Departement of Santa Cruz The Department of Santa Cruz, located in the Western region of Bolivia, offers a variety of natural landscapes with great biodiversity. The heritage is reflected in its architectural and historical monuments. Its culture is expressed through the ancient customs and traditions, arts, crafts, living villages and their people. All this makes Santa Cruz an authentic place, where diversity and adventure promise an unforgettable experience for the visitor. The capital city, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, is a young city. Young, strong and dynamic, located in the geographic centre of South America; it becomes a mandatory step towards other destinations in the continent. It developed an impressive hotel infrastructure, the most modern in the country, and projected itself as a centre of conventions, events, business deals and investments.
In the city
EL CASCO VIEJO (THE OLD HELMET). This is the oldest part of the city, where cultural and commercial movement concentrates.
18 DE SEPTIEMBRE PLAZA. Recently remodelled, it is the premier meeting point for the Santa Cruz population. Around it we can find The Cathedral, Social Club, Municipal Centre of Culture, Tourism Interpretation Centre and other buildings that still maintain the architectural style of the colonial period.
THE CATHEDRAL. Also known as the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo, it was built completely out of brick and lime. For the main altar, part of the original covering was etched in silver in the Jesuit Mission of San Pedro de Moxos.
THE SACRED ART MUSEUM. Located inside the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo, it displays beautiful artistic treasures from the church. It is the most important one in Bolivia as far as silver, paintings and sculptures, as well as showcases of artisans from the XVII and XVIII centuries. Among the many attractions in the city, one must visit: The Municipal Zoo, Botanic Garden, The Ivaga Guazu Ecological Park, Cotoca Sanctuary, and other places of unique beauty.
SAMAIPATA. This is a picturesque colonial town 120 Km. from the city. Its main attraction is the Samaipata Fort, a great rock etched with geometric and zoomorphic figures with enigmatic shapes and details which intrigue all visitors. It’s considered the largest display of glyphs in the world and has been recognized as a Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Is a biological preserve located 600 Km. from Santa Cruz de la Sierra. It offers the visitor spots of incomparable beauty and an immense variety of flora and fauna, still intact in their original habitat. A highlight is the Caparu plateau, an impressive pre- Cambric formation.
AMBORÓ NATIONAL PARK . It is located on one of the final sections of the Andean Mountain Range, in the far south of the Amazon. This is a region with some of the most biodiversity and is considered vital for humanity due to its diverse ecosystems. It really is a paradise for birdwatchers (over 800 species). It’s also an area filled with endemic species of flora and fauna.
THE BOLIVIAN PANTANAL: UNPARALLELED BIODIVERSITY This is one of the most impressive places on Earth in terms of wildlife and is considered one of the most humid places in the world. It is believed that the Bolivian portion of the marsh is better preserved. It’s located in the far southeast of the department, surrounded by the dry forests Chiquitano and Chaqueño. It is an ideal destination for travellers who love nature, apt for fishing, rafting, watching flora and fauna, camping and photographic safaris.
Places of interest in the Bolivian Marsh are:
PUERTO SUÁREZ. 642 km. from the city is the main entrance port into the marsh of the Bolivian territories. It’s important to note the presence of ethnic groups like the Chiquitanos and Ayoreos. Just 8 Km. from the port are the Motacucito caves, in which you find many stalactites and stalagmites.
CÁCERES LAGOON . On the shores of Puerto Suárez is a place with wonderful panoramas and landscapes. Batos, Tapacares, Caimanes, Nutrias and Capibaras meet the borders of the lagoon.
MUTÚN MOUNTAINS. This is considered one of the biggest iron deposits on the planet. Surrounding this great attraction, one finds recreation areas and displays of rustic painting.
EL TACURAL. This is located 35 Km. from Puerto Suárez. It is an area of low, humid forests, currently used for fishing and considered ideal for observing flora and fauna.
PUERTO BUSCH. This harbours ethnic groups like Chiquitanos and Ayoreos, who treasure their traditions and ancestral customs.
THE PARAGUAY RIVER. Following its course, it’s possible to access an area of lagoons with great dimensions and abundant aquatic life, like Lake Mandiore, The Gaiba and Uberaba. On this tour, it is possible to visit active mines of many precious stones.
JESUIT MISSIONS, CULTURAL HERITAGE OF HUMANITY. The Jesuit Missions established in the Chiquitania territory constitute a valuable architectural and historic legacy, which has stood the test of time, very deserving of being named a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Currently, they preserve temples in a baroque style, the urban layout of its streets and the memory of folkloric and religious customs that are revived on occasions like Holy Week and other religious festivities. Also of importance are the Renaissance and Baroque American Music Festival of “Chiquitos” missions, which attracts the attention of tourists and musicologists every two years. The missionary circuit includes:
SAN JAVIER. This mission has a temple in a baroque style notable for its campaign and wood carved columns. In 1730 the first music school in the region was established. This school is known for the fabrication of violins, harps and other musical instruments.
CONCEPCIÓN. Its church is one of the most beautiful in the area, made up of three sections, artistic wooden columns, altars and paintings made by the locals. Other highlights are its main façade and the wooden tower.
SAN IGNACIO DE VELASCO. This is the largest township in the missionary route. The indigenous traditions are still kept alive in this beautiful land, where one can see work done in ceramics, as well as objects in the purest missionary style, embroidered and leather objects.
SAN MIGUEL. The temple is one of the most important buildings in town, with a unique altar displaying golden leaves, a clear sky and carvings. The local population is rich in traditions and popular legends.
SAN RAFAEL. This recently restored church still conserves its enormous cloth paintings, and carved furniture embedded in the walls. The pulpit is decorated with silver and the image of Saint Rafael.
SANTA ANA. The community built this church, which is why it has rural characteristics and smaller dimensions in relation to the others.
SAN JOSÉ DE CHIQUITOS. This mission has the only temple built entirely out of stone, due to the existence of stone and lime deposits. It’s an excellent example of Hispanic architecture brought by missionaries of the Jesus campaign.