Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitania (Chiquitos)

Jesuit Missions in the Chiquitania, Bolivia

The Chiquitania receives its name from the native inhabitants of this area, the chiquitos or chiquitanos. In this place Jesuit reductions were settled in the second half of the XVII century (from 1691 until 1760). They remain in time as an extraordinary legacy because they are the only Jesuit missions in South America which were not destroyed after the Jesuits were expulsed from the Spanish colonies. They are not ruins but villages full of life, with people who still go to mass in the same majestic churches or to enjoy the same baroque music concerts, in the same way they used to do when the Jesuit ruled these missions three centuries ago.

The following are the Missions we visit in our Jesuit route:

San Javier
The baroque style church (built between 1749 y 1752, and restored between1987 and 1993) is part of the first Jesuit mission in Chiquitos founded in 1691. The edification invites to enjoy the artistic beauty of its architecture with carved ornaments in the columns and drawings in wood with yellow brown and black colors.

Concepción
It has a Jesuit baroque style church built between 1752 and 1753, restored and reopened in1982. It is built with 3 main structures, row of columns carved in wood, altars and paintings made by the local native people. This church is considered as the jewel of the region, watching it at sunset is an unforgettable view.

San Ignacio
The baroque style church (built between 1749 y 1752, and restored between1987 and 1993) is part of the first Jesuit mission in Chiquitos founded in 1691. The edification invites to enjoy the artistic beauty of its architecture with carved ornaments in the columns and drawings in wood with yellow brown and black colors.

San Ana
Santa Ana de Velasco, founded in 1755, was founded by one individual, the Jesuit missionary Fr. Julián Nogler. It is also the only settlement that has its complete original church still intact. The church was built after the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767. Santa Ana is a quiet little town with barely 280 souls and with a timeless feel to it.

San Miguel
San Miguel was founded in 1721 and is a small town, with less than 5,000 inhabitants. Like its sister communities of Santa Ana and San Rafael, San Miguel is a quiet spot where time seems to have stood still for the past three centuries. Its church is considered the most historically accurate of all the restored Jesuit churches.

San Rafael
San Rafael, the second oldest mission settlement, was established in 1696. Translated once in 1701 and again in 1750, it shares many of the same characteristics that nearby Santa Ana de Velasco and San Miguel de Velasco possess: a timeless charm, tranquil lifestyle, and fidelity to its Jesuit-inspired traditions.

San José
San José de Chiquitos, the third-oldest Jesuit mission in the Chiquitania, was founded in 1696. It is one of only four missions that has retained its original location. The town is quite peaceful, much like what Santa Cruz was many years ago: wide, dusty streets straight out of a Hollywood western movie, complete with cowboys, ranchers, and a dusty but charming main square with a beautiful church.

Ruta Verde offers you this route combining art, architecture, culture, music and nature. A unique outing by places where history has been conserved for more than 3 centuries, an opportunity to know and admire the ¨mestizo¨ baroque style, product of the European influence mixed with the artisan and artistic work of the indigenous people.

The majestic churches designed by the Swiss architect, musician and Jesuit Martin Schmidt have been declared Cultural Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO

REFERENCE PROGRAM

1 Day

ONE DAY PROGRAM

Early in the morning we will pick you up from your hotel in Santa Cruz with private transport to take you to San Javier (225 km/140miles).

Visit to the first and oldest mission in the region of Chiquitos, founded by the Jesuits in 1691. Visit to the Jesuit church. Lunch. Visit to the museum of the Mission and the music school. We will visit the Mirador “Piedra del Bibosi” (natural lookout point) and the place known as “Piedras de los Apóstoles”, where the “pinocas” (native people) used to dance in honor of their god Nupayaré.
Return to Santa Cruz. (Approximately 4 hours)

2 Days

TWO DAYS PROGRAM

DAY 1
Early in the morning we will pick you up from your hotel in Santa Cruz with private transport to take you to San Javier (225 km/140miles).
Visit to the first and oldest mission in the region of Chiquitos, founded by the Jesuits in 1691. Visit to the Jesuit church. Lunch. Visit to the museum of the Mission and the music school. We will visit the Mirador “Piedra del Bibosi” (natural lookout point) and the place known as “Piedras de los Apóstoles”, where the “pinocas” (native people) used to dance in honor of their god Ñupayaré.

If they are open, we will visit the workshop galleries where artisans still work the wood using the same techniques they learned from the Jesuits and enriched with their own versions of art. They create religious images and beautiful music instruments.

In the afternoon we will go to Concepción (founded in 1709), the second mission of our excursion (1 hour from San Javier). On the way we will see palm tree savannahs and we will stop at the Parador Las Piedras, a nice picture spot with big granite rock formations.
Check-in at the hotel in Concepción where we will spend the night.

DAY 2
After breakfast we will visit the church of Concepción and its museums. The most complete museum about the Jesuit Missions is located in Concepción. We will have lunch in Concepción and afterwards drive back to Santa Cruz. (Approximately 5 hours)

3 Days

THREE DAYS PROGRAM

DAY 1
Early in the morning we will pick you up from your hotel in Santa Cruz with private transport to take you to San Javier (225 km/140miles).

The first and oldest Jesuit Mission (1691) was founded with the name “San Francisco Xavier”. After visiting the church and its museum we continue our travel towards the second Mission called “Concepción de La Virgen Maria” (Concepción), founded in 1709. On the way we will see palm tree savannahs and we will stop at the Parador Las Piedras, a nice picture spot with big granite rock formations.

In Concepción we will visit the museum and the church. Check-in at the hotel in Concepción where we will spend the night.

DAY 2
Today we will drive to San Ignacio (171 km from Concepción). Of the 12 originally founded Jesuit Missions, San Ignacio represents the 7th Mission, founded in 1748 (476 km/296miles from Santa Cruz). San Ignacio has the highest number of inhabitants of all the Missions. We will spend the night in San Ignacio.

*Optional is visiting the Missions Santa Ana, San Rafael and San Miguel this day. In order to do so, we must leave Concepción early in the morning and the schedule doesn’t allow us to spend a lot of time in Santa Ana, San Rafael and San Miguel.

DAY 3
Return to Santa Cruz (Approximately 8 to 9 hours). We will have lunch in Concepción or San Javier.

4 Days

FOUR DAYS PROGRAM

DAY 1
Early in the morning we will pick you up from your hotel in Santa Cruz with private transport to take you to San Javier (225 km/140miles).

The first and oldest Jesuit Mission (1691) was founded with the name “San Francisco Xavier”. After visiting the church and its museum we continue our travel towards the second Mission called “Concepción de La Virgen Maria” (Concepción), founded in 1709. On the way we will see palm tree savannahs and we will stop at the Parador Las Piedras, a nice picture spot with big granite rock formations.

In Concepción we will visit the museum and the church. Check-in at the hotel in Concepción where we will spend the night.

DAY 2
Today we will drive to San Ignacio (171 km from Concepción). Of the 12 originally founded Jesuit Missions, San Ignacio represents the 7th Mission, founded in 1748 (476 km/296miles from Santa Cruz). San Ignacio has the highest number of inhabitants of all the Missions. We will spend the night in San Ignacio.

DAY 3
After breakfast we will take off to the Missions of San Miguel (1721), San Rafael (1695) and Santa Ana (1755). Santa Ana is the penultimate Mission founded before the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767. It is the most native in its art expression. In all these villages (where it seems time stood still for 300 years) you will be able to enjoy the typical scenery of the Chiquitania, the museums and the handicrafts workshop galleries where native artisans still carve the wood using the same techniques they learned from the Jesuits and e enriched with their own expressions of art. They create religious images and beautiful music instruments.

After lunch we will continue the trip to the last mission of the route: San José de Chiquitos (1797) where we will have dinner and spend the night.

DAY 4
After breakfast visit to the church. The architecture of this church differs from the others because it is completely made of stone. Lunch and return to Santa Cruz (approximately 4 to 5 hours).

REVIEWS

  • 'Dear Gijs, the tour to the Missions was great! The guide Iver and the driver Franc were great company and we had a good time together. Iver did a terrific job of explaining not only the missions and their history but also, the social history and culture of the indigenous people, the geology of the region, economics and much more. We would have missed so much without having him along to explain ...'
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    George & Barbara Willock USA
  • 'Dear Gijs, I just wanted to thank you for arranging an excellent tour of the Missions. Jose was delightful company and a very good driver. The visits to the Missions churches were fascinating. I particularly enjoyed looking around the museum and mission complex with Milton, who was a close colleague of Hans Roth. We had a very good guide for San Miguel, San Rafael and Santa Ana. The hotels were ...'
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    Simon Johnson UK
  • 'Ruta Verde is a Tour Operator based in Santa Cruz , Bolivia , run by a charming Bolivian lady, Maria Eugenia and her very efficient Dutch husband, Gijs Dijkshoom.Last august we (my wife and me), while visiting this beautiful country, called on Ruta Verde as to organize a tour to the Jesuits Missions region, east of Santa Cruz. I knew the Missions for having visited the place in 2002. During ...'
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    Michel Villeneau France
  • ´Trip was wonderful, mostly because of the guide Iver! He is so knowledgeable and quite gracious. I felt a special kindred spirit with him because of his love and commitment to the environment, his independent spirit, his knowledge of language, history, culture, and his personal experiences that he shared with discretion and respect. The car was very comfortable, the hotel beautiful and the ride ...'
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    Nancy Snowden USA
  • ´In May 2007, Ruta Verde organized a wonderful trip for us to visit the missions and Flor de Oro, the lodge in the north of Noel Kempff Mercado national park.The original plan was to visit the missions, Los Fierros and Flor de Oro, but after flooding knocked out a key bridge and various roads near Los Fierros, Gijs efficiently re-organized everything, arranging a week in the north after our ...'
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    Ronda Klevansky South Africa
  • ´Any mention of Ruta Verde brings a smile to my face. Let me say first that I am a university Spanish instructor (Indiana University Southeast) accustomed to roam the world, particularly, although not at all limited to, where Spanish is spoken. So we can say that at 60 yrs, of age, with some 50 countries under my belt, I've been around the block a few times. Gijs and his lovely wife Maria ...'
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    Marie Cogswell USA
  • ´I had a wonderful experience. The Missions were amazing, especially as have seen the ruins in Paraguay and one Mission in Argentina (in the modern town of Alta Gracia). Your tour was as promised. The car was very comfortable and the guide attentive. The meals were ample. I was able to go to Mass every day.Sucre was the jewel. Lourdes is among the best guides I have ever had and she ...'
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    Fr. Mike Knipe USA
  • ´Hi....we absolutely loved the tour, every bit of it...well done..wonderful guides and driver...wonderful all in all...the guide was SENSATIONAL...gracias por todo..mkt´
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    Maria Kathalina Thomas USA
  • ´Nos han gustado mucho los dos tours. Los chóferes y guías muy bien en ambos casos. Los hoteles nos gustaron mucho y todo ha salido muy bien. El Salar y Lagunas espectacular. En general muy bien todo. Muchas gracias!'
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    Estefania Roig y Jordi Garcia Spain
  • 'Independent travel on our own schedule has always been our preference. Earlier this year we made the wise decision of allowing Gijs and Maria Eugenia of Ruta Verde to make all our travel arrangements for us to Noel Kempff Mercado. Even though we had four weeks in May to explore Eastern Bolivia it was immediately apparent that a trip to the park would require much planning and coordination of ...'
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    Nina Lara and Jerry Clark USA
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