Length: 2 days / 1 night
Difficulty: Not Difficult
Bolivia’s Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos, originally constructed by Spanish missionaries in the 17th century, offer a fascinating look into Bolivia’s complex past. The Misiones Jesuíticas were once self-sufficient communities at the frontier of the Spanish empire in South America. Here, Jesuit settlers converted huge numbers of indigenous peoples to Catholicism and evangelized European culture, art and music.
Today, seven of these missions remain in the region around Santa Cruz de la Sierra. We offer a two day, one night tour of the most impressive of these missions.
- Immerse yourself in haunting hymns in 17th century missions rising from Bolivia’s tropical lowlands
- Admire the missions’ unique design, construction and art, combining the colonial and indigenous
- Visit some of the finest orchid farms in the world
The Misiones tour departs in the morning from the city Santa Cruz for our first Jesuit Mission, San Javier. San Javier Mission, the first to be built in Bolivia, was founded on a forested ridge here in 1691. This is one of the few original missions that continues to operate. Local communities continue to congregate here, attending Mass and performing the region’s distinct baroque hymns.
We spend the morning touring the San Javier museum and church. An imposing structure with thick pillars and intricate woodwork, the church dominates the town’s central plaza. Like the other missions in the region, San Javier is an eclectic mix of colonial and indigenous influences.
About an hour’s drive from San Javier, we reach the quaint settlement of Concepción. The most charming settlement on the Jesuit Missions circuit, Concepción is known as a laid-back community notable for its impressive cathedral amid the region’s lush jungle.
Dinner and sleeping accommodations are provided at a local hotel such as the Hotel Chiquitos, a rustic but tasteful hacienda, where the tour will rest for the night.
After breakfast, we spend the morning touring Concepción, including its famous church. The church is notable for its hand-carved columns, thatched roof, adobe walls, and religious art that incorporates aspects of indigenous culture into biblical scenes.
Concepción has long been known for its baroque music. The museum next to the church houses the mission’s musical archives, including 17th and 18th century manuscripts. Here you’ll see craftsmen creating intricate instruments by hand, as they have for centuries. In May and June, the Jesuit Missions host the International Baroque Music Festival.
In the afternoon, we head into the countryside, where some 6,000 small farms cultivate 100 varieties of orchid. In this tropical environment, the elegant flowers blossom much of the year, through the best time to go to Concepción is during the orchid festival in October.
Following a tour of an orchid farm, we return to Santa Cruz, with a stop for a swim at Sapocó Lagoon, a large, cool lake that offers a refreshing respite from the heat of the Bolivian jungle.
Included: Bilingual tour guide (Spanish-English), return transfer from your hotel, private transportation during the tour, accomodations at a local hotel and meals as noted.