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San Jose is located in a broad, fertile valley at an altitude of 1,150 metres and surrounded by the majestic Central Mountain range, providing the city with a dramatic backdrop. Founded in 1737, it is a pleasant mixture of traditional Spanish and modern, and although it is relatively small compared to most national capitals there are some interesting museums, art galleries, restaurants and shops. Many of the original colonial buildings have not survived the earthquakes and other rigours of time, but amidst the newer buildings there remain areas of traditional architecture and shady squares. The surrounding Central Valley is a verdant agricultural region with volcanoes and national parks, offering visitors to San Jose the opportunity to explore coffee plantations, the rainforest of the Braulio Carrillo National Park, the Poas volcano with its spectacular turquoise crater lake and many bird species in its dwarf cloud forest, or the orchids and other flora at Lankaster Gardens.

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