the tropical zone. In the American continent it is found in the mountain ranges of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador to the north of Peru in South America. In Central America they occur when the mountain ranges exceed the limit of 3000 meters of altitude (there is no consensus on this), as in the case of the Cordillera de Talamanca in Costa Rica where the paramo finds its main representatives in the Cerro Chirripó (3820 masl) and Kamuk (3549 masl). It can be said that in general, the paramos are distributed between 10º North latitude and 15º South latitude, being more exuberant near the equator.


Wild solitudes, called moors by the Spanish colonizers, subject to the constant draw of tremendous storms and on whose surface the melted snow runs everywhere; troubled region, lashed day and night by the fury of the winds and hail rain, shrouded in clouds, little light, and very little sun. Rocky, inhospitable area, almost deserted by the inclement elements, covered with few lichens and grasses, in which frequent snowfalls hinder the passage of the traveler. Generally in a páramo the landscape is dominated by bushes when the drainage is adequate and by swamps when the drainage is poor. For many species of Andean origin found in Chirripó, the páramos in Costa Rica represent the northernmost distribution limit known. Likewise, there are species of northern provenance in the moors that reached south towards our mountains; this is how the moors represent an interesting mix of vegetation from the North and the South (Poveda, et al, 1976). In Costa Rica there are moors in the two largest mountain ranges: Cordillera de Talamanca and Cordillera Volcánica Central. In the Talamanca Mountain Range it can be found in the Buena Vista massif, the Chirripó massif and Cerro Kámuk; while in the Central Volcanic Cordillera, in the Poás Volcano and the Irazú-Turrialba massif.

Physical-geographical characteristics

The place is characterized by the cold climate (1ºC to 13ºC) and the vegetation of oak, oak and paramo. The most outstanding hills are Buenavista, Jaboncillos, Asunción, Vueltas and Páramo. Cerro de la Muerte is reached through the Interamerican Highway, being the highest point of the highway, approximately 3345 meters above sea level. The hill was the pedestrian route of the pioneers of the Valle de El General in the southern part of the country, giving rise to legends which said that the hill had killed many peasants who were crossing it. The altitudinal zonation of the Central and South American mountain ranges is based essentially on temperature variations; however, in addition to temperature, there are many other factors that influence the type of vegetation, and this is particularly true in the case of the moors (Weber, 1959). The relief of the earth’s surface with different elevations, exposures and inclinations and with watersheds, as well as extreme climatic conditions, produce a more marked diversification than that of most other life regions (Sturm, 1985).

Tapantí-Macizo National Park

Covering more than 583 square kilometers, the Tapantí-Macizo Cerro de la Muerte National Park is one of the rainiest among the national parks of Costa Rica. Wet and wild, it protects the northern slopes of the Cordillera de Talamanca and acts as a key bird refuge in the area. A popular destination for bird watchers, the fauna here is also impressive, but it cannot be seen easily due to the dense solid nature of the terrain. The vegetation of this park is exuberant and dense, with more than 150 rivers and numerous waterfalls that are within its limits.

Flora and fauna of the Park

An important landmark in the region, the Tapantí-Macizo National Park is home to four different types of ecological zones, rain forests and more. Around 45 species of animals have been seen here, including the tapir, ocelot, tepezcuintle, jaguarundi, red deer, common deer, white-nosed coati, raccoon and tepezcuintle. Of the 260 species of birds found living here, the most popular in the Tapantí-Macizo Cerro de la Muerte National Park is the majestic Quetzal. Hummingbirds, warblers, hawks, parrots, pigeons, parakeets, goldfinches, partridges and eagles also inhabit this forest.

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