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Psychedelic Colored Sarchí Oxcarts


The bus to Sarchí drops you right in front of the park. And the first thing you’ll see in the park is a giant version of the famous wooden Sarchi oxcarts, painted in bright psychedelic colors!

Sarchi oxcarts are now a national symbol

The production of these brightly painted carts is a tradition dating back 120 years. Oxcarts were once the primary means to transport goods and to use when working on the farms. Strong oxen and sturdy carts were essential due to steep muddy unpaved roads. This was the case all over Costa Rica. And for generations the carts were plain, wooden and strictly utilitarian.

But from time immemorial, someone somewhere always gets the idea to add decorations to an ordinary everyday item. Judging from the contents of museums, this could be anything. A plate, a chair, or a doorknob. Humans can’t resist the urge to make things pretty.

Here in Sarchi, it just happened to be an oxcart! And thus an entirely new form of “art” and brand new tradition was born. Gradually as their notoriety grew, these beautiful carts became to be considered a national symbol of Costa Rica.

Fábrica de Carretas Eloy Alfaro


A “must see” in Sarchí is this factory where they’ve been making the carts for over 100 years. Located just 2 blocks north of the main highway that runs through town, on Calle 1. A short walk from the gigantic painted oxcart in the park.

Since it was off-season, it was very quiet, practically devoid of tourists. I wandered around in the back courtyard and poked my head into some of the factory rooms.

In addition to the famous painted Sarchi oxcarts, you’ll also see (and have the opportunity to purchase!) rocking chairs, tables, serving platters, etc. All have the same simple but distinctive style. Geometric patterns somewhat reminiscent of a compass markings, plus symmetrical flower-like swirls and swooshes. And all done in bright primary colors.

You’ll even see these same designs painted around town. On doorways, along fences, on a park bench. In short, anything that doesn’t move can be considered a potential canvas!

Mint Green Cathedral

Even the cathedral on the north side of the park embraces the Sarchi style, albeit in a more restrained and dignified fashion. First, the entire building is painted two-tones of subtle mint green! Next, notice the brightly colored swirling flower patterns very similar to the Sarchi oxcarts.


(Click on any photo to open light-box and browse full-size images.)

P.S. More in Sarchí

As long as you are in Sarchí, be sure to also visit the Else Kientzler Botanical Gardens. It’s just a short distance out of town.

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