My Favourite Travel Experience - Territorio de Zaguates - The Land of the Strays
I have had the opportunity of exploring 26 different countries, all of which I loved.
However, my experiences and adventures in Costa Rica will forever hold an extraordinary place in my heart.
Costa Rica is complete paradise. This country has EVERYTHING to offer. Every moment of the trip I was caught off guard by the beauty of my surroundings and the warmth of the people.
I travelled to Costa Rica with my younger sister Lauren. We ventured off on a Contiki tour around the country.
I have done 2 Contiki's in the past, and I LOVE them. At some point, I will write a blog post covering all things Contiki.
The group that we travelled with was the BEST of the BEST. I could not have asked for a more fantastic group of humans from all around the world to travel with. I made some amazing friends and every moment spent with them was incredible.
Shortly after our arrival in Costa Rica, we had an opportunity to go somewhere that was high on my bucket list. This day and the experiences that followed still remain a part of my favourite travel memories.
If you are a Netflix lover like me, you may have seen a new Netflix original documentary series called ‘Dogs.’
Description: These six intimate stories that explore the abiding emotional bonds that form between dogs and their caregivers, no matter the circumstances.
Check it out here
Episode #5 is the story of Territorio De Zaguates.
Territorio De Zaguates is THE BIGGEST dog sanctuary and is located in Costa Rica just outside San Jose. More than 1300 stray dogs live here running freely through the land. Here, abandoned dogs and mutts are given a second chance at life. It is a non-profit organization that is volunteer-run. These dogs have the freedom to enjoy the stunning countryside with sunshine 365 days a year. Heaven for all these amazing animals.
Territorio De Zaguates is a no-kill and non-profit shelter making it the largest one of its kind in the whole world.
This beautiful paradise is run by Alvaro and Lya.
Check out the Instagram page for Territorio De Zaguates here.
As soon as I heard about this 'Land Of The Strays', I knew I HAD to go.
If there is anything, I REALLY struggle with while travelling, its seeing abandoned and stray dogs everywhere in many countries.
On our recent trip to the Philippines, I had a tough time walking on the streets being surrounded by puppies and dogs who urgently required care. One morning when stepping out of our hotel we were greeted by a tiny little puppy who was on the verge of dying. It made me incredibly emotional, and there was literally NOTHING I could do. All day I was thinking about some way I could make a change and help these dogs.
Stray dogs are a severe problem in many places around the world.
In Costa Rica, there are a vast amount of stray dogs. They are everywhere you go.
When I found out about this shelter, it brought the biggest smile to my face. FINALLY, a country that is taking in these dogs who have been rejected by society and giving them a new life, love, and best of all FREEDOM.
I decided to write this blog post to share my once in a lifetime experience visiting Territorio De Zaguates. It has brought to my attention that Territorio de Zaguates is currently closed to the public and planned to open again shortly.
Our day spent at Territorio de Zaguates was everything we could have wished for. In my wildest travel dreams, I would picture myself being in a wonderful country, sitting in the grass with the sun shining down on us surrounded by dogs. This day our dreams came true.
As soon as we arrived and got out of the vehicle, we were quickly greeted by many dogs that were all very distinctly different.
They were loving and affectionate and all very well behaved.
Already at this point, we were blown away by the number of dogs around us. It wasn't until we walked up the hill that we realized how many there really were.
At this exact point in time, roughly 950 dogs were living on the land.
We were joined by a big group of volunteers and many children from a local school. We began the walk through the countryside with hundreds of dogs following behind us.
It was all complete bliss.
The scenery, the weather, the lush surroundings, it couldn't have been more perfect.
Once we got up to the top of the hill, we all sat down to enjoy the sun and relax with the dogs.
They were all so friendly and playful. At one point in time when we looked around us, all we could see was dogs. No empty space, no grass, just hundreds of dogs.
At the end of our visit, I was not ready to leave. I wanted to stay longer and enjoy the company of them all.
From the moment we stepped out from the car to the moment we got in the car to leave, there was one little guy who never left my side. At that moment I wished I could have adopted him and taken him home. However, I knew this was not possible.
It was incredibly difficult to say goodbye, but also brought tears to my eyes knowing that they are all living their life to the fullest and receiving unconditional love every day.
It was an emotional day, to say the least. However, all my emotions stemmed from happiness. This experience provided me with so much love and joy, and I would return back to Territorio de Zaguates in a heartbeat.
I have included all the information you need for planning your visit to Territorio de Zaguates during your trip to Costa Rica.
HOW TO GET THERE
Territorio De Zaguates is located in the Heredia Province roughly 30 km North of San Jose. It took us around an hour to drive there from the San Jose city center.
It is very close to the San Jose airport (approximately 30-minute drive).
If you are being picked up at the San Jose airport and will have a vehicle, I highly suggest driving to Territorio De Zaguates from there.
HOW & WHEN TO VISIT
When we went to Territorio De Zaguates, we actually had NO idea if it was open to the public and did not plan our visit.
When we arrived at the big door, it was closed and locked. We waited for a while, and no one else had entered. We were almost ready to head back to San Jose, but I was feeling incredibly let down that we had come all this way and would not get the opportunity to see the dogs.
We went on Facebook to check out their page and were able to get a contact number. We called them, and finally, they had agreed to come down to let us in. Today they had a select group coming to visit with the dogs (volunteers), so that specific day it was not open to the public. However, they still let us in. If you show up completely unexpected as we did, it is very likely you will arrive to find the gate is closed.
According to the website, at the present moment, they are closed to the public, but should we re-opening shortly. For contact information and to stay up to date with everything new happening, check out the Facebook page here.
WHAT TO BRING
Everything you would usually bring for a hike & a day spent outside.
The walk you will do with the dogs is roughly a couple miles on the countryside. It is not difficult at all. There is a beautiful view once you reach the top.
I recommend wearing comfortable walking shoes. Also, a good idea to wear loose clothes.
I got SUPER dirty from playing around with all the dogs in the grass and dirt.
Bringing some extra clothes to change into afterwards is not a bad idea.
Also, be prepared with some sunscreen and water. Insect repellant is a good idea as well.
You will want to take lots of photos and videos. Make sure you have a full charge.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
If you are interested in adopting a dog, you can message them directly for further information.
They also require volunteers to keep everything clean and to help care for the dogs.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer click HERE to apply.
Hopefully, shortly they will open their doors so that all of you travelling to Costa Rica can experience the Land of Strays for yourself.
Being surrounded by hundreds of happy, healthy, beautiful dogs in Costa Rica was VERY high on my bucket list.
It was an incredible experience that I will never forget.
Have you visited the Land Of Strays in the past? I would love to hear all about your experience.
If you have any questions, please comment below.