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 ranching and wood exports. Itâs the fastest growing town in the department other than Santa Cruz, but still manages to maintain its frontier feel with red dirt roads and bustling markets, and youâre likely to hear scatterings of Portuguese being spoken around town. San Ignacio de Velasco can be found north-east of the city Santa Cruz, 160 kilometers east of ConcepciÃ³n on a dirt road and roughly 280 kilometers from San MatÃas, on the border with Brazil.
San Ignacio was founded in 1749 by two Jesuit friars, Miguel Areijer and Diego Contreras, near the site of a former settlement called San Ignacio de Zamucos. The original church was seen as the highlight of all the Jesuit churches due to the amount of large wood carvings used in the building. The current church is a reconstruction, completed in 2001, which was painstakingly built to the exact dimensions of the old church.
The rebuilding of the church reignited the artisan community in San Ignacio and itâs a great place to pick up traditional carvings, ceramics and leather work. The municipal of Velasco, to which San Ignacio is capital, has made great efforts to support local indigenous communities, and has received national recognition for its efforts. Itâs possible to visit some of these communities and observe traditional ways of life and purchase artisan products straight from the producer; San Juancito is the most accessible of these.
As is the case in all the Jesuit Missions, music is an integral part of the culture in San Ignacio and the town has its own orchestra and choir, made up completely of local children. The group has toured all over Europe and is one of Boliviaâs best. If youâre not lucky enough to be in town when theyâre practicing or performing, then there is a small group who are available to perform baroque music on request, a taste of the musical heritage of the Gran Chiquitania.
San Ignacioâs location makes in the perfect base to visit the smaller missions to the south: Santa Ana, San Miguel and San Rafael. You can visit these smaller villages in a day trip from San Ignacio. Itâs also the jump off point to visit the breathtaking Noel Kempff National Park, although itâs probably easier to arrange your trip in Santa Cruz beforehand. The Ãrea Natural de Manejo Integrado San MatÃas can also be reached from here.
There are plenty of accommodation options in town, from budget hotels to luxury accommodation. Restaurants are more limited, but you should be able to find somewhere thatâs open at any time of day, and many of the bigger hotels also have decent restaurants. As is popular all over the region, there are plenty of places to cool off if the heat gets too much â the man made Laguna GuapomÃ³ borders the northern and eastern sides of the town and is the perfect place for an afternoon dip. There are also a couple of balnearios (outdoor swimming pools) in town too.
Neighborhoods in San Ignacio De Velasco: San Juancito,
Other places nearby San Ignacio De Velasco: RoborÃ©, Santiago de Chiquitos and ChochÃs, The Bolivian Pantanal, Parque Nacional Kaa-lya del Gran Chaco, Santa Cruz, Samaipata, Vallegrande, San Miguel de Velasco, San Javier, Amboro National Park and Santa Ana de Velasco .