Calling all music lovers; from Santa Cruz to the Chuiquitos Circuit by bus or train

If you are a lover of music and travel, if you are keen on getting to know those places still off the international tourist radar, then this post is for you. I’ll tell you all about the Chiquitos Circuit, the amazing music festival held there every two years, and how you can travel easily from Bolivia’s largest city, Santa Cruz, to the Chiquitos Circuit by bus or train.

The ancient Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos, towns founded between 1691 and 1767 in the territories of the chiquitano indigenous people, are some of the most important monuments of Bolivia´s cultural and historic heritage. It is not only the amazing churches that mix indigenous and European imagery, showing off the intricate artistry of indigenous hands, nor the joy of watching children play in an orchestra with instruments they made themselves, nor the lush green forest surroundings that make the Chiquitos Circuit a destination to discover.

chiquitos iglesa II
A church in the Chiquitos Circuit

It is also the fact that, during the process of restoration of the Jesuit temples in the 70s, an enormous musical treasure was discovered: more than 9,000 sheets of religious music written between the XVII and XVIII centuries, both by European and indigenous composers. 

This amazing discovery gave way to turning Chiquitos into the epicenter of the celebration of baroque music in South America, with the creation of the International Festival of Renaissance and Baroque Music “Misiones de Chiquitos”, which is organized by APAC and held in April  every two years since 1996. And you can attend the festival easily, by traveling from Santa Cruz to the Chiquitos Circuit by bus or train. 

afiche festival chiquitos
Poster for the festival held in 2018

For the international musicians of baroque music that come from all over the world to play at this festival, it is like going back in history in a cross-cultural experience. The music played is often arranged or composed by local indigenous musicians, a magical moment because of its cultural implications. Most of the concerts are held at no cost to the public and the the local communities participate actively in the Festival, as well as many music lovers who come just for the concerts. In fact, there are special tours offered for those who want to get to know the natural, cultural and historic richness of Bolivia and  experience a tour for people who don’t like tours.

The towns of Chuiquitos are very special. Founded between 1696 and 1760, most of the churches have their original structure and facades and the works of art inside made by European and indigenous artists. But it is not just the temples that live on; despite the expulsion of the Jesuits in the year 1767 and the passing of time, the teachings, language, religious and pagan customs, the temples and the music have been kept intact. Thus, the towns are not ruins or museums, but live communities with the inheritance of a rich, complex historic past and a thriving mestizo culture. 

chiquitos niños violín
Children musicians in Chiquitos

In 1990, UNESCO declared six missions of Chiquitos Cultural Heritage of Humanity, naming them “living towns” for the living and thriving customs that have been kept alive by their communities. These towns are:

But there are other mission towns that, despite not being named in UNESCO’s declaration, are part of the Chiquitos Circuit and also extraordinary destinations. These are:

There are two main ways to travel from Santa Cruz to the Chuiquitos Circuit, and here we tell you all about it.

mapa circuito de chiquitos
The Chiquitos Circuit

Santa Cruz to San Jose de Chiquitos by train

The trip from Santa Cruz to San Jose de Chiquitos by train lasts around 6 hours, covering a distance of 272 km. San Jose is the capital of the province of Chiquitos, and it was the third town founded as a ministry of the Jesuits on March 19th, 1697. This town is well-known for its church, built of stone in the 17th century.

To travel from Santa Cruz to San Jose de Chuiquitos by train, you take the train at the Station in Santa Cruz, located on Montes Av. Trains leave every day except on Saturdays. They arrive at the Train Station in San Jose, located on Gallardo Av. If you want to reserve the tickets and heck out times of departure and arrivals, click here: Santa Cruz to San Jose de Chiquitos by train

chiquitos catedral-concepcion
Traditional dancing at the church of Concepcion

Santa Cruz to San Ignacio de Velasco By bus

San Ignacio de Velasco is one of the largest towns in the Chiquitos Circuit, and it lies at a distance of 471 km from the city of Santa Cruz. Trip data:

The bus company Pionera Trans Bolivia offers USB chargers, coffee & water bar and Wi-Fi. If you want to check prices and availability, click here:  Santa Cruz to San Ignacio de Velasco by bus

San Ignacio de Velasco was founded in 1748 by Jesuit missions at the foot of beautiful mountains and close to the Paragua River. The town is strategically located, making it the receptive center for tours to the Missionary Triangle: San Miguel, San Rafael and Santa Ana de Velasco.

chiquitos niños musica
Children musicians in Chiquitos

We hope this information was useful and that you will plan your trip from Santa Cruz to Chiquitos by bus or train. If you are rather a nature lover than a megalomaniac, look out for our next blog, where we explain how to explore the Noel Kempf Mercado Park, one of the most remote and exotic national reservations, located at just 198 km from San Ignacio de Velasco. Cheers and good travels!







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