The further you go to the South/East of Bolivia, the less tourists you’ll find. Both Samaipata and Santa Cruz are a bit off the beaten path. Samaipata is a hippy town that got known over the years due to the fact that a couple of Europeans and Americans decided to spend the rest of their days there, opening up some hostels and café’s. The town is cute and the atmosphere very relaxing. The town itself isn’t the highlight though, the nature around it is. There are beautiful waterfalls and natural pools to swim in, one of the largest Bolivian Inca ruins (Fuerte de Samaipata), and parks to get lost in.
It is pretty easy to visit Samaipata from Santa Cruz, but if you do it from Cochabamba (like us) then prepare yourself for an insane 12 hours overnight bus ride in one of the oldest buses we have ever seen. We did countless of bus rides in South America, but that one was one of a kind. The road was extremely old, the bus driver probably drunk and our seat neighbor definitely drunk. Saving you more details….let’s call it an adventurous ride, without sleep.
Santa Cruz de la Sierra is located further South, roughly a 2-3 hours drive away from Samaipata. It is actually the biggest city in Bolivia with a higher population than La Paz. We are pretty sure that you can do some excursions into the rainforest departing from Santa Cruz, but we only stayed for one and a half days, which was barely enough to get to know the city itself. The historical center is quite small, but the central square is a beautiful sight. The rest that we saw of the city was very busy, noisy and messy. Impressive was the central market, not only because of it’s huge size, but also because there was a whole floor of vegetarian food restaurants offering amazing lunch for 1-2€. Having various Vegetarian options won’t sound that impressive to the regular European or American, but it was the first and only time we saw such a wide selection for Vegetarians in South America. Besides that we are not sure whether to recommend visiting Santa Cruz or not. We would not really call it a beautiful city, but there is for sure more to explore. We simply didn’t have the time, as we had a bus to catch (long ride back to Peru).