Bolivia - tours for people who don't like tours since 1984

Santa Cruz Bolivia

Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia

 

Gateway to Bolivia

Santa Cruz is not the typical place you would expect in rural Bolivia. As a matter of fact, this city is often ignored by tourists, or passed through quickly by travelers heading to or from Brazil, but that's their loss, for it stands on the threshold of one of the least-explored and most fascinating parts of Bolivia.

The city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in short Santa Cruz, is situated in the hot, tropical lowlands of eastern Bolivia, at 416 metres (1,365 feet) above sea level.

Originally founded in 1560 by Spaniards some 200 km east of its current location, this colonial outpost was moved closer to the foothills of the Andes, along the Piraí River, and renamed Santa Cruz de la Sierra in 1592. Once a cattle-producing backwater on the edge of wilderness, Santa Cruz is now Bolivia’s most populous city and a trade and transportation hub as well as a new, quickly growing tourism destination.

Santa Cruz benefits from a generous nature and a privileged climate — average temperatures round 21ºC (70ºF) on winter and 32ºC (90ºF) on summer, although the entire region also experiences occasional chilly winds called surazos that blow in from the Argentine pampas during the months of June-August (southern winter). Rainfall generally occurs in short downpours, but on summer (austral) a single deluge can last for days.

Inhabitants of the city of Santa Cruz are called Cruceños and in general the people from the Lowlands are called Cambas. Cruceños (and Cambas as a whole) are famous for being more open and laid-back than their Andean counterparts.

The best known festival celebration in Eastern Bolivia is the Carnaval de Santa Cruz, a wild and raucous time with music and dancing in the streets, fancy dress and the coronation of a queen.

Santa Cruz is also a good place to buy precious and semi-precious stones, local handicrafts from surrounding and try the local cuisine (e.g. zonzo, cuñape, majao, etc.)

It is worth spending a few days here, wandering the city’s streets, eating at the many international restaurants or simply chill out at the town square before moving on to explore the rest of the region.

 
Santa Cruz and the Eastern Lowlands

The department of Santa Cruz is an area of 320,000 square km (the largest of the country’s nine departamentos and larger than many European countries), located in Bolivia's Eastern Lowlands – the Llanos Orientales – of which only one third comprise mountainous regions; the rest is spread over the Amazon floodplain.

Stretching from the last foothills of the Andes east to Brazil and south to Paraguay and Argentina, this province was amongst the least-known and least-developed regions in the country until fairly recently.

However rich in natural resources, in recent decades the departamento has undergone astonishingly rapid development, while its economy has grown to become the most important in the country, fuelled by oil and gas, cattle-ranching and massive agricultural development (notably soybeans, sugarcane, and rice).

At the centre of this unprecedented economic boom is the city of Santa Cruz, the regional capital, which in the space of a few decades has been transformed from an isolated provincial backwater into a booming modern metropolis with a brash commercial attitude and lively tropical outlook utterly distinct from the reserved cities of the Bolivian highlands. By the turn of the 21st century, the population of Santa Cruz had surpassed that of La Paz, Bolivia’s administrative capital, making Santa Cruz the country’s largest city. Pop. 1,700,000 (2012 estimates, rounded).

That said, Bolivia’s largest city may well surprise you with its small-town feeling, lack of high-rise blocks and a lightly buzzing, relaxed tropical atmosphere. Many arrive here expecting to find a city of businesspeople and throbbing traffic, but in truth, though Santa Cruz is the country’s business center and most affluent city, it has kept its tameness. The locals still lounge on the main square, restaurants close for siesta and little stores line the porch-fronted houses and sell cheap local products.

Spread across a vast and sparsely populated plain, the lowlands' varied ecosystems range from Amazonian rainforest in the north, through broad savannahs and tropical dry forest in the centre, to the immense wetlands of the Pantanal in the far east and the arid scrub and thorn brush of the Chaco to the south.

Unique expeditions, exclusive hotels and tours for people who don't like tours in Bolivia.

What to do in Santa Cruz

Economically active and growing, the area today offers a host of historical, archaeological and natural attractions, a progressive atmosphere, and a vitality that is visibly absent in the more traditional cities of the Altiplano and Southern Highlands.

Santa Cruz has been planned on a concentric ring model, giving the entire city a distinct circular shape. These anillos, or concentric circles (rings) extend out from the central plaza which remains a popular place to rest or socialize for grown up Cruceños or as playground for kids. Many colonial and cultural attractions are located within the first ring, including a surprising number of interesting museums and art galleries. Contrary to popular misconception, Santa Cruz is not only

Of course Santa Cruz is also filled with exotic, crowded and noisy outdoor markets as well as a number of quiet parks and superb gardens.

For instance a few miles from downtown Santa Cruz, nature lovers will find ecological parks such as the Botanical Gardens, La Rinconada and Yvaga Guazu (“Big Paradise” in the Guaraní language). All three are idyllic and peaceful retreats surrounded by lush tropical gardens and pools, and a great place to learn about native Bolivian flora.

Nature lovers will also enjoy the spectacular resort of “Biocentro Güembe”, its butterfly sanctuary, aviary and Bolivian orchid collections. This 24-hectare (46-acre) biocenter also enables for horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking along rainforest trails, and even biolabs where you can learn about the different species you've seen live and conservation efforts that are underway.

In addition to being a a crucial transport and commercial hub, Santa Cruz is the ideal base for exploring the many attractions of the surrounding area, where much of the region's beautiful natural environment survives, despite the ravages of deforestation and development.

Nearby destinations include the sand dunes (Lomas de Arena) of “El Palmar” Nature Reserve, and the small town of Cotoca well known for its potters' workshops, east of Santa Cruz. Farther east you head towards the small colonial-era towns of Chiquitanía and their world famous Jesuit Missions, until you reach Noel Kempff Mercado National Park in the north eastern portion of the province and the Pantanal area to the south east (see collapsible panels below).

To the other side of the city, that is towards the Andes west of Santa Cruz, you will enjoy the pleasant colonial atmosphere of Buena Vista located on the northern edge of Amboró National Park, on the main highway that links Santa Cruz and the city of Cochabamba. Or visit picturesque landscape surrounding spectacular waterfalls and archaeological sites en route to Samaipata, on the southern portion of Amboró National Park. Either way, panoramas are always stunning and activities abound (see collapsible panels below).

“Ruta del Che” – Along the Che Guevara trail. Southwest of Santa Cruz, via Samaipata, admirers of the iconic Argentine revolutionary can visit the sites of his revolutionary expedition in Vallegrande. More Che history exists in nearby La Higuera.


The Highlights - top five places to visit around Santa Cruz

1. Parque Nacional Amboró – The country's most easily accessible rainforest, boasting a spectacular abundance of birdlife, with more species than any other protected area in the world.

2. Samaipata – Charming town set in an idyllic valley with excellent hiking nearby, as well as the mysterious pre-Hispanic ceremonial site of El Fuerte.

3. The Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos – Scattered across the sparsely populated forest region east of Santa Cruz, the immaculately restored mission churches of Chiquitos are a reminder of one of the more unusual episodes in Bolivia's colonial history.

4. Parque Nacional Noel Kempff Mercado – Bolivia's most remote and spectacular national park, with abundant wildlife, pristine Amazonian rainforest and magnificent waterfalls tumbling down from the plateau that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World.

5. Bolivian Pantanal – Covering about 10 percent of the total Pantanal area it is well preserved and comprises several zones of stunning biodiversity, two of which are part of the National System of Protected Areas.


WEST OF SANTA CRUZ

click here to openParque Nacional Amboró – A Biological Hotspot

Only three hours west of Santa Cruz is Amboró National Park, one of the least untouched wildernesses on earth and a place of special beauty.

Forty kilometres west of Santa Cruz, Parque Nacional Amboró spans some 4300 square kilometres of a great forest-covered spur of the Andes that juts out into the eastern plains. Situated at the confluence of three major bio-geographic regions – the foothills of the Andes mountains, the Amazon rainforest and the Northern Chaco plain – and ranging in altitude from 3300m to just 300m above sea level, Amboró's steep, densely forested slopes support an astonishing biodiversity.

It has been conservatively estimated that in Amboró there are more species of insect, bird, flora and fauna per hectare than anywhere else on earth, including numerous endangered species. Extensive botanical and zoological research in the area has repeatedly confirmed the park's exceptional biodiversity.

Over 830 different types of bird have been recorded here – the highest confirmed bird count for any protected area in the world. Sightings include a large number of endemic species and such rarities as the cock-of-the-rock, red-fronted and military macaws, and the blue-horned curassow or unicorn bird, which was thought to have been extinct until it was rediscovered here. The park is also home to a wide range of rainforest mammals, including jaguars, giant anteaters, tapirs and several species of monkey, while its enormous array of plant and insect species is still largely unexplored.

Amboró National Park is best combined with Carrasco National Park (see Cochabamba in this website) — actually both reserves form one unique protected area that stretches along the elbow of the Andes, making it one of the greatest biological hotspots on the planet.

Access - How to Go

There are several entrances to the northeast of the park from the town of Buena Vista along the paved Santa Cruz - Cochabamba highway. The park can also be approached from the south, via Samaipata off the southern Santa Cruz - Cochabamba road.

Traveling west across the mountains from Santa Cruz to Cochabamba is a journey of contrasts, and one which is well worth making. There are friendly, sleepy little towns with basic, clean accommodation, lots to see en route, and few tourists. There is excellent birdwatching and archaeological ruins and the road passes through the buffer zone of Amboró and Carrasco National Parks.

Lodging - Where to Stay

Upscale accommodation on the border of the northern edge of the park is practically non-existent. There are campsites, cabañas and jungle lodges within the boundaries of the park (mainly in the multiple use area) but very few are accessible by vehicle. There are more options in or near the town of Buena Vista.

Accommodation on the southern side of the park include a wider range of hotels and guest houses in Samaipata and along the road that borders the protected area (e.g. in towns like Comarapa, etc. or just off the main road).

 

click here to openSamaipata and El Fuerte Archaeological Site

Some 120km west of Santa Cruz on the old mountain road to Cochabamba, the picturesque and peaceful little town of Samaipata is enjoying growing popularity as a tourist destination amongst Bolivians and foreign travellers alike. Nestled in an idyllic valley surrounded by rugged, forest-covered mountains, the town enjoys a cool, fresh climate compared to the sweltering eastern plains, and has emerged as a popular weekend resort for people from Santa Cruz – appropriately enough, since its Quechua name means "rest in the highlands".

Innumerable good walking trails run through the surrounding countryside, the beautiful cloudforests of the Amboró National Park are within easy reach, and just 9km outside town stands one of Bolivia's most intriguing archeological sites: the mysterious, ruined pre-Hispanic ceremonial complex known as El Fuerte.

All this makes Samaipata the kind of place many travellers arrive in planning to stay a couple of days and end up staying longer – indeed, a growing number of European residents have settled here permanently, setting up hotels and restaurants. They've also helped establish Samaipata as the flagship of modern organic agricultural techniques in Bolivia, and the surrounding farms produce many of the non-tropical vegetables consumed in Santa Cruz.

El Fuerte de Samaipata Ancient Rock Carving (the Fort)

The site is known to have been occupied and used as a ritual and residential centre by people belonging to the Mojocoyas culture as early as AD 300, and it was at this time that work began on the shaping of this great rock. The archaeological site of Samaipata consists of two parts: the hill with its many carvings, believed to have been the ceremonial centre of the old town (14th-16th centuries), and the area to the south of the hill, which formed the administrative and residential district. The reddish sandstone hill is divided naturally into a higher part, known as El Mirador, and a lower, where the carvings are located. Away from the rocky hill, there are a number of isolated small buildings surrounded by perimeter walls known as Kancha. One of these contains two buildings and another five, arranged in a U-pattern. The main administrative-religious centre is located on a series of three artificial platforms to the south of the rock.

With the establishment of the new town of Samaipata during colonial times, the ancient settlement had no further military or religious importance and was abandoned. It was quickly covered with vegetation and only visited by treasure hunters and herdsmen. However, the memory of El Fuerte (the Fort) was kept alive by the local people. It first came to the notice of scholars at the end of the 18th century, and has been studied intensively since the beginning of the present century.

El Fuerte de Samaipata is on the list of World Heritage Sites of the UNESCO.

Lodging in Samaipata

The little town offers varied and comfortable accommodation suitable for all budgets and tastes, and there is also a wide range of restaurants offering delicious international and Bolivian foods. Ask us for the best hostels and guest houses in Samaipata.

What to see around Samaipata

The road itself is very scenic. For instance, located just 2 hours west of the city of Santa Cruz along the road to Samaipata, Espejillos is a hidden natural gem with sparkling waterfalls and pools. Don't forget to ask our driver to make a stop here for a swim.

Samaipata is also the main gateway to the southern side of Amboró National Park (see above).

From Samaipata, you may want to carry on west towards Cochabamba or return to Santa Cruz.

 



EAST OF SANTA CRUZ

click here to openThe Jesuit Missions Circuit

The Jesuit Missions legacy, thanks to the work of the Chiquitano people, is possibly one of the most striking living examples of Community-based Initiatives in Bolivia.

The Chiquitanía region receives its name from the native inhabitants of this area, the Chiquitos or Chiquitanos. This is were Jesuit mission towns (then known as “reducciones”) were founded during the second half of the 17th Century.

Consisting mainly of a series of beautiful baroque churches, the remains of these “reductions” are now an extraordinary, world class legacy, primarily because they are the only Jesuit missions in South America which were not destroyed after the Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish colonies in 1767.

Secondly, the local populations (the Chiquiano people at large) chose not to leave the premises after the expulsion of the Jesuits, but rather worked together according to community-based traditions fairly common in Bolivia to preserve these jewels through time until now. Last but not least the religious ensemble originally built between 1691 and 1760 was extensively remodelled by a team of experts in the late 20th century, making it available for our generations to enjoy.

Six Jesuit churches survive east of Santa Cruz — San Xavier (San Javier), Concepción, San Rafael, San Miguel, Santa Ana and San José de Chiquitos. All are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. San Ignacio de Velasco, although not on the WHS list, is worth a look to. Therefore the complete Jesuit Missions circuit is a tour that consists of seven mission towns, although other mission settlemeents can be visited, such as San Matías, Santiago de Chiquitos near Roboré, Guarayos, Urubichá, and Puerto Suárez in the far east of Bolivia.

The first four Jesuit missions on the WHS list were built by Swiss Jesuit, musician, and architect Father Martin Schmid (1694-1772), who worked in this part of the then Viceroyalty of Alto Peru until the expulsion of the Jesuit order in 1767 by order of Charles III of Spain on behalf of the Pope.

Far from just another tourist attraction in the common sense of the word, the Jesuit Missions are architecturally and historically rich patrimonies available for mankind. Here in many ways people continue to live much as they did centuries ago. Life is slow and peaceful and the towns are located in some of Bolivia's most beautiful surroundings. Worth noticing are the religious celebrations such as Easter/Holy Week, Corpus Christi in June, or at the end of July when many of the settlements celebrate their patron saint festivals. These festivities take us back to the age of the Missions, with traditional clothing and instruments made by the people of the region. A National Baroque Music and Theater Festival takes place every year (Festivales de Temporada, usually in August). Finally, an International Baroque Music Festival is held every two years (on even-numbered years) in the Jesuit Missions, which is attended by dozens of international choirs and baroque orchestras. Other special events take place on a more or less regular basis, such as the orchid festival (Festival de la Orquídea de Concepción)... Ask us for updates and details.

Access - How to Go

By Road — There are two possible routes to the Jesuit Missions. The first is by paved road from Santa Cruz east passing the Mennonite farms of San Ramón and towards San Xavier (San Javier, built 1691) – the first WHS on your list. From there the road becomes increasingly more difficult and paved/unpaved portions lead to Concepción (built 1709) and San Ignacio de Velasco (1748). Three more settlements include San Rafael (1696), San Miguel (1721) and Santa Ana (1755) that can be visited on a day trip from San Ignacio. A road continues east from San Rafael to San Matías and the Brazilian border, while another road heads south to San José de Chiquitos (established in 1698). From here you may complete the circuit by catching the train back to Santa Cruz or onwards to Quijarro and the Pantanal region.

The rest of the Chiquitos region is very remote and often difficult to access.

Our 2-day trip includes a visit to San Xavier and Concepción. Optional add-ons for a 3-day trip or more also include San Ignacio, San Rafael, San Miguel and Santa Ana. San José de Chiquitos is available on our custom tours for people who don't like tours.

By Train — You can take the train to San José de Chiquitos, Roboré, Puerto Suárez and Puerto Quijarro, all of which are situated along the railway the goes east from Santa Cruz to Brazil. There are no trains to any of the other mission towns in Northern Santa Cruz.

Lodging - Where to Stay

Accommodation varies a lot from place to place. There are many very small and simple hostels and most are family owned. However, there are also a number of more upscale hotels, including really great ones in the major towns such as Concepción or San Ignacio. Ask us for an update and details about lodging while on the Jesuit Missions Circuit.

 

click here to openParque Nacional Noel Kempff Mercado (NKMNP)

Located some 600 km in the far northeast of Santa Cruz Department, Noel Kempff Mercado National Park (abbreviated NKMNP) is named after a famous Bolivian biologist.

Discovering the Lost World

This park is inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites as one of the largest and most intact parks in the Amazon Basin although it has an altitudinal range of 200m to 980m only. Yet it is a rich dramatically scenic mosaic of habitat types from upland evergreen Amazonian forest through gallery forest, palm forest, flood savannah, swamp and semi-deciduous dry forest to Cerrado forest and savannah which constitute probably the largest area of undisturbed Cerrado habitats left on Earth. They are found on the PreCambrian sandstones of the Caparus Plateau in the Serrania de Huanchaca, an island above a sea of lowland forest which has been isolated for millions of years and provides an living laboratory for the study of the evolution of its ecosystems. An estimated 4,000 species of plants, over 600 birds and viable populations of many globally endangered or threatened large vertebrate species inhabit the Park.

One of the very few places which might surpass other Bolivian reserves such as Amboró-Carrasco or Madidi National Parks is this remote and stunning Noel Kempff Mercado National Park. This is a place so beautiful and mysterious that it is thought to be the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous Lost World.

The park was created in 1979. Originally called "Parque Nacional Huanchaca", it was renamed in honour of the late pioneering biologist and Bolivian conservationist Prof. Noel Kempff Mercado for his research work in the park.

An estimated 4,000 species of flora as well as over 600 bird species and viable populations of many globally endangered or threatened vertebrate species live in the park. Among these are the giant otter, giant anteater, hyacinth macaw, giant armadillo, pink river dolphin, maned wolf, marsh and pampas deer.

NKMNP includes a large section of the Huanchaca Plateau and surrrounding lowlands. The plateau is 150 kilometers (km) long and 50km wide, and covers a total area of 6,800 square kilometers.

It is composed of sandstone and quartzite rocks of Pre-Cambrian origin, deposited more than 1,000 million years ago. There are rugged cliffs in the northern, western and southern sides of the plateau, with several valleys and steep slopes in its eastern side. The largest river in the area is the Iténez which marks the border with Brazil, to the north of the park.

Watercourses form beautiful falls such as the Fawcett, Federico Ahlfeld and Arco Iris.

The humid forests of the park are floristically distinct from the moist forests of western Amazon and the Andean piedmont. Humid high forest is the most species rich formation in the region. These forests are classified in several habitat types still scarcely studied though this is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the continent. For instance, due to heavy deforestation in Brazil, Bolivia currently contains the largest portion of the dry forest formation and quite possibly the largest extant dry forest formation in the world, most of which lies within NKMNP.

The outstanding habitat diversity of NKMNP favours the existence of a highly diverse fauna, including 139 species of mammals, 620 birds, 74 reptiles, 62 amphibians and 254 fish. The large mammal fauna of the park is relatively well known; much less is known about its small mammal fauna.

Among one of the first records of the area covered by NKMNP and its surroundings is the description of the Huanchaca Plateau made by Percy Fawcett in 1910. Fawcett was the archetypal early 20th century explorer. His writing about his expedition was so motivating that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based his novel The Lost World on the region.

Access, Lodging and Visitors Facilities

It is estimated that less than 200 tourists visit the park each year! So believe us when we say it is a pristine environment and there is plenty of room for developping sustainable tourism activities. With this in mind you will easily understand that the area lacks basic tourism infrastructure, let alone more upscale accommodations. Roads are virtually inexistant (see below). Yet we've been offering NKMNP on a regular basis since 1984 and we are proud to contribute to the preservation of this site through continuous partnership with the park rangers and local authorities/communities, including the Bolivian Service of Protected Areas (SERNAP).

The south side of Noel Kempff National Park can be reached overland by 4x4. It requires at least a week to make the trip.

The north side can be reached by chartered airplane. Trips to the north side take a minimum of 4 days.

Lodging facilities are scarse and basic and consist of local cabins and campsites for the rangers and scientists.

Ask us for a custom expedition.

 

click here to openThe Pantanal Area – Wetlands of Extreme Biodiversity

“The Bolivian Pantanal is perhaps the best preserved portion of the Pantanal and has enormous biodiversity, both in flora and fauna” says Dr Maria Esther Montaño, Coordinator of the Steering Committee for the Protected Areas of the Pantanal for the Museum of Natural History in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

This complex of protected areas is located in eastern Bolivia, at the south-eastern portion of Santa Cruz Department, at the international border with Brazil and Paraguay. The Pantanal is one of the world’s largest freshwater wetland ecosystems. Despite the relatively small size of the Bolivian portion of the Pantanal, this site presents a unique combination of natural ecosystems that makes it unique within Pantanal’s region.

The abundance and diversity of wildlife is the most spectacular feature of the Bolivian Pantanal. This why it was declared of national importance as early as 1997 (Parque Nacional Otuquis to the southeast and San Matías Nature Reserve to the northeast of Santa Cruz Department).

The fauna of the Pantanal region is extremely diverse and includes 80 species of mammals, 650 birds and 50 reptiles and over 300 species of fish. During you visit and depending on your luck it may be possible to see groups of animals every minute or so, a remarkable example of wildlife diversity.

Populations of species of conservation concern such as jaguar, marsh deer, giant anteater and giant otter live here. The site is also one of the most important breeding grounds for typical wetland birds such as Jabiru stork, as well as several other species of herons, ibis and ducks. Parrots are also very diverse, with well over 20 species recorded in the area including hyacinth macaw, the world's largest parrot.

There are several particular features that make the Bolivian Pantanal an outstanding place:

• Due to its geographical location and hydrographic regime it is one of the few areas that remain partially inundated during the dry season so wildlife, and particularly mammals, migrate here searching for water and food;

• In the rainy season it is one of the first areas to be flooded and from it the water flows to the rest of Pantanal, thus its contribution in dispersing nutrients and larvae is particularly high;

• In the beginning of the rainy season, where anaerobic conditions prevail in most channels and streams, there occurs a phenomena of upstream migration of a number of fishes to the small rivers and streams. This is a rare natural phenomena that can be easily seen here;

• Because the area is strictly protected it plays a significant role in maintaining fisheries stock as it functions as a no-take reserve. This is particularly important as over-fishing is a critical problem, especially for the entire Brazilian side of the Pantanal;

• The Bolivian Pantanal is contiguous to other protected areas on the Brazilian border, and thus can play a catalytic role for promoting transboundary cooperation between Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay on Pantanal’s protection and management.

Pantanal is astonishing, especially if you're there just after the rainy season ends.

90 percent or more of the Bolivian Pantanal has some degree of legal protection (e.g. Ramsar Sites — wetlands of international importance), and substantial portions are inside of two protected areas. The first is the Otuquis Pantanal National Park (Parque Nacional Pantanal de Otuquis, which occupies 1,005,950 hectares). The second is the San Matías Natural Area of Integrated Management (Área Natural de Manejo Integrado San Matías — which totals 2,918,500 hectares). Both protected areas were established in 1997.

Of course, there's more than water and wildlife to the Pantanal. Aside from two amazing national parks (San Matías and Otuquis), the area has something for everyone, from pre-historic paintings and unexplored mountains to Jesuit mission towns (Santo Corazón), tucked away in the savanna, from indigenous communities to free trade zones with a growing number of modern, more upscale hotels...

The Bolivian Pantanal offers the tourism industry a chance to turn nature-based tourism into true ecotourism, that is Ecotourism is the concept of actively using nature-based tourism to help preserve biodiversity and benefit local communities.

Access - How to get there

Puerto Suárez and its sister town Puerto Quijarro sit at the very the heart of the Bolivian Pantanal.

Access to Puerto Suárez is by road or train from Santa Cruz en route to/from Brazil, as well as by plane (daily flights to/from Santa Cruz and connections with Brazil and Paraguay).

Ask us for current offers in the Bolivian Pantanal.

 



Access — How to Get to Santa Cruz

With long-distance buses running along paved roads to the west and south, train lines to the east and south and frequent domestic flights, Santa Cruz is the country’s most connected city.

Railways provide access to/from Brazil, Argentina, and southern Bolivia: trains connect Santa Cruz with Puerto Quijarro/Corumbá (border with Brazil) in the east and with Yacuiba/Pocitos (border with Argentina) in the south.

Santa Cruz is served by two airports, El Trompillo Airport (regional flights) and Viru-Viru Airport (medium and long haul flights). The city’s international airport (Viru-Viru, airport code VVI) is Bolivia’s busiest. Santa Cruz is linked by regular airlines to just about every corner of Bolivia.

Many flights from Europe and neighboring countries come direct to Santa Cruz and are worth considering if you’re arriving from sea level and don’t want to spend days acclimatizing in La Paz. Direct flights depart daily for Buenos Aires, Miami, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

click here to openWeather in Santa Cruz – When to Go

Average Weather For Santa Cruz, Bolivia

The city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra has a hot and humid climate characteristic of Amazonian cities and tropical savannas with dry winters. The area within 40 km around the city is covered by forests (94%) and grasslands (5%).

There are two main seasons in Bolivia — the rainy season (austral summer, usually between November and March) and the the dry season (austral winter, usually between May and September). Summer weather is typically warm and rainy, while winter is typically mild and dry with sudden downpours.

The following charts describe the typical weather at the Viru Viru International Airport (Airport Code: VVI, Santa Cruz, Bolivia) weather station over the course of an average year. It is based on the historical records from 1984 to 2011. Earlier records are either unavailable or unreliable.

Weather in La Paz, Bolivia   Weather in La Paz, Bolivia   Weather in La Paz, Bolivia

Over the course of a year, the temperature typically varies from 15°C to 31°C and is rarely below 9°C or above 35°C.

The warm season runs from mid-September to mid-March with an average daily high temperature above 30°C. The hottest days of the year are in mid-November, with an average high of 31°C and low of 21°C.

The cold season lasts from mid-May to the end of July with an average daily high temperature below 26°C. The coldest days of the year are around mid-July, with an average low of 15°C and high of 25°C.

The most common forms of precipitation are thunderstorms, moderate rain, and light rain.

Weather Facts for Santa Cruz, Bolivia

  • Santa Cruz has an average rain fall of 1,290 millimeters (50.8 inches) per year.
  • On average, the warmest month is November.
  • The average coolest month is July.
  • January is the average wettest month.

Best season to visit Santa Cruz, Bolivia

The dry season (from May to October) is a good time to travel to Santa Cruz due to the better road conditions, generally sunny skies and pleasant temperatures both during the day and at night, but be careful of the unpredictable “surazos” (cold fronts coming from the south pole) at this time of year.

Travel within the department of Santa Cruz (and to most regions of Bolivia) is certainly possible year round, but you have to keep in mind that during the rainy season (December to March) access to a number of places may be more difficult depending on the weather & road conditions.

 

Weather in La Paz, Bolivia

The probability of precipitation in Santa Cruz varies throughout the year:
• Precipitation is most likely around January 7, occurring in 53% of days.
• Precipitation is least likely around August 9, occurring in 18% of days.

Weather in La Paz, Bolivia

The average fraction of time spent in various temperature bands: cool (10°C to 18°C),
comfortable (18°C to 24°C), warm (24°C to 29°C), hot (29°C to 38°C).

Weather in La Paz, Bolivia
 

Santa Cruz is located in the tropical lowlands of east-central Bolivia.

Santa Cruz

Through our intimate, small-group tours and private expeditions in this area you will be able to visit sites most tourists, even seasoned travelers, never find.

Join us on a discovery of a lifetime in Santa Cruz.

Check our selected excursions in this area:

ESSENTIAL SANTA CRUZ — 4 days

Santa Cruz & Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos
{ short bolivia excursion - fully customizable }

The following packages also include this area
among other destinations.

DISCOVER CULTURAL BOLIVIA — 8 days

Santa Cruz / Sucre / Potosí / La Paz
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

ARTS & CRAFTS OF BOLIVIA — 13 days

Santa Cruz / Cochabamba / Sucre / La Paz
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

BOLIVIA EXPLORER — 15 days

Santa Cruz / Sucre / Potosí / Uyuni / Sud Lípez / La Paz / Lake Titicaca
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

BOLIVIA ANDES & AMAZONIA — 15 days

La Paz / Cochabamba / Trinidad / Santa Cruz
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BOLIVIA SPECIAL DEPARTURES — 13 days

Santa Cruz / Sucre / Potosí / Uyuni / La Paz
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Feel free to customize any travel package according to your own personal interests and the specific activities you expect...

Join us on one of our Natural History Tours or a Cultural Exploration into the heart of South America. Our programs are offered throughout the year, on a (very) small group basis and mostly in private.

You may also want to make an enquiry or design your own program of activities in this area.

Plan A Trip

Not the Bolivia Trip you're looking for?

Go back to our Trip Selection Page or design your own special itinerary using our Bolivia Travel Planner.

Bolivia Group Tour & Fixed Departures

Call us to help you plan the best active, outdoor exploration to meet your interests, time, budget and abilities. You will be accompanied by expert local guides specializing in each region.

Skype us now!

Speak to a member of our team. We'll answer your questions, provide advice, help you book your Bolivia Trip, and most of all we'll help you customize your tours for people who don't like tours in Bolivia.

You may also check other Special Interest Travel and unusual tours or expeditions around Bolivia, including:

• La Paz, Tiwanaku, Lake Titicaca
• Uyuni Salt Flats & Sud Lípez Red & Green Lagoons
• Colonial Cities of Sucre and Potosí
• Central, Inter-Andean Valleys of Cochabamba
• Santa Cruz - the Lowlands & Jesuit Missions
• Bolivian Rainforests & Amazon Basin
• Cuzco & Machu Picchu Extensions

Fremen Tours Bolivia - Destination Management Company

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