The Bolivian city of Santa Cruz is located in tropical lowlands just beyond the Andean foothills. Fifty years ago it was a backwater frontier town. When you check into a discount hotel in Santa Cruz today, you find yourself in a sprawling metropolis that rivals the capital, La Paz, in size and economic importance. Commodities such as oil, gas, cattle, and timber have vaulted Santa Cruz well beyond the confines of the colonial town that was founded in 1561. However, much of the city’s rich historical heritage can still be seen.
The Plaza 24 de Septiembre is the main square. Here you can see the Catedral San Lorenzo, which was constructed between 1860 and 1915. Its interior features beautifully hand-wrought colonial silver, and has a splendid Museum of Sacred Art. From the Cathedral Tower you get a wonderful view of the city. Among Santa Cruz’s other fascinating museums are the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Folklore Museum, and the Noel Kempff Mercado Museum of Natural History. The latter is especially popular with children, who can see everything from pickled snakes to assassin bugs. A very popular site is the Biocentro Guembe, a 46-acre resort that has an array of attractions. Its Butterfly Dome is said to be the world’s largest. There is also a lovely Orchid Park. This site is as popular with Bolivians as it is with foreign tourists, so it is a great place to meet the locals.
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