The oldest of the Jesuit Missions, San Javier was founded in 1691 by the Friars JosÃ© de Arce and Antonio de Rivas, when a music school and musical instrument workshop were also established. Just three hours from Santa Cruz on an asphalt road, the town is surrounded by lush greenery and waving palm-trees. Today, it is a popular weekend escape for city dwellers from Santa Cruz, a cattle ranching center and also has the proud moniker of being the cheese capital of Bolivia.
San Javier is a laid back town with red-dirt roads and whitewashed adobe houses decorated in Jesuit motifs. The mission complex is at the heart of the town and was built in the mid-18th century by Friar Martin Schmid, the mastermind behind many of the Jesuit Mission churches. The Iglesia de San Javier has a dominating presence and maintains many of its original features. There is also the Museo Misiones de Chiquitos, which displays photographs and musical instruments from around the region.
Agriculture is very important to the area and there is a milk-processing factory just out of town. This is where San Javierâ€™s famous cheese is made, which is available to buy if you fancy a sample. There are also a number of handicraft stores in town, selling local carvings, ceramic and weavings. San Javier was also the birth place of former president GermÃ¡n Busch â€“ you can read all about him in the house where he was born, which is now the Casa de Cultura.
Just south of town, you can visit the Parque Piedra de Los ApÃ³stoles and Mirador del Bibosi, a ritual site for the Chiquitano and a nature area where you observe the lovely bibÃ³si trees. There are also the near-by Aguas Calientes, with its volcanic waters and stunning surroundings; and the SoroboquÃ Lagoon, where you can play in the water to your heartâ€™s content. To the west of San Javier there are several indigenous communities that have maintained their traditions for hundreds of years, a fascinating insight into the historical customs of the region.
There are some beautiful places to stay in and around San Javier, including luxury cabaÃ±as a few kilometers out of town and comfortable digs in the center. There are also some budget options and plenty of camping available. There are a few restaurant options around the plaza principal and many of the hotels also serve food.