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Jesuit Missions

The product of a remarkable fusion of two civilizations; European and Native American, its fascinating legacy remains intact to this day. The world-famous Jesuit mission churches, each a breathtakingly beautiful architectural wonder and spiritual monument built in the midst of an idyllic wilderness, were established by intrepid Jesuit missionaries between 1691 and 1760. Six were designated World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1990, and seven survive intact, their original glory lovingly restored in every detail.

Besides the churches, some come for the Renaissance and Baroque musical and theater extravaganzas (celebrated in world-famous festivals held every other year throughout the region’s major towns); an astounding heritage of sacred art and architecture; abandoned colonial ruins slumbering in pristine settings and a wealth of centuries-old customs and folklore handed down from one generation to the next that still play a dominant role in daily life.

Others come for the colorful folklore and traditions maintained here and nowhere else. Still others come for the beautiful hand-wrought art that has fascinated collectors and scholars for centuries.Yet there is more than cultural attractions. Nature rules here, and the options are limitless, from luxurious cabañas and the slow pace of life in towns like San Javier and Concepción, to charming frontier settlements like Santa Ana and San Matías; from the honeymoon villages of Santiago de Chiquitos and Roboré to empty, eerie landscapes and petrified forests of the pathless Serranía Santiago and Serranía Sunsas.

You can visit historical wonders from prehistoric drawings in long-forgotten caves and rock faces in the remote outposts of Quimome and Motacusito to primeval forests larger than entire countries; from the northern edges of the trackless Gran Chaco to the watery wonderland of the Pantanal; from the amazing "Tree of Life" carvings and the energy-radiating El Torre in Chochís to secluded balnearios and wide-open plazas; and of course, the astounding flora and fauna of no less than five of Bolivia's ecological crown jewels: Noel Kempff Mercado; Otuquis; San Matías; Santa Cruz la Vieja; and the Ríos Blanco y Negro National Wildlife Reserve.

22 Mar 2010

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