Eastern Bolivia is little visited by tourists but it is brimming with variety, vitality and living history. Prosperous Santa Cruz, the dynamic, rapidly expanding capital of the region, can seem a bit more like Brazil (just a few hours away by road) than the Bolivia of the altiplano. Riches have been accrued from oil, cattle farming, agriculture, logging and, historically drugs. You may see the wealthy élite's SUVs with darkened windows cruising round the sultry streets.
Outside the city, highlights are legion: the ecosystems of multi-altitude Amboró and Noel Kempff Mercado National Parks are among the most biodiverse on the planet. In the rugged hills, unspoilt, red-roofed Spanish colonial-style villages abound. The the Ruta del Che (Che Guevara Trail) takes you through wild mountain ranges and canyons to the places which feature in the narrative of the last days of the revolutionary's campaign.
Aside from Che's exploits, the region has been the theatre for other huge chapters of human drama, the vestiges of which remain. Wild tribes – fabled to have founded a sophisticated civilisation - repelled the conquistadores only to be subdued by Jesuit missionaries; there's a circuit of stupendously ornate restored Jesuit churches deep in the countryside. The rubber boom brought immense riches and sophisticated towns. Following the decline in the rubber industry abandoned missions, railways, mansions and mills lie alongside vast cattle ranches; but now eco-tourism has spurred a revival.