Eastern Bolivia is little visited by tourists but it is brimming with variety, vitality and living history. Prosperous Santa Cruz, the dynamic, rapidly expanding capital of the region, can seem a bit more like Brazil (just a few hours away by road) than the Bolivia of the altiplano. Wealth comes from oil, cattle farming, agriculture, logging and drugs. You may see SUVs with darkened windows cruising round the sultry streets.
Outside the city, highlights are legion: the ecosystems of multi-altitude Amboró and Noel Kempff Mercado National Parks are among the most biodiverse on the planet. In the rugged hills, unspoilt, red-roofed Spanish colonial-style villages abound. There's a circuit of stupendously ornate restored Jesuit churches deep in the countryside and the Ruta del Che (Che Guevara Trail) takes you through wild mountain ranges and canyons to the places which feature in the narrative of the last days of the revolutionary's campaign.