Santa Cruz is the largest city in Bolivia's eastern El Oriente region. Modern and economically prosperous, Santa Cruz is laid out in anillos, or concentric rings, that are relatively easy to navigate. At the center, the shaded Plaza 24 de Septiembre attracts strolling couples and ice cream lovers. The city's cathedral dates to 1845 and houses a museum of sacred art.
Santa Cruz is also the gateway to Amboro National Park. Located at the junction of Andean, Amazonian and Chacoan ecosystems, Amboro protects over 1,700 square miles of vital habitat. Marquee species include jaguars, giant anteaters, macaws, and spectacled bears.
Samaipata, a bustling town located 75 miles southwest of Santa Cruz, is another gateway destination. Here, the draw is a nearby pre-Inca site known as El Fuerte. This unusual hilltop complex has no standing buildings; however, dwelling sites, aqueducts, astronomical observation markings, and petroglyphs are still evident. The site was likely built by the Chances people, and later adapted to Inca use.
Northeast of Santa Cruz, the Gran Chiquitania is the site of Bolivia's historic Jesuit mission villages. Dating to the late 17th and mid 18th-centuries, these towns were founded by Jesuit priests who worked with native populations to build richly decorated churches and missions. After decades of loving effort, many of these structures have been restored. In 1991, the Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos were granted UNESCO World Heritage status.
Santa Cruz's Viru Viru International Airport (VVI) is Bolivia's largest and most modern, receiving flights from Miami and Madrid. The El Trompillo domestic airport (SRZ) receives flights from La Paz (one hour) and Sucre (35 minutes).
El Oriente region has a tropical climate; temperatures are generally warm year round. The hottest months are December – March, when temperatures can approach 100°F at midday. During the rest of the year, high temperatures rarely exceed 90°F.
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