A week after my fingertips began to feel the effects of the high altitude on my trip through the Bolivian Altiplano, I finally touched down in semi-tropical Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Elev: 416 m or 1,365 ft).
My flight from Sucre arrived at the smaller, older El Trompillo Airport which just so happened to be closer to the city center where I would be staying. Later, I would fly to La Paz from Bolivia’s most modern airport, Viru Viru International Airport.
The city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra (also known simply as Santa Cruz) is organized in concentric rings, with the historic center located smack dab in the middle.
Plaza 24 de Septiembre is at the heart of the historic center, and was named after the anniversary of an uprising that lead to the city’s independence from Spain.
It was here I spent five days relaxing at an altitude as close to sea level as you’ll find in Bolivia. The oxygen-rich air aided in the healing of my fingertips, which slowly began to return to normal (despite going through a waxy-feeling phase).
Plaza 24 de Septiembre quickly became one of my favorite plazas in all Latin America, not only on account of its size and tree cover, but also the wonderfully restored buildings that surrounded it.
I passed the days by soaking up sunshine while going for walks, and sampling traditional Bolivian snacks like cuñapé (delicious yuca and cheese bread).
If I hadn’t been in a rush to get back to Lima for my first trip to the Amazon, I would’ve stayed longer in order to explore two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the region, the Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos and Fuerte de Samaipata.