Topolandia

Topolandia Perez Zeledon


Useful Information

Location: San Pedro de Pérez Zeledón. From San Isidro de El General, 27km south on Interamerican Highway South, turn left to San Pedro 1km. (9.260245, -83.561463)
Open: All year daily 8-16.
Reservation mandatory.
[2020]
Fee: Combo with meal: Foreigners USD 30, Locals CRC 10,000.
Guided Tour: Foreigners USD 20, Locals CRC 5,000.
[2020]
Classification: SubterraneaTunneling
Light: electric.
Dimension: Ar=370m²
Guided tours: L=400m, D=1-2h.
Photography:
Accessibility: 80% of the rooms are wheelchair accessible
Bibliography:
Address: Topolandia, San Pedro, Pérez Zeledón, San José, Tel: +506-883-24458. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1974 Manuel Barrantes traveled as a backpacker through 17 countries.
2004 Manuel Barrantes began to dig a hole with the idea of making an underground house to live in.
2010 local media reports about the underground home.
2016 international recognition.

Description

The tunnel system of Topolandia was dug by Manuel Barrantes. The former miner built them as an underground home for his family. The tunnels are decorated with carvings of suns, faces, and cartoon characters like the Flintstones. Originally built as a home, it is now a family business called the Primer Museo Arqueológico Subterráneo de Costa Rica y Centroamérica (First Underground Archaeological Museum of Costa Rica and Central America).

Manuel Barrantes excavated the tunnels by hand using only hand tools like a pick and shovel, without the use of dynamites, pumps or machinery. In 1974 he traveled as a backpacker through 17 countries working in all kind of jobs. He worked as a miner and in the excavation of underground housing. When he returned to Costa Rica he dreamed of having his own underground home. In 2004 he began to dig to fulfill his dream, but never imagined that it could become a tourist venue or a means of subsistence. After he had dug the first 20m the neighbours called the police. They thought he was crazy because he was making "holes under the ground and wanted to live there". When the police arrived to inspect, they could not stop Manuel Barrantes because he was on his own property, he was not making any noise, and he was not harming anyone with his digging. He continued to dig, his neighbours continued to denounce him, and the police ignored the neighbors' complaints. Finally they sent geologists to evaluate the excavation. But after four years of research the geologists approved the project as an underground shelter, especially for global warming, climate change, and acid rain. From this moment there were no more complaints from the neighbors.

Around 2010 the local media repeatedly reported about the underground home. As a result visitors came to Manuel Barrantes and asked to visit the home. When the number of visitors increased he started to collect a symbolic entrance fees. In the five years between 2010 and 2015 some 300 reports were published about the home in newspapers, TV news, magazines, radio programs, and TV programs. There were also many students who used the underground home as topic of their school, college and university homework. In 2016 this culminated in international news coverage.

At the same time the venue developed and became a tourist site. The site was operated by the family and required a lot of legal permits. Until today it is operated only by the family, the guides are the children of Manuel Barrantes and his wife. It has become the major source of income for the family.

The house has three bedrooms, the beds are cut from the massive rock. There are four living rooms, a kitchen, and three wells, which collect ground water from the porous rock. One room was converted into a museum with many antiques. Another exhibition shows the tools that have been used to create the tunnels. The hall, which seats 25 people, is the centrals stop and if possible Manuel Barrantes personally tells his story and answers questions. The house is decorated with sculptures carved on the walls with chisel and spatula. They are not intended as artworks, they were created as decoration depicting popular motives. Quite unique is that, while cameras are allowed, the operators suggest to leave anything else at the ticket office, because many people forget their stuff in the house. Also it is forbidden to take any food or drinks on the tour, because even small remains of food would attract vermin.

It is possible to visit the underground home on a guided tour. And there is an offer for a combo of guided tour and Almuerzo, a typical Costa Rican lunch with salat, fresh natural fruit, dessert, and coffee. The main course consists of white rice, beans, chicken in sauce, vegetables, fried yucca and ripened banana. It is quite common in Costa Rica, that there are two different prices for locals and foreigners, but even with the fee for a tourist it is a really good offer. And it is possible to modify the lunch if you do not want certain components.