Want to take a trip 2,000 years into the past and visit Jerusalem in the capital of Argentina? Head to Tierra Santa. Located in Buenos Aires, Tierra Santa is Latin America’s first (and only) religious theme park. Intrigued, I explored this somewhat wacky but ultimately fun theme park in Argentina. In this guide, take a look inside Tierra Santa, explore the key attractions and find visitor information.
What is Tierra Santa?
Tierra Santa (meaning Holy Land in Spanish) is a large park in Buenos Aires that recreates Jerusalem at the time of Christ. There are around 40 buildings, activities and performances to explore. From a recreation of the Creation complete with strobes and a moving gorilla, to the Nativity, Last Supper, the Crucifixion and Resurrection, Tierra Santa is packed with religious re-enactments and performances.
Religious theme park or cultural centre?
It’s important to point out that Tierra Santa is a serious place. Despite being dubbed a religious theme park, which suggests fun fair rides, dramatisation and perhaps a bit of mockery, Tierra Santa is no Disneyland. It brings together the stories and history of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Intended as a cultural experience and educational park, it’s popular as much with the religious community as nosey tourists (like me). This hit home when I saw a group of nun’s having a great day out.
Still, without a religious bone in my body, and being respectful of devout people, I was able to enjoy the grandeur of Tierra Santa. And it is grand on a large scale.
There are many small sights to see but the big hitters are the animatronics, light and sound displays. Listed in a broad historical timeline, the main attractions are:
Step back into the Old Testament story of The Creation with this moving light and music show that is a wonderful dramatisation of the creation of Earth including night and day. See Adam and Eve together with their wild animals in the jungles of Earth when it (allegedly) first began.
Claiming to be the largest Nativity scene in the world, The Manager is another light and sound show featuring hundreds of characters.
The Last Supper
The Last Supper is another animatronic mechanical performance with moving characters all recreating Jesus’ last supper.
The Trial of Jesus
Faithfully depicting the trial of Jesus and his imprisonment, there is a prison cell with Jesus after his arrest.
Of course, you can’t have the showcase Resurrection without depicting the Crucifixion. Thankfully, this was a static exhibit. Though still pretty graphic if you ask me.
The highlight of Tierra Santa is by far the Resurrection where an 18 metre (59 feet) animatronic Jesus rises into the sky, opens his eyes and turns his palms towards his onlookers below. Religious or not, it’s an awesome sight to behold. The Crucification runs every hour and is best seen after dark (though not the best time for taking pictures so you have my daylight picture instead).
The Wailing Wall (The Western Wall)
Stand next to a re-creation of Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall.
Around the park
There are plenty of photo opportunities around the park.
Sit on a camel or crouch around a campfire.
No, I couldn’t quite fathom where Gandhi fit into the story of Christ but there he is. There is even a Roman temple.
The whole park is child-friendly but there are specific performances for children as well as Jospeh’s carpentry workshop and an Ark.
Food and Facilities
One of the highlights was the choice of restaurants at Tierra Santa, catering both Armenian and Arabic foods. After months in Latin America and a diet of chicken, rice and beans, it was an utter delight to dine on some Middle Eastern cuisine. Sure, the service was the usual slow pace you find in South America but the Arabic food I ate at Damascus Gate (La Puerta de Damasco) made it all worthwhile.
There are also plenty of craft and souvenir stalls as well as the usual facilities like toilets and an information centre.
Is it worth visiting?
Despite not being religious, the day was a wonderfully, if not truly odd and slightly crazy experience that I’d recommend to anyone. Of course, there are bigger attractions in Buenos Aires but if you have time or want to see something a bit quirky, put Tierra Santa on your list.
To quote the Lonely Planet guide: “Tierra Santa is a magnificent blend of tacky kitsch and religion rolled into one. Many devoted Argentinians take it seriously and are visibly moved when the oversized Jesus gazes upon them.” (The presence of the happy, real nuns above goes to prove it – apologies for the blurry pic, those ladies can move!).
How to get there
Tierra Santa is located 11 km / 7 miles north of Buenos Aires microcentro (centre) in the Palermo district. It’s a 15 to 20-minute journey from the centre by car or taxi. By bus, there is no direct route from the centre. You’ll have to connect at least two buses and the journey takes around 1 hr.
Opening times and tickets
The park is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday in summer.
It’s an evening activity with opening hours from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Tickets cost 10,000 Argentinian Pesos for tourists (around $13). Car parking is 4,000 Argentinian Pesos (around $5).
You have to buy tickets in person on the day at the ticket office which is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. You can’t buy them in advance or online but don’t worry, they don’t sell out.
You can find full details at Tierra Santa.
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