Imagine Disneyland but run by the Catholic Church: you’d no doubt get something very close to Tierra Santa.
This unique Buenos Aires theme park is based on the Bible, the life of Jesus and the city of Jerusalem.
For Christians, the park brings faith-affirming stories to life, like the scenes depicting Jesus’ crucifixion, while for non-Christians, the park represents novelty and a day of family fun.
Jesus "resurrects" every hour at Tierra Santa — Photo courtesy of Roberto Ettore
The park is nothing if not creative. From ticket sellers to entertainers to bathroom cleaners, all of the park’s staff are dressed up to get in on the act.
You will see costumed Romans, friars, Arabs and others roaming around going about their jobs in this mini-city of fake palm trees, where fountains offer up water from water bearer statues and you can climb onto the backs of inanimate camels (or into a chariot) to get your picture taken.
As a miniature Jerusalem, there's lots to explore in the park, and you can see replicas of some of the city's major sights. One standout example is the "Wailing Wall," which, while a replica, is still moving to visit.
Like they do at the real one in Jerusalem, people write their prayers on small pieces of paper, fold them up and wedge them into the cracks of the wall. Here, you'll see hundreds of these folded-up little prayers.
Most famously, every hour a giant statue of Jesus “resurrects” from the mountain amid a series of hallelujahs. Other entertainment includes watching robotic productions of Jesus’ birth and the Last Supper, and live dance shows by fully-covered belly dancers.
There are also special shows, crafts and activities for little kids.
The park has three mini-houses of worship you can visit – a church, a synagogue and a mosque – as well as depictions of various saints, Franciscan caves and passages of Solomon’s wisdom.
There are also displays honoring Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and, perhaps most intriguing, Martin Luther (the guy who sparked the Protestant Reformation).
When you get hungry, head to one of the themed restaurants – Noah’s Ark, Door of Damascus or Tiberius – for Middle Eastern-inspired fare like shawarmas, Arab empanadas, pita sandwiches and baklava.
Otherwise, there's a stand where you can get theme park snacks like popcorn and cotton candy.
In the gift shops, you'll find souvenirs like Nativity sets, rosaries and belly dancing scarves, as well as dried fruits, hand fans and small knick-knacks that say “Tierra Santa.”
Sure, it's a bit kitschy. But, hands down, a visit to Tierra Santa is a fun and unique day out.