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Territorio de Zaguates, a name you might be unfamiliar with, until now. It means ‘The Land of the Strays’ and is exactly what it sounds like, a large piece of land that doubles as a home to over 900 stray dogs.
My heaven on earth and one of the best days of my life.
I remember a year or two ago, seeing one of those viral and overly shared videos on Facebook about a place called Territorio de Zaguates. Friends and family alike tagging me in the video, I swore to myself I’d one day make it there. A promise I kept.
We mention the word bucketlist a lot on The Ungraceful Guide, or rather, the more appropriate ‘fuck-it list’. Well this was, is and ever shall be my ultimate fuck-it list accomplishment.
An NGO volunteer run programme that finds and rescues dogs from across the country. A home for fighting dogs, lost dogs, abandoned dogs, sick, terminal ill or illegal bred dogs; these saintful volunteers find them, bring them to this wondrous heaven and provide everything a dog needs and deserves.
Food, water, grooming, treatment, vaccines and training. A home, a master, a best friend and love. Lots of love.
The fact that you’ve clicked onto this blog leads me to believe you are either a dog lover or are interested in visiting paradise. Well, as a fellow and avid dog obsessor, let me tell you that you’ll never feel such canine love and awe as you will when here.
From the minute you arrive, your new besties will happily welcome you and, with tails in full swing, approach for all the cuddles you can offer.
You’ll befriend big dogs, little dogs, pups, oldies, mongrels, pedigrees, you name it. Some will have missing limbs, others will be blind or deaf and most of them injured or with severe skin conditions. Yet all of them happy, all of them smiling. Full of joy as they bounce around, enjoying their newfound freedom, no longer scared, no longer distrusting.
The hardest part isn’t seeing the aftermath of their previous life. The hardest part is leaving without one. Knowing that you could provide such a loving home for at least two of these cuddlers.
Obviously enough, since we’re travelling fulltime, we could never adopt one. Well, not right now. That’s what Luke keeps telling me anyway, despite my dispute and puppy dog eyes.
However that’s not to say you can’t help. By simply visiting, you are nurturing and helping to restore the faith between the man and man’s best friend. Your contribution while there, whether it’s simply dropping a few coins in the box or buying merchandise, as Tescos so perfectly puts it, every little helps. And like any NGO, you can donate; something we highly recommend and would urge. The price of a bag of crisps or a bar of chocolate can go such a long way here.
The volunteers are the most amazing people. Strike that, ALL volunteers are amazing. But the love and passion these guys have for this wonderful organisation creates a sense of home. They’re stern yet pick up even the most flea-ridden yelpers for a hug and a kiss on the lips.
So if you are passing through Costa Rica, if you are someone who wants to help and you are a lover of dogs, dear God don’t miss this. It’s the story we always tell throughout our days, and many kick themselves wondering why they didn’t hear of this while they visited the rich coast.
During our visit. as I walked through the thick mud, streams, and let’s face it, poo; I remembered sitting in my 9-5 watching that viral video thinking ‘wow. I would kill to go there. My ultimate bucketlister’. So yes, despite all the amazing things we’ve done on this trip, for me that is top of my list, and it’ll be top of yours too.
And anytime I think of my 940 four-legged friends, my heart fills with so much love, my faces beams with smiles and I can’t help but feel so lucky to have experienced something so wonderful.
So I’m glad you’re here, reading and researching with hope you get to experience a barking mad day out and
I wish you all the fun during your 3k hike.
How To Visit Territorio de Zaguates:
Hikes usually take place on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am-12.30pm.
To confirm a date, you will need to Whatsapp Alvaro (the leader of the pack) on +506 8815 2514 to find out when the next available hike is. Text him in advance of your arrival.
Lock in a date and, unless you have a car, make your way towards Alajuela City. You may need to spend the night before the hike here.
Travel to Territorial de Zaguates:
Those who don’t have their own transport will need to avail of the organised shuttle bus service that collects visitors in front of the ‘Centro Comercial Plaza Real‘.It’s a 10minute walk from Alajuela Central Park and easy to get it from anywhere in Alajuela city.
The collectivo will arrive at 8am and takes 25 minutes. It costs $6 per person return.
To confirm a seat, text your full name, the date you plan to hike and how many people are going to +506 8815 2514 (yes, it’s the same number).
What To Bring:
It it’s an easy and quick hike, eat a big breakfast and pack light.
Comfortable Walking Shoes:
Boots are better. Remmeber you will walk in poo, mud, water etc. so your shoes are guaranteed to get a little dirty.
Wear Old Clothes:
Dark clothes are best unless you want some lovely paw prints on your whites. The dogs will want a cuddle and they will jump up on you. Nothing will stain but just in case, go dark and old.
Stating the obvious here, check the weather forecast and come prepared. Something waterproof and definitely wear sunscreen.
Water is essential, and a light snack won’t go amiss. You’ll stop for little rests along the walk so there are opportunities to eat, but beware of the sneaky pups wanting a bite.
They’ll NEVER ever nip you, these dogs are so caring and kind, but what dog doesn’t love food so prepare for some begging.
And please don’t bring anything that could harm them, should you drop it, i.e. chocolate, grapes etc.
Doggy snacks are welcomed and allowed if you want to spoil them, do bring some. Personally (and being honest) I don’t think it’s a good idea.
One man bought doggy treats and it caused such a ruckus amongst the pups. They’ll fight over the treats and you’ll also pull their attention away from other visitors; meaning you’ll be swarmed and not every dog will get a treat.
Instead, bring some and give them to the volunteers. This way they can ensure it’s used appropriately, or at least distributed fairly.
You will need $6 for the transport, but bringing additional money is a good idea, as you will have the urge to donate. Especially after such a fantatsic day.
Chuck some loose change into the buckets provided or buy some unique merchandise, as a keepsake and a memory.
There were a few visitors who didn’t bring cash and kicked themselves that they couldn’t buy some merch there and then.
Tshirts, magnets, cups, you name it. The best part is everything printed holds a picture of one of the dogs that live at Territorial de Zaguates. See! Unique!
I bought this colourful Tshirt for $10, definitely my best spending idea. I love it so much!
From Monteverde To Alajuela City:
Wherever you are in Costa Rica, you will need to make your way to Alajuela, the countries second biggest city. Wherever your departure, you won’t find it hard to get to.
We travelled from Monteverde, so I thought to include a simple guide below, hopefully it helps.
The Transmonteverde bus leaves the Monteverde Bus Terminal (a small office within a shopping centre carpark) twice a day; 6.30am and 2.30pm.
The bus itself is heading to San Jose city, but will make a quick stop at Alajuela airport along the way.
It costs 2,870 pp (€4.25). The journey takes 4.5 hours.
From the drop off area at the airport, smaller local busses will pull in, signs displayed for “Alajuela” on the front. Jump on!
The drive takes 25 minutes to the city centre and costs 545 colonies (€0.80)
As mentioned, you will need to spend a night in Alajuela, so get some rest ahead of your early morning hike and an exciting day!
If there is any more information or help I can provide to ensure you get there and enjoy such a memorable day out, feel free to email me on katie [at] theungracefulguide.com or pop a comment below.
In the meantime, prepare to smile and enjoy our trip to The Land of the Strays below.
I mean, just look at how much fun we had.
[fvplayer src=”https://youtu.be/rvr5eA0fiIY” width=”1080″ height=”720″]
Happy howlin’ guys!