Bolivian missions circuit

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When the Spanish Conquistadores had difficulty in subduing the ferocious indigenous tribes of eastern Bolivia, they invited the Jesuits in to have a go. This Catholic order trained the indians in construction, and as a result ten glorious, ornate wooden churches, sparkling with gold leaf, were built in the small communities of adobe huts where the newly settled populations lived. The Chiquitanos also crafted the musical instruments they used to perform baroque pieces, many of which were composed in situ.

Following the expulsion of the Jesuits these churches fell into disrepair but now they have been restored to their former glory, and the musical skills and performances resurrected. On this intriguing trip you will penetrate deep into rural Bolivia to discover the isolated churches and the modest but amiable little towns and villages in which they are found. Be among the first to discover this magic.

Day 1: Depart from Santa Cruz in a private vehicle with driver and English-speaking guide heading through fields of cattle, sunflowers and small immigrant and river -fishing communities, arriving at the tranquil little town San Javier, where a cluster of adobe houses surrounds a broad leafy plaza dominated by the  pitched-roof wooden mission church, decorated with graceful frescoes. Continue through undulating cattle country to the larger town Concepción, whose church is more ornate, featuring abundant gold and silver leaf. Dinner and overnight in a colonial-style hotel.

Day 2: Visit the church, the two  museums and the town before continuing  via a visit to an enterprising weaving community to San Ignacio, where the church is equally ornate but contrasts with Concepción’s.  Wildlife such as caimans and parakeets can be observed in the low forest and wetlands either side of the dirt (currently being paved) road.   Dinner and overnight in the town.

Day 3:Following a remote,  little used country road, you visit three more villages each with its own distinctive church including San Raphael, with a carved pulpit representing Bolivian children being received by Christ and Santa Ana, the only one with an organ where Bach is played by a local man.  Arrive at San José, where the church is the only one built from brick and where frescoes narrate stories from the Spanish occupation. Dinner and overnight.

Day 4:  Return to Santa Cruz on the new, good paved road which leads to the Brazilian border.

4 days from £1,661pp