Jesuit Missions, 4 days
Your guide will pick you up at your hotel in Sa. Cruz for the journey through the beautiful green lowlands.
After we leave the city behind us, the landscape changes. You can see Mennonites riding in their covered wagons in this region where they have their colonies. From San Ramón you will enjoy the slopes in the landscape. Your guide can point you to palm trees that are suffocated by bibosi trees. In the whole area you will see agriculture and cattle.
San Javier is known for its dairy products, cheese and yogurt. If you pay attention you can probably see some birds of prey and toucans.
San Javier was founded on December 31, 1691 by two Jesuits missionaries. It was the first mission in the Chiquitania. The missionaries had been instructed to find a route between Asunción and Santa Cruz. San Javier was chosen as a stop between both places and it was the capital of the Jesuit Missions for almost 90 years.
We will visit the church and the museum. The paintings of the church have different colours than the churches in the other missions because local natural dyes were used.
After lunch it is still an hour's drive to Concepción. Along the way we will pass a collection of huge stones dating from the ice age, las Piedras de Paquió.
There are many different types of orchids in the Concepción area.
Concepción was founded in 1699. The Jesuits lived here until they were expelled by the Spaniards in 1767 and fled into the woods.
We will visit the church. Dinner and stay overnight are in Concepción.
On the 2nd day we will visit two museums, one of which is located in the former home of Hugo Banzer, ex-president (1997-2001) and dictator. Then we leave for the small mission of Sa. Ana.
The ride is beautiful, you see grasslands and trees interspersed by ponds. You can see many species of birds and other animals. In the small hamlets you can see the local population doing their daily activities.
The roads along the Plaza of Sa. Ana are unpaved and on the square stand beautiful Toborochi trees. Your guide can tell you the legend that explains how these trees have come to their round shape.
The mission of Sa. Ana was founded in 1755. Wooden crosses still mark the entrance to the town. The church was only built after the Jesuits had been expelled from the country.
Then we will travel the last part of our journey for today, to San Ignacio near the Brazilian border. San Ignacio is the largest city of the Jesuit Missions. It is pretty lively. The nearby Guapomó lake is a wonderful place for a walk. The coffee factory of the village is usually open to visitors.
The mission of San Ignacio de Velasco was founded in 1748. We will visit the church, which is a modern reconstruction of the original church. Attached to it is a tower from the 1950s, a remnant of a second church that was taken down and replaced by a replica. At the crossroads on the outside of the central Plaza there are large wooden crosses.
We will have dinner and spend the night in San Ignacio de Velasco.
On the 3rd day we continue the journey to the other two small missions, San Miguel de Velasco (1721) and San Rafael de Velasco (1696).
You will probably be very impressed by the paintings in the churches. The serene peace that prevails in the three villages gives a wonderful feeling.
In San Miguel we will visit a workshop where beautiful carvings are made, such as ornaments for the churches. The angel heads can be seen in the murals everywhere in the missions. You can also buy beautiful handmade souvenirs here. Then we set course for San José de Chiquitos.
The Mission San José was founded in the year 1697, 2 km away from where the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra was founded for the first time. Today this place is part of the Historic National Park Santa Cruz la Vieja.
Depending on the time we will visit the church with museum at the end of the 3rd day or at the beginning of the 4th day. The church of San José de Chiquitos is enormous, it covers a whole block and it is the only stone church in the Missions. Dinner and stay overnight are in San José de Chiquitos.
On the 4th day we will visit Santa Cruz la Vieja and travel back to Sa. Cruz. Along the way we make a stop here and there to take pictures and to have lunch.
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