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Top Bolivia

Santa Cruz and The Eastern Lowlands

The Other Bolivia

When most people think of Bolivia, they imagine the Andean Altiplano, Lake Titicaca, the seemingly endless Salt Flats and the country's famously rich indigenous culture. But there's another side of Bolivia that many travelers don't know about, with untamed rainforests, dusty wilderness, endless savannahs and a cosmopolitan city with a very tropical vibe. We're talking, of course, about Santa Cruz and The Eastern Lowlands.

Santa Cruz

To start, one cannot visit the Eastern Lowlands without making a stop in the city of Santa Cruz, a city unlike any other in Bolivia. Given the predominantly tropical aura of the city, visitors to Santa Cruz may forget that they're in Bolivia and not neighboring Brazil. While the city is bustling, the weather is warm and the mood is relaxed. Ultimately, Santa Cruz is a great place from which to explore the beautiful natural surroundings of the Eastern Lowlands.

Geographical Layout

The region known as the Eastern Lowlands spans from the foothills of the Andes and extends onward to Bolivia's borders with Brazil (to the East), and Argentina and Paraguay (to the South). Dense, untamed rainforests—protected under the Parque Nacional Noel Kempff Mercado—cover the northeastern edge of the lowlands near the border with Brazil. The park is known for being one of the most beautiful and undisturbed protected rainforests in the world. To the West, are more rainforests, these encompassed by the Parque Nacional Amboró, another reserve famous for its plethora of wildlife. While the center of the region is blanketed by open grassy savannahs and dry tropical rainforests, vast marshy wetlands cover the eastern edge of the lowlands. If you really want to get off the beaten path, find a way to explore the barren, sparsely populated Gran Chaco region to the South, the site of the Chaco War (1932-1935) between Bolivia and Paraguay.

By Emma Mueller
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry...
01 Feb 2012

Things To Do in Santa Cruz and The Eastern Lowlands

Plaza 24 de Septiembre

In a town arguably void of sights, Plaza 24 de Septiembre, located in the center of Santa Cruz, is your best choice for sightseeing. A market graces the center of the square, and benches line the ...
City Park
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Jesuit Mission complex

The striking mission complex, the only one constructed in stone, takes up one whole side of the main plaza and consists of the mortuary chapel, the church, the bell tower and the school. The complex ...
Historical Building
San José de Chiquitos, Bolivia

Plaza Principal - Plaza Padre Felipe Suárez

The dusty plaza principal in San José de Chiquitos is at the heart of the town. It’s a picturesque spot filled with palm trees, toborochi trees and pretty blooms, and there are plenty of benches ...
Other Activity
San José de Chiquitos, Bolivia

Plaza 8 de Diceimbre

At the heart of ConcepciĂłn is its plaza, which Hans Roth, the mastermind behind the restoration of the Jesuit churches, is said to have thought was the most beautiful plaza of the all the missions. ...
Other Activity
ConcepciĂłn, Bolivia

Templo Misional and Museo Misional

The church and mission complex was built by Friar Martin Schmid between 1753-1756 and was the first of the missionary churches to receive the attention of Swiss architect Hans Roth, who began ...
ConcepciĂłn, Bolivia

Casa España and Museo Antropológico de la Chiquitania

A museum, tour provider and hotel rolled into one, Casa España is a good place to touch base while in Concepción. The museum displays arrows and other instruments used by the ethnic group los ...
ConcepciĂłn, Bolivia

Inglesia Francisco Javier and Museo Misiones de Chiquitos and Plaza Principal

San Javier’s church was built between 1749 and 1752 by Father Martin Schmidt, the Jesuit architect behind many of the mission churches. It was restored by Hans Roth and his local team between 1987 ...
Other Activity
San Javier, Bolivia

Inglesia de los Santos Desposorios and Plaza Principal

Buena Vista’s original church was constructed in the early 18th century, not long after the founding of the Jesuit Mission in 1694. It was built by Friar Martin Schmid, the architect behind many of ...
Other Activity
Buena Vista, Bolivia

Curichi Marsh

Situated less than two km south of Buena Vista, Curichi Marsh provides a great spot to go bird watching and enjoy nature. The reserve is made up of 380 hectares of wetlands and forest and has a large ...
Other Activity
Buena Vista, Bolivia

RĂ­o SurutĂş

One of the most popular spots to visit near Buena Vista is the Río Surutú. Here you can swim in the clear waters, lounge around on the sandy beaches or have a picnic. It’s particularly popular ...
Other Activity
Buena Vista, Bolivia

Visiting the site

El Fuerte is situated about 10 kilometers from Samaipata, just off the road to Santa Cruz on the top of a hill. It’s possible to walk to the site, or get a taxi from the center. You can buy entry ...
Other Activity
Samaipata, Bolivia

Top Destinations in Santa Cruz and The Eastern Lowlands

San Ignacio De Velasco

Population: 30,000 The largest and the most important of the Jesuit Missions, San Ignacio de Velasco combines a laidback, welcoming atmosphere with a simmering commercial center, propelled by cattle ...
San Ignacio De Velasco, Bolivia

San Miguel de Velasco

Population: 5,500 San Miguel del Velasco was officially founded in 1721, but had begun its life earlier as an overspill settlement of neighbouring San Rafael. Nothing much has changed here since ...
San Miguel de Velasco, Bolivia

San Rafael

Population: 3,000 San Rafael del Velasco was founded in 1696 and is the second oldest mission in the Chiquitania. It was moved several times over the years, before finally settling in its current ...
San Rafael, Bolivia

Santa Ana de Velasco

Population: 300 The tiny Santa Ana de Velasco, the smallest of the Jesuit Missions, feels like it has been suspended in time. Founded in 1755, it was one of the last settlements to be established ...
Santa Ana de Velasco , Bolivia

The Bolivian Pantanal

The immense flood plain of the Pantanal covers the eastern edge of Bolivia, continuing out into Brazil and Paraguay. The area is one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the world with lakes, ...
The Bolivian Pantanal, Bolivia

San Javier

Populations: 11,000 The oldest of the Jesuit Missions, San Javier was founded in 1691 by the Friars José de Arce and Antonio de Rivas, when a music school and musical instrument workshop were ...
San Javier, Bolivia


Quechua for a “rest in a higher place”-- is a jumping off point for a visit to El Fuerte, the easternmost of several pre-Inca fortifications. From here you can head to Las Cuevas, where natural ...
Samaipata, Bolivia

Buena Vista

Perched on a small hill overlooking the magnificent Parque Nacional AmborĂł, the village of Buena Vista is surrounded by natural beauty and has an unrivalled laid-back vibe. This is the perfect place ...
Buena Vista, Bolivia

San José de Chiquitos

Populations: 11,000 The dusty, laidback tranquility of San José de Chiquitos will have you hooked in no time. Founded in 1696 by friars Felipe Suárez and Dionisio Avila, it’s one of the oldest ...
San José de Chiquitos, Bolivia

La Higuera

Forty-five kilometers (28 mi) south of Vallegrande is the town of La Higuera where Che Guevara spent his last violent days before his execution on October 9, 1967. Ever since the Che Guevara Trail ...
La Higuera, Vallegrande, Bolivia


Population: 6000 Altitude: 2,030m (6,660 ft) Phone code: 3 The town of Vallegrande is best known as the site where Che Guevera’s remains were discovered in 1997. Although his body has been moved ...
Vallegrande, Bolivia

Best Places to Stay in Santa Cruz and The Eastern Lowlands

Hotel Flora and Fauna

Hotel Flora and Fauna is the place to go for serious nature lovers. Situated four kilometers south of Buena Vista, the hotel is run by British ornithologist and local expert Robin Clark. It’s set ...
Buena Vista, Bolivia

La Posada del Sol

This friendly, family-run guesthouse has beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys and there are gardens where you can sit and enjoy the sunshine. La Posada del Sol offers a range of ...
Samaipata, Bolivia

Alojamiento La Casona

Alojamiento La Casona is one of the best budget options in Buena Vista. This family-run accommodation has rooms alongside a bright courtyard with seating outside. The rooms themselves are super clean ...
Buena Vista, Bolivia

Hostal Quimori

Hostal Quimori offer cabins and rooms in a beautiful setting, east of town. All the accommodation comes with private bathroom and the rooms are large with high roofs and wooden rafters. There are 20 ...
Buena Vista, Bolivia
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