In the first part of this article I introduced you to Chiquitania, a fascinating region in Eastern Bolivia, that is still rather unknown and underrated.

But being underrated might be a good thing: it is unspoiled by mass tourism and it preserves much of its authenticity. So hurry up and visit it before it gets too popular!

This post is meant to give you a few practical tips for visiting Chiquitania and doing the Missional Tour (the tour of the Jesuit reductions).

Three-day Itinerary

If you want to discover the depth of the local culture, unveil the mystery of the Jesuit Reductions and immerse in the beauty of the landscape, I’d suggest you spent 3 days traveling the Chiquitania.

Day 1: San Javier and Concepción

Day 2: San Ignacio and San Miguel

Day 3: San Rafael and San José de Chiquitos

Though I highly recommend the 3-day itinerary, if you don’t have much time you can do a day-trip to Concepcion, or San Javier and Concepcion.

The main attraction in each village is the church. Yes, they are all very similar to one another (except the one in San José), yet they are all unique when it comes to details. Each village tells the same story, but each one in a different way. You can see this in the patterns featured on churches and houses and in the harmonious mix of European, criollo and indigenous styles.


SAN JAVIER

San Javier is the “gateway” to the Chiquitania and it was the first reduction built in what now is known as Bolivia.

Transportation: there are busses that leave every 2 hours from Terminal Bimodal in Santa Cruz (salidas provinciales), starting from 7:30am – look for the ticket office of TransGuarayos. There are also trufis (collective vans) that leave all day long as soon as they fill up. Trufis are generally faster but more expensive and more uncomfortable than busses.

Cost: 30 Bs for the bus, 35+Bs for the trufi

Time: 4 hours

Time needed to visit the village: 2+ hours

Tourist attractions: the church, the museum annexed to it, the house of General Busch (a Bolivian statesman) and the mirador (a small park featuring some rock formations).


CONCEPCION

This is my favorite Chiquitano village and the one I got to visit the most times. Take some time to stroll on the streets around the plaza and soak in the uniqueness of the village.

Transportation: the same busses and trufis that go from Santa Cruz to San Javier go all the way to Concepción. You can wait for them at the small bus terminal on the main street in San Javier.

Cost: 10 Bs for the bus, 10+ Bs for the trufi

Time: 1 hour

Time needed to visit the village: 2+ hours

Accommodation: there are many hotels around with prices usually ranging from 30 to 100 Bs per person, per night. During national holidays, however, the village fills with tourists from Santa Cruz and prices double.

Tourist attractions: the church, the museum and the represa, a water dam where you can chill and enjoy the blue water and the green surroundings. Beware of piranhas if you decide to take a dip!

SAN IGNACIO

I didn’t expect much from San Ignacio, yet it was a very pleasant surprise! The village was bigger than I thought, clean and very pretty. It’s central plaza is probably the most beautiful among all the Chiquitano villages and the church did not let me down either.

Transportation: there are only trufis that go between Concepcion and San Ignacio. Make sure you ask what time the trufi leaves the following day, as soon as get to Concepcion, since there are only a few rides a day. They leave from the “surtidor” (the local gas station).

Cost: 50Bs

Time: 2.5 hours

Time needed to visit the village: 2+ hours

Tourist attractions: the church, the plaza, the water dam and Cueva de Yeso (Gypsum Cave) on the other side of the dam. This is a nice place where you can relax and enjoy a little bit of fresh air during hot days. Also, check out the ice cream shop on the left side of the church. They serve really good açaí.

SAN MIGUEL

The road between San Ignacio and San Miguel is not paved yet and San Miguel is much more rural than the previous 3 villages. It is here where you will start to feel that you are actually in a really remote place.

Transportation: there are trufis, at the terminal in San Ignacio, that leave for San Miguel as soon as they fill up.

Cost: 12 Bs

Time: 1 hour

Time needed to visit the village: 1 hour

Accomodation: there are not many hotels around. Half block from the plaza you can find one that has rooms starting from 40Bs per person. They also offer a very delicious and complete local breakfast for an extra 20 Bs.

Tourist attractions: the church is the only attraction in San Miguel. It stood out to me for it’s intense colors and the beautifully ornamented interior. The village is very pretty but I think it is worth spending more time in San Ignacio, as there is a wider range of restaurants and tourist attractions, and only briefly visit San Miguel.

SAN RAFAEL

Just like San Miguel, San Rafael feels very rural and remote, yet I do recommend stopping here, on you way to San José.

Transportation: there are trufis leaving twice a day from the main plaza in San Miguel and going to San Rafael. Make sure you find out what time it leaves and you buy your ticket as soon as you get in San Miguel. When I visited, the first trufi left at 11:20am, and then there was a second one at around 2pm. But timetables are subject to changes.

Cost: 12 Bs.

Time: 1 hour

Time needed to visit the village: 1 hour

Tourist attractions: the only thing you can visit here is the church which, by the way, closes at lunch time – and that’s exactly when I went to visit. One thing I noticed is that there are not many many eating options around.

SAN JOSE DE CHIQUITOS

Out of all the Chiquitano villages, San José is definitely the biggest. It is almost urban I’d say. Also, the church was one of the last ones to be built and it is the biggest and most unique one among all the Chiquitano churches. It doesn’t resemble any of them.

Transportation: there are trufis from San Rafael to San José. Make sure you buy your ticket as soon as you get in San Rafael.

Cost: 50 Bs

Time: 2.5-3 hours (mostly on dirt road)

Time needed to visit the village: 2+ hours.

Tourist attractions: the church, the museum – which I highly recommend – and Santa Cruz la Vieja (some ruins in the place where Santa Cruz was first located), just outside San José, which I didn’t get to visit. Around the plaza there are many eating options.

At the bus terminal in San José there are trufis leaving all day long for Santa Cruz. Depending on the season, they costs from 40 to 80 Bs.

Mototaxis

In every village there are mototaxis that can take you around for 3 Bs. They might ask for more if you need to go a longer distance (like from the plaza to the water dam in Concepcion or from the plaza to the terminal in San Ignacio).

Beware that timetables and prices might change over time. I did the tour in March 2019, and at that time 1 Bs was around 0.14 USD.

So…

If these posts and my pictures did not convince you, then just trust my word: Chiquitania is amazing! Hurry up and go visit!

Three days, 1000 km, ten thousand emotions and countless stories to tell.

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