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The town of Santa María Magdalena was one of the last Jesuit missions to be established in Bolivia, and it retains much of its old fashioned charm. Only reachable by road in the dry season, the settlement feels cut-off and remote, and is a great place to come to get lost in nature. Set on an open savannah, on the shores of the Río Itonama, the red sand streets and park-like plaza see very few visitors, making it the perfect off the road destination to explore the Amazon. It’s situated in the northeast of the Beni department, almost 300 kilometers from Trinidad.

Present day Magdalena is made up of descendents of the itonamas Indians, who were converted by the Jesuits, and a number of other nationalities, who were enticed to the area during the rubber boom. The pace of life is calm and tranquil, but the town comes to life in the month of July when the settlement celebrates its patron saints day and the founding of the province of iténez, to which Magdalena is capital.

Attractions aren’t exactly overflowing in Magdalena itself, but it’s a pleasant little town with an attractive cathedral. In the nearby park, PD-ANMI Iténez, you can go fishing, take trips along the river, visit indigenous communities and see the abundant bird and animal life, including the critically endangered giant river otter, black caiman, pink river dolphins, turtles, jaguar, howler monkeys, 11 species of heron, toucans and cormorants.

Magdalena has a few decent hotels, including the attractive Hotel International (Calle Nathaniel Garcia, Tel: 3-886-2210, price range: $30-$70) with lots of greenery, a swimming pool, tour agency and restaurant. There are a couple of more economic accommodations around the plaza, including Residencial Ganadero and Residencial Granada. The town also has a Banco Union on the main plaza, but no ATM, a phone store and a small hospital.


Other places nearby Magdalena: Riberalta, Cobija, San Borja, The Southwest, Salt Flats and Wine Regions, Trinidad, San Ignacio de Moxos, Parque Nacional Noel Kempff Mercado, Rurrenabaque, Parque Nacional Madidi and Guayaramerín.

06 Jan 2010

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