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Introducing South Central Bolivia & the Chaco

Famed for its dances, wines and an almost Mediterranean character, the isolated department of Tarija is a Bolivia that not many travelers know.

The culture here gravitates towards neighboring Argentina and dreams of being closer to faraway Andalucía. The references to the region’s resemblance to the south of Spain were started by Tarija’s founder, Luis de Fuentes, who was seemingly anxious to lend a bit of home to a foreign land. He thus named the river flowing past the city of Tarija the Guadalquivir (after Andalucía’s biggest river), and left the chapacos – as tarijeños (Tarija locals) are otherwise known – with a lilting dialect of European Spanish.

Tarija’s far eastern regions are full of petroleum-rich scrublands, backed by stark highlands and surrounded by the red earth of the Gran Chaco. This is where you’ll find Bolivia’s hottest town, Villamontes, and a series of savage and impenetrable reserves where wildlife abounds and few people dare to tread.