Santa Cruz is a cosmopolitan city whose somewhat Western identity contrasts sharply with the indigenous character of La Paz.
Santa Cruz de la Sierra or Santa Cruz is more commonly known, is Bolivia’s most populous city. Situated on the Pirai River, Santa Cruz was a small outpost that the regional nomadic tribes passed through before the Spanish arrival in 1561. Santa Cruz was founded as the provincial capital of the newly formed states. Still, it was something of a roaming capital for many years, relocating numerous times until finally settling back at its original siting. The city sits in the foothills of the sierras, the start of the imposing Andes mountain range that dominates much of this stretch of South America. Santa Cruz is a cosmopolitan city whose somewhat Western identity contrasts sharply with the indigenous character of La Paz. It is a rapidly growing city and displays an exciting mix of contemporary culture and ideas while still holding on to Bolivia’s more traditional values.
Santa Cruz is hugely popular as a place to live because of its tropical desert climate created by its low-lying location and sunny skies year-round. This developed city is a fascinating mix of old and new, with high rise buildings that define the skyline juxtaposed with colonial churches and administrative buildings at the street level. High-end restaurants take their place among the streets that bustle with food trucks and street vendors, and local markets can be found alongside independent boutiques. Santa Cruz is known for its nightlife, with plenty of atmospheric bars and clubs, making the city a haven for ex-pats and immigrants who decide to settle here because of the lifestyle it offers. The city’s main square, Plaza 24 de Septiembre, is undoubtedly a highlight of Santa Cruz, with its tall palm trees and impressive colonial buildings providing a pleasant place to take a stroll or to sit and watch the world go by.
Bolivia’s Cosmopolitan Andean city
Santa Cruz is the central transport hub for people visiting Bolivia, and many travelers will fly into the city before heading out to journey to the salt flats or spend a few days in La Paz. This is of benefit to travelers. It would allow them to begin their acclimatization to Bolivia’s high altitude, which can often be problematic for some people when they reach the altiplano, or high plain, of La Paz and the Uyuni salt flats. Given its location close to the Andes, there is also a wealth of outdoor activities to partake in if you are a nature lover or adventure sports enthusiast. There is plenty of wildlife watching to be done in the surrounding area, and there are many tours that will take you to the outskirts to spot some animals, especially in the Amboró National Park, 150km away from Santa Cruz. Sandboarding is also a favorite with adrenaline junkies, as well as white water rafting and horse riding. Undoubtedly, there is something for everyone in Santa Cruz, whether you want to indulge in some urban fun or prefer to hang out in the wild and get your blood pumping.
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WHAT NOT TO MISS IN
Santa Cruz Cathedral
Undoubtedly one of the most easily identifiable landmarks in the city, hosting exhibits of venerated sacred art in the Museum of Sacred Art, which exhibits objects that originated solely in Bolivia. Silver and gold pieces, such as bowls and candelabras, are also displayed at the museum. For panoramic views of Santa Cruz, ascend three levels into the clock tower to view both the scenery and have a look into the clock’s inner mechanisms and bells.
Art space behind Cathedral
Just behind the cathedral, there is another square called Manzana 1, filled with local artisans and a small art/gift shop in this square, and a non-profit art gallery. It’s a perfect spot to hang around and people-watch in the historical center of downtown Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Situated in the first city block built in Santa Cruz, the building has been recognized as part of the historical heritage of Santa Cruz and was formerly the headquarters of the National Police.
This lovely botanical garden setting covers a well-preserved 186-hectare forest, and highly representative of the region’s arboreal species. There are about 6 kilometers of hiking trails and a small lagoon in the garden; you’ll also find an orchid garden, panoramic views, a herbarium, and a playground to take a break with the kids and try some local barbecue. It’s a safe place to learn more about the Bolivian native flora, and highly likely, you’ll see some monkeys and sloths.
Refugio Los Volcanes
With deep valleys and steep rounded plateaus, this region has spectacular mountain views and is a spectacular eco-lodge nestled near Samaipata, on the edge of Amboro National Park. The lodge offers fantastic panoramic views, rides, hikes, and even moonlit walks at night. Bolivia is home to 40% of the plants and wildlife of the World, and these tours are especially perfect for those interested in bird watching and wildlife observation.
This charming little town is a refreshing getaway for those looking to explore and relish in the quiet, beautiful landscapes and scenery. Samaipata has grown over the years into a sought after highlight nuzzled in the hills above one of Bolivia’s most captivating national parks. It’s an excellent base for exploring Bolivia’s eastern lowlands, with plenty of trendy hotels and restaurants, trendy hangouts, ancient history, and peaceful nature walks.
Parque Nacional Amboro
One of Bolivia’s most diverse parks, this Amboro is home to a wealth of exciting wildlife, including jaguars, pumas, and magnificent bears. The park sits inside three distinct ecosystems: the Andes, Amazon Basin, and Northern Chaco. One of Bolivia’s most incredible natural wonders, this area hosts breathtaking walks, cascading waterfalls, thick forest, stunning landscapes, exciting archaeology, and a wide variety of flora and fauna.
|La Paz, Bolivia||Is the highest capital of the word, situated at just over 3,600m (2Mi). In La Paz the new customs of the Western world collide and coexist with the old customs of the Aymara and the Quechua. Hi-tech international banks and government offices rub shoulders with vibrant street markets that still play a central role in the lives of the indigenous. Read more…|
Lake Titicaca & Sun Island
|Isla del Sol, Bolivia||The sacred and mystic Lake of the Inca is the highest navigable surface in the world. This magic territory harbors in its breast the archaeological complex of the oldest civilization on the continent. Venture to the visionary Island of Sun to admire the spectacular scenery and ancient Incan ruins.Read more…|
Uyuni Salt Flats
|Uyuni, Bolivia||The brightest spot on earth visible from space, this white salt desert hosts many natural wonders: fascinating colored lagoons, exotic rock formations, a diversity of animals, intact natural environment, volcanic craters and fumaroles blowing steam reaching up to 100 meters in height… Prepare to be amazed! Read more…|
|Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia||Santa Cruz is hugely popular as a place to visit or live because of its tropical desert climate created by its low-lying location and sunny skies year-round. This developed city is a fascinating mix of old and new, with high rise buildings that define the skyline juxtaposed with colonial churches and administrative buildings at the street level.|
Andes – Sucre & Potosi
|Sucre, Bolivia||“The White City” of Sucre has been immaculately preserved and oozes colonial charm with red-tiled roofs, baroque churches, and leafy plazas. Potosi embodies the rise and fall of Bolivia’s industrial history. Once a thriving mining town, it is now a fascinating example of colonial decline peppered with church lined cobbled streets. Read more…|
|Pampas, Bolivia||Two areas to visit in the Bolivian Amazon: The Pampas & Jungle. The pampas may not be seem like a typical “Amazon experience”, a wetland savannah bordering the Amazon basin. In the Amazon jungle, hosts a number of activities like jungle treks, piranha fishing, cultural encounters with communities, and botanical medicines.Read more…|
Depending on your client’s preferences, we can help you determine the best experiences tailored for your clients. From where to visit, when to go, what to do and how to get there safely, our travel experts will help you create an experience your clients will love.
Best times to visit Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz’s tropical desert climate makes it pleasant to visit all year round. Winters are short but can be extremely cold, with the surazos winds from Argentina dropping the temperature sharply as night falls. It can also be quite wet during the rainy season, which runs from September to May. If you plan on visiting in the South American summer months of December, January and February, be advised that it can be quite hot and humid, but the nights during this time remain warm.
HOW TO GET THERE
The best way to get to Santa Cruz is by plane. It is one of the country’s main tourist hubs. Its Viru Viru International Airport, situated 15km from the city center, receives domestic, regional, and international flights from North America, Europe, and other South American countries. Alternatively, you can reach Santa Cruz by bus, but Bolivian buses are notoriously unreliable, long, and uncomfortable. However, they are very much a part of the authentic Bolivian experience, and you might want to take a bus once to see what it’s like. We can arrange all internal flights and transfers for you as part of your itinerary, so speak to one of our travel experts about your travel goals. Getting around Santa Cruz is easy, and marked taxis are cheap and safe.
Getting around Santa Cruz is easy in a taxi. Your hotel can arrange your taxi and make sure your driver is trustable.
To explore the surroundings or travel to Samaipata, there are public mini-busses or private transfers. You can also rent a car, but having experience in driving in Latin-America is a must.
WHERE TO STAY
Given that Santa Cruz is Bolivia’s business centre and generates over forty percent of all foreign investment in the country, you will find here a big range of accommodation and you can find 5-star hotels to budget options. Most of the accommodation has a modern concept.
Around Santa Cruz, there are incredible natural parks to explore, the accommodation however is scarce and very basic. Samaipata is located at 2 hours from Santa Cruz and is a great location to explore the parks from. there are only budget hotel options in Samaipata.
More highlights of Bolivia
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