Grecia (Spanish: meaning “Greece”) is the capital city of the canton of Grecia in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica. It is also the name of the distrito (Spanish: meaning “district”) that includes the city. The district of Grecia covers an area of 6.86 km², and has a population of 15,756.
The city lies at an elevation of 999 meters above sea level in the foothills of the Cordillera Central on the eastern edge of theCentral Valley. The city, which was once named “the cleanest city in Latin America, is 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital city of Alajuela, 27 kilometers from Juan Santamaria International Airport, and 45 kilometers from the national capital city of San José.
Grecia is noted for its unique church, Iglesia de la Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, made entirely of pre-fabricated steel plates painted red. There are several urban legends about this church. One recounts how the church was donated by some foreign country, and sent to Greece as a gift, but was wrongly shipped to Grecia, Costa Rica. Another legend states that the final destination of the church was the city of Punta Arenas in Chile but was disembarked, by mistake, in the port of Puntarenas, Costa Rica and later sent to the city of Grecia where it was assembled.
However, records clearly show that the instruction, shipment, and construction of the church were a coordinated effort of Grecia’s population, the Catholic Church, the Costa Rican government, and Alejo E. Jiménez Bonnefil (1858-1922), a Costa Rican coffee producer and exporter who was in charge of commanding and importing the church from the manufacturer Ateliers de la Société de Couvillet in Belgium, in the late 19th Century.
This agricultural center grows and produces sugar cane, organic coffee and pineapple. With its mild climate, fresh breeze year round and its friendly locals, this is a charming little town to visit and see some Costa Rican culture.
Grecia is a well-maintained and clean city, breathing a comfortable atmosphere. The central park, bordered by the Cathedral made of a red colored metal, is a nice place to relax for a bit between lush tropical plants and in the shade of large trees and people watch.
Attractions include Las Cataratas de los Chorros, the latter one being a pair of waterfalls within a private reserve, several minutes from town.
Nearby you will find the famous artisan town of Sarchi, where you can indulge looking for hand-made souvenirs or dare-devils could try bungee jumping of the 75-meters (245 feet) high bridge over the Rio Colorado.
Mountains surround Grecia and you can see them from many places in town. In addition, Grecia has 5 ridges that lead up, several thousand feet in elevation, from Grecia Centro. From a lot of property’s you have a panoramic view of San Jose as well as several other cities and the mountain range as well as beautiful sunsets and the elevation provides for a cooler climate.