Taxi in Samaipata

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Expresso Samaipata. 03/333-5067.

Central Bolivia Tours

Recommended day trips in the department of Santa Cruz include the ancient site of Samaipata and Amboro National Park—both are close to the city itself and they can be combined. You can also stay overnight at Amboro and venture a bit deeper into this excellent park to see its cloud forests and birds. Noel Kempf Mercado Park, on the northeastern border with Brazil, offers a great opportunity to stay in real Amazon jungle, and has a good range of services for tourists. It's best to take five or six days for this and camp in the park. The Jesuit Missions are another highlight of this area, but their distance from the city of Santa Cruz means it's a good idea to have a few days free to visit the churches.

There are numerous tour operators for this area. When looking, make sure the agency you choose is legitimate and worth the money by checking with the municipal tourism authority (03/378-493) or the tourist office at the airport.

Tour Operators

Rosario Tours offers trips to all the main attractions of central Bolivia and has an excellent reputation. Arenales 193, Santa Cruz. 03/336-9656. www.rosariotours.com.

Forest Tours covers all the main destinations, but with a clear ecotourism focus. Cuellar, 22, between 24 de Septiembre and Libertad, Santa Cruz. 03/337-2042. www.forestbolivia.com.

Magri Turismo covers all of Bolivia and is a well-established company with offices in many cities. In Santa Cruz you will find them at. Guarnes, esq. Potosi, Santa Cruz. 03/334-5663. www.magriturismo.com.

Viru Viru Travel has a particularly good range of ecotourism tours for the national parks of Santa Cruz, and also covers the baroque music festival at the Jesuit Missions. Edificio Oriente, Local 1, Calle Chuquisaca esq. Ballivian, Santa Cruz. 03/336-4040. www.viruvirutravel.com.

Ruta Verde covers all the main tourist destinations in Bolivia, including the big-three national parks and a trip retracing Che Guevara's last steps. It's Dutch-run, and has a good reputation. Calle 21 de Mayo 318, Santa Cruz. 03/339–6470. www.rutaverdebolivia.com.

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