San José and Santiago de Chiquitos tour

San José and Santiago de Chiquitos tour

The San José and Santiago de Chiquitos tour is perfect for those looking for off-the-beaten-track cultural encounters. The Chiquitos or Chiquitania area in Santa Cruz (eastern Bolivia) offers you this true hidden gem with spectacular landscapes in the so called South-East Chiquitano region.

The name Chiquitos, or little ones in Spanish, was given by the Spanish conquistadores to the indigenous people when they found the small doors of the Indian huts in the region.

The Santiago de Chiquitos tour covers an area full with table mountain ranges, big rock formations, crystal clear water pools, thermal rivers and a very rich culture with traditional little villages and friendly people.

One of these picturesque villages is Santiago de Chiquitos, a former jesuit mission located 160 km to the east of San José de Chiquitos. It is a lovely and authentic little village.

Besides Santiago de Chiquitos, some other highlights of the Southeast region are: the old Jesuit mission of San José de Chiquitos (which is part of the Jesuit missions circuit), Santa Cruz La Vieja, Chochis sanctuary, the hot springs of Aguas Calientes and thermal river and the Tucavaca valley.

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


1 Day


Early in the morning we will pick you up from your hotel in Santa Cruz with private transport to take you to San José de Chiquitos, the third-oldest Jesuit mission in the Chiquitania, founded in 1696.  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.

We will visit the museum and the church. The architecture of this church differs from the others because it is completely made of stone.

After lunch we will visit the Park “Santa Cruz La Vieja”, the original place where the city of santa Cruz de la Sierra was founded in 1561.

Return to Santa Cruz. (Approximately 4 hours)

3 Days


At 07:30 AM we will pick you up from your hotel. We will have a first short stop in Cotoca, small town on the way to San José de Chiquitos where you can try some typical snacks from the tropical Eastern Bolivia. After this “small extra” to your breakfast, we will drive approximately 3.5 hours until San José.

After the check-in at the Villa Chiquitania hotel where we will spend the night, we will have our lunch.

In the afternoon we will visit the museum and the church.

2 kilometers outside town we will visit parque “Santa Cruz La Vieja”, the historical place where the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra was founded in 1561 by the Spaniard Ñuflo de Chávez. The original location was too vulnerable to attack from indigenous tribes, so in 1621, by order of the King of Spain, it moved to its current location.

Afterwards we will follow a trail through the “Valle de la Luna” until we reach the mirador where we will enjoy the sunset overlooking a “sea” of treetops.

Dinner and overnight stay.

Very early in the morning we will drive to Santiago de Chiquitos. Check-in at hotel Beula.

We will spend the rest of the morning exploring the amazing “Valle de Tucavaca”. We will hike uphill until we reach the mirador known as “Antesala del Cielo” (anteroom to heaven) at the top of the table mountain. From there, amid the impressive up to 8 meters high rock formations, we will have a panoramic view of the valley and the Chiquitano dry forest.

The Tucavaca valley is dotted with caves with ancient rock paintings and crystal clear rivers. The valley offers different hiking possibilities, and because the area is still new to travellers there are spots that have yet to be explored. This is a hiker’s/photographer’s paradise!

Bonus to your visit to Tucavaca valley if you are travelling at the beginning of the rainy season (end November-December) is the awesome butterfly invasion that descends like a cloud of confetti upon the valley.

After lunch we will enjoy a couple of relaxing hours in the warm (up to 40 degrees Celsius) and healing waters of “Aguas Calientes”, the largest thermal river in Bolivia. It is also possible to swim in the hot springs pools with crystal clear water.

Dinner and overnight in Santiago de Chiquitos.


Today we will head off to “Chochis  (Fury of the wind), where we will visit the sanctuary church built at the foot of cerro “La Torre”, an impressive red rock formation of 600 m high.

After lunch in San José, we will return to Santa Cruz.


  • '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 everything. The restaurants we visited were great and the hotel in Conception was wonderful. Franc did a great job of safely navigating those treacherous roads. I would recommend the tour to anyone! Thank you for treating us so kindly. When we get to Bolivia again, we hope to do another Ruta Verde tour.'

    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 all comfortable and the food good. I just hope that these sites receive more visitors in the years to come - they definitely deserve to be at the top of any tourist´s agenda for Bolivia. Many thanks and kind regards, Simon'

    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 that trip I had met a man in Santa Anna who told me that there were some descendants of Alcide d'Orbigny in the area. D'Orbigny (1802-1857) was a very important French scientist, father of the micropaleontology, and had been sent by the Paris Muséeum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Southern America as to make a complete inventory of the natural resources of this continent. He spent 8 years of his life (1826-1833) visiting Brazil , Argentina , Chile and Bolivia where he stayed 3 years, riding his mule from west to east and north to south. During the wet season, the country being impossible to travel, he used to settle his base in the Missions region. He was 28/30 years old, rather handsome and the natives being very pretty he obviously left behind one or more descendants. It happened that A.d'Orbigny was my grand uncle and being short of time in 2002, as to deepen my quest of cousins, I decided to come back this year and proceed with my quest. Ruta Verde, in the person of Gijs, took us in one of their very comfortable 4 WD Toyota to San Javier, San Ignacio, Santa Anna, San Miguel, all jewels of the Missions churches built by the locals under the control of Jesuits during the 18th century. I strongly recommend the visit, even if you have no cousins to meet there, but who knows? Thanks to Gijs, we found a "nest" of d'Orbigny at San Ignacio. It was very exciting and touching to meet these people who were far from thinking meeting one day some cousin from overseas after 176 years. Thank you Gijs for your very efficient help and your smooth driving across the "Chiquitania". I will never recommend strongly enough the readers of these lines to use Ruta Verde's services. These people are great!'

    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 over the train bridge was very fun!! Keep up the good work and may God be with you as you struggle in your country for calm and justice.´

    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 mission visit instead, and to our good fortune, accompanied us. A simpatico guide drove us from Santa Cruz up to the mission area, where we stayed in a beautiful hotel (Chiquitanos) in Concepcion. After walking around Concepcion, visiting the church and museum, we headed to San Ignacio, where we stayed two nights, so that we could tour the nearby mission "circuit". The mission churches are very beautiful, interesting and well worth visiting. The relative remoteness of the mission towns, which surprised us, really added to the experience of being there. A small plane picked us up in San Ignacio and took us to Flor de Oro, a journey of about an hour and a half over miles of pristine jungle, ´la Meseta´ and 2 big waterfalls. Flor de Oro is remarkable, and a week was almost not enough! The staff are wonderful and the food fabulous. We spent three days up one of the side rivers hiking to, and swimming in, two enormous, exquisite waterfalls. En route we saw myriads of birds, butterflies, turtles, caiman, monkeys, an anaconda and a tapir. The rest of the time we were based at the main lodge overlooking the Itenez River. Each day, when Roger, our guide, took us walking or by boat, we learned a little more about Amazonian fauna and flora. There were capybaras, various monkey species, extraordinary birds, big and small, huge termite nests, tarantulas, and of course, many pink river dolphins. Giant water lilies were in bloom and orchids poured off the trees. There is always an animal sighting highlight on a trip like this, and ours was when we perched on a small viewing platform and watched 70 peccaries clacking their teeth and rolling about in a salt lick a few feet below´.

    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 Eugenia are definitely keepers. From where I sit I can not overstate their value. Knowing something of the obstacles of functioning in South America, I can honestly say that the 2 of them have all the right stuff to deliver a wonderful experience. Maria Eugenia is a university educated crucena native to Santa Cruz who has lived in Europe and Gijs is a delightful, big, quality orientated Dutchman. You can't beat his prices. My own time to visit the missions was limited to only 1 day due to my work commitments in Paraguay so we made the longest trip to only one destination. I would definitely recommend at least 3 days and arrange them according to Gijs' suggestion. He knows the route and details very, very well´.

    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 tailored everything to my interest. Sucre as a city was a destination in itself. The Hotel Glorieta was very comfortable and there were lots of dining options. Potosi was worth seeing and Lourdes saw that I saw every Church which was possible to see. I shortened the Mines part (I'm a little claustrophobic) but am very glad that I saw Cerro Rico. I am glad I followed your advice and did not try to do Sucre/Potosi in one day. Two nights/two days was just perfect (in fact, Lourdes took me a short tour on Monday morning to the City colonial museum). I came home amazed at the Bolivian people. They are much more diverse than I expected, very gentle and warm and easy to speak with. The setting seems much more secure than other places I have been (like Guatemala and parts of Mexico) in that there was little overt police, private guards and bars on all windows, etc. I am very happy to have sampled Bolivia and feel much richer for it. Again, Gijs, I would give Ruta Verde all "As" (or stars or meets and exceeds expectations). May more Americans sample your marvellous (adopted) country. Thanks.´.

    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´

    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!'

    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 services. We were not disappointed. Words cannot describe this national treasure and it is our sincere hope that this unique area will remain protected. Although the animal and plant life are incredible we were also impressed by the dedication of the stewards of the park, the park rangers. The services arranged by Ruta Verde far exceeded our expectations. Our pilot for the two and a half hour flight was superb. Count yourself among the lucky few should you have the good fortune to visit this remote and pristine corner of the earth. Very few places compare. On the spur of the moment we also asked Ruta Verde to make arrangements for a short trip to the Jesuit Missions. Our only regret is that we did not have more time to explore La Gran Chiquitania in more depth. The landscape is breathtaking and the architecture of the missions astounding. Next time we would like to visit all the missions.'

    Nina Lara and Jerry Clark USA
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