Experience Bolivia as the locals see it in the country’s busiest city, where the museums, public squares and churches give you a glimpse into their everyday lives.
Although Santa Cruz de la Sierra, more commonly known as Santa Cruz, is the most populous city in Bolivia, it is still relatively unknown by tourists. Sample an authentic Bolivian lifestyle in this busy city. Visit Santa Cruz’s churches and museums for an insight into the region’s history or simply soak up the atmosphere over a drink with the friendly locals.
Explore a city that started out in a totally different location. Santa Cruz was founded in 1561, but had to move west after several decades of fending off attacks. Visit the historic heart of the city in Plaza 24 de Septiembre, which is more than 400 years old, to relax with the locals, who are known as “cruceños.”
The most distinctive attraction in the city is San Lorenzo Cathedral, which is immediately recognizable for its red-brick frontage featuring two clock towers standing on either side of a pediment. The cathedral hosts the Museum of Sacred Art, with exhibits that display religious icons and Jesuit relics. Climb to the top of the clock tower for panoramic views of the city.
Wander around the Parque Arenal, a green space in the middle of the city. The park has a boating lagoon and the Museo Etnofolklorico (Santa Cruz Ethnographic Museum). Other museums in the city include the Guarani Museum, which examines the culture of the indigenous Guarani people, and the National History Museum.
Take children to the Zoological Gardens, where they can meet animals from around Bolivia. The zoo’s llamas and sloths are always popular with younger visitors.
Fly into the busiest airport in Bolivia, Viru Viru International Airport. Flights arrive here from destinations in both Bolivia and cities in North and South America. Some operators even fly here from cities in Europe, such as Madrid.
Santa Cruz de la Sierra is located in the lowlands of Bolivia in the east of the country, which means that rainfall is high during the summer months around January. Come during the high season, between May and October, for more dependable weather but higher prices.