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 spot. The church was built between 1749 and 1753 by and was the first to be restored by Hans Roth in 1972. Like the iglesia in Santa Ana the churchâ€™s interior, including the pulpit, is covered in mica, giving it a shiny, sparkling effect. Unlike the other restored missions, the roof is made in a traditional cane and wood structure. There are also some beautiful carvings and paintings inside. The facade is decorated with mural paintings and reliefs.
San Rafael is still an active mission and there is a convent and workshops within the mission complex. The small main plaza is relaxed and tranquil, and there are a number of places around the village where you can buy wood carvings. As in all the mission villages, music is very important here and youâ€™ll see a whole different side to the village if you visit during the international baroque music festival.
Close to San Rafael, you can visit San Rafael Lagoon, where you can swim, fish or do other water sports. There is also the Santa MĂłnica Forest, which is great for spotting wildlife and also has some prehistoric rock carvings. There arenâ€™t many places to stay in San Rafael, but you can find a couple of basic hotels near the main plaza, including Alojamiento Paradita and Casa de HuĂ©spedes Lorena. You can also find places to eat lunch and dinner around here. San Rafael is situated about 140 km north of San JosĂ© de Chiquitos and about 25 km south of Santa Ana de Velasco. Buses pass through daily heading north to San Ana and San Ignacio, and to San Miguel, and south to San JosĂ©. Ask around in the village to find out what time they are expected.