An ideal destination for experiencing South America’s history, culture and natural environment, Santa Cruz de la Sierra is Bolivia’s most modern and prosperous urban centre. A tropical city situated on the easternmost slope of the Andes mountain range, and at the edge of the Amazon basin, Santa Cruz offers many eco-tours and excursions into the surrounding jungle. On these expeditions, visitors may see the amazing local flora and fauna, like monkeys, spectacled bears and macaws. Bus and boat tours also take visitors to the traditional native villages and to 300 year old Jesuit missions, located only a short distance from the city.
Santa Cruz is full of parks and there are plenty of ways to appreciate nature from within the city boundaries. The Butterfly, Bird and Orchard Museum has a large aviary and butterfly exhibit, set among spectacular orchids, ponds and natural pools. Families will enjoy the Noel Kempf Mercado Zoo, featuring one of the best collections of South American mammals on the continent, and the Aqualand Water Park for some outdoor fun. Several museums are located near the city centre, including a natural history museum and interesting collections of religious and local folk art. After a day exploring the city’s art and culture, head over to the Equipetrol neighbourhood where there is a large variety of clubs, bars and restaurants, for fun and entertainment. Santa Cruz’s increasingly cosmopolitan atmosphere is reflected in its dining options and there are many excellent restaurants serving both local and international cuisine.
Santa Cruz has many festivals throughout the year. Carnival is by far the largest event and held every February. The best deals on air fares are found during this time due to the considerable number of tourists, however all financial institutions and government offices are closed during Carnival, so be sure to exchange your money for some pesos bolivianos prior to your arrival. The region enjoys very warm weather and high humidity year round, with August being the driest month and best time to visit for outdoor excursions.
An interesting way to learn more about the history of Santa Cruz is to take a city bus tour. The bus starts its route twice daily, at 09.00 AM and 2:30 PM and lasts about three hours. The city roads have a circular grid pattern, like a radar screen, that makes it easy to find your way as all roads either circle or intersect with the city centre. Buses and shared taxis circulate on the ringed roads to pick up passengers. Bus maps are available from bookstores.