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Visit the historic Jesuit missions
Visit the opulent, restored jesuit mission churches hidden away in the villages of the remote Bolivian interior.
In the early days of the colonisation of the steamy forests and rugged mountains of the remote Bolivian interior the conquistadores failed to subjugate the fierce indigenous tribes. Jesuit missionaries were invited in. They managed to beguile the indians to congregate in settlements (reducciones) clustered around grandiose churches. The opulence of the wooden places of worship, with their intricate carvings and gold leaf, contrasted markedly with the humble homes of the worshippers. The Jesuits also taught the local populations to write and play religious music, some manuscripts of which have only recently been uncovered. A festival of baroque music is held in Concepción biennially, (even number years).
The Jesuits were expelled and the churches fell into disrepair until the 20th century when many of the churches were meticulously restored by the local populations and are now protected by UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Now you can visit the small, isolated rural towns and villages, where most homes are still constructed from adobe and thatch, and the population is predominantly indian. The pitched roofed churches, the bell towers and the cross surrounded by four palms dominate the large grassy main squares, a public space much used by the community for relaxation and even for grazing animals.
Once inside you will be overwhelmed by the richness and intricacy of the interior, the delicate, detailed artwork, often referring to the history of the missions, interweaving their story with that of Christ. Marvel at the gold leaf, the graceful carvings, the sacred ornaments. Each church is distinct from the next; some are simple, others more elaborate. Visit the workshops and see the local people at work, the craft shops, and even maybe a rehearsal for the music festival.
Santa Cruz and the Oriente
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Real Latin America Experts
Jim Ashworth - Travel Consultant
Jim first caught the Latin American travel bug in 2001 when he decided at the last minute to join a friend travelling around Central America – he hasn't looked back since.
Ben Line - Travel Consultant
Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Manager of the Tailor-made Department.
Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant
Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.
Evie Oswald - Travel Consultant
It’s hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.
Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant
Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.
Jamie Swan - Travel Consultant
Jamie backpacked across Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil before joining us; he has a degree in politics and is also a keen sportsman..