Horse riding group tour in the Andes, along Inca paths staying at haciendas.

This horse ride takes us through breathtaking scenery of Ecuador’s Valley of Volcanoes.

Our well-kept horses will be your companions as we travel along ancient Inca Highways and skirt the towering, snow-capped peaks of Cayambe and Cotopaxi.

More on horse riding tours, Ecuador

The pace is also varied, from steadily crossing wetlands to cantering across the vast plains of the altiplano.

You can canter through mazes of patchwork fields as we experience the diverse highland landscapes, flora and fauna, and indigenous communities of this fascinating, compact Andean country.

This is horse riding in two stunningly beautiful, yet very distinct areas of the Andean highlands.

Breath-taking views as we cross vast plains and ride through pastoral valleys in a fascinating region dramatically sculptured by both glacial and volcanic activity.


Trip Highlights

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  • Beautifully kept horses are your companions in the Ecuadorian highlands.

  • Wonderful, exclusive accommodation in some of Ecuador's most stunning and remote areas.

  • Expert, bilingual rider leads the trip, with at least one skilled, local horseman alongside.

  • Variety of terrains to make the riding interesting at all times.

It was all a highlight really!

The riding week was fantastic in terms of the setting / organisation/ quality of leadership / quality of horses and group."

R. Balen, Riding in Ecuador


Full Itinerary

Day 1: Introductory ride. Otavalo market, hacienda (L,D)

We drive through an arid valley with avocado orchards then into Imbabura province ‘the land of the lakes’.Visit to the famous Otavalo market on this the busiest day of the week. As well as the bustling craft market and stalls with exotic fruit, there is a food section where the locals – dressed in their very distinctive traditional costume – come down from their tiny farms in the mountains to sell their farm produce and buy their weekly supplies.

Then a short drive to a hacienda frequented by the great South American liberator, Simon Bolivar.

Members of the charming family (horse fanatics themselves!) that have owned the hacienda for several centuries greet us warmly. With its courtyards, ornate fountains, terraces and gardens graced with citrus, palm and monkey puzzle trees it is an ideal location to leisurely drift into the relaxing Andean surroundings.

Introductory ride (3-4hrs) along the tracks and through the tiny fields on the slopes of the Imbabura Volcano. We often see the very friendly but dignified locals in their immaculate traditional dress working in the fields using hand tools or cattle to work the land. These tiny fields are surrounded by stone walls and earth banks topped with sisal plants and an array of wild flowers.

Guests first try their horses in an enclosed area before we ride out and the guides and grooms are always at hand to help. After a welcome drink in the cozy bar accompanied by the music of an excellent Andean band and a delicious, traditional dinner (a la carte) overnight at this 18th century hacienda, fireplaces in most rooms.

Day 2: Ride through highlands to Hacienda Cuson (B,L,D)

We leave this historic hacienda – once a very important weaving centre, on horseback and ride on (5 hours) to another colonial hacienda built in 1602.

We ride past tiny hamlets of adobe huts, through woodlands, cross rocky gorges and wind our way around the patchwork fields of quinoa, potatoes, maize and tree tomato orchards.

Magnificent views of the San Pablo lake and the jagged Mojanda summit as we ride across the slopes of the sacred Imbabura Volcano (extinct) – the focus of many Inca legends. As well as seeing a great variety of exotic Andean fruits and other crops, we meet the locals in vibrant traditional dress going about their daily tasks, the children shepherding the unruly pigs and sheep – trying to keep them off the crops.

Late PM: wander through the beautiful flowering gardens admiring the avocado trees, bromeliads, orchids and kitchen garden with passion fruit, tree tomato and a host of other interesting plants.

Optional visit: drive through small villages with thriving cottage industries, to visit a family of local weavers. This family still produces exceptionally fine, unique rugs using the ancient pre-Inca backstrap loom that most weavers have abandoned in favour of more modern looms. The wool is still dyed using plants and then hand spun as the family sticks rigidly to the traditional weaving processes.

Overnight at this early 17th Century (1602) hacienda adorned with local crafts and antiques. Fireplaces in most rooms.

Dinner with fresh ingredients straight from the kitchen garden (a la carte).

Day 3: Ride to Hacienda Merced (B,L,D)

A stunning ride into the beautiful pastoral Zuleta Valley (6-7hrs). Along country lanes then through eucalyptus forests, we rise out of San Pablo Valley enjoying wonderful views across the lake and also of Imbabura volcano, riding onto the plains beyond for some fast-pace riding. Views of Zuleta valley, the verdant gorges and the ‘paramo’ (the unique Andean habitat of high grasslands) as we pass dewponds and hedges of aloe vera and spikey agave (sisal) atop mud walls.

Following sandy tracks, we then descend into the Zuleta valley with dramatic views across to the hanging valleys and rocky ridges above. With views of the ancient tumili and earth pyramids erected by the pre-Inca population we ride on to a working farm in the middle of this tranquil valley seldom visited by tourists. A chance of seeing the mighty Andean Condor as well as other species such as hummingbirds and bright scarlet flycatchers.

Andalusian horses, fighting bulls and a dairy herd are among the farm inhabitants.

PM: Guests can walk into the tiny village and see examples of the hand embroidery that has made the valley famous and also enjoy exploring and observing the activities on the working farm.

Overnight at the Hacienda. Fireplaces in most rooms.

Day 4: Ride through Cayamba valley to Hacienda La Cienega (B,L,D)

A chance to get to know about the Andalucian breed, the farm owners will chat with you about their champion horses. We then ride out into another section of the farm along grass tracks, soon gaining height, leaving the valley floor there are spectacular views: north down the zuleta valley to three peaks on the horizon, in Columbia and west across the array of patchwork fields every imaginable shade of green to Imbabura peak. Here, condors are seen close up more and more frequently.

Then leaving the farm we ride up out of the valley through a large eucalyptus forest. A different experience to the previous rides – cantering along the shady tracks between the rows of tall eucalyptus. We often meet the locals with small herds of sheep, goats, pigs and cattle.

Emerging from the forest onto the plains, snow-capped Cayambe comes into view. We ride onto the Pesillo plains and arriving in the Cayambe Valley dominated by this Volcano, which straddles the Equator Line we leave the horses at a typical village square complete with ornate gardens, church and school.

A short drive brings us to a beautiful old hacienda for a delicious home cooked 3-course lunch traditional dishes. The hacienda, as well as the fine furniture is packed with arrangements of fresh roses – 1000s of roses: we also visit a nearby rose plantation.

We then cross the Equator Line, and travel (3hrs), bypassing Quito, and continue on by vehicle to a very ornate and historically important 17th Century hacienda.

Arriving by way of a very impressive avenue of eucalyptus trees, the portico of the magnificent hacienda where we spend the night leads us into a building that holds a very special place in history: the scene of several independence battles and used as a base by many early explorers and scientists such as Condamine and von Humboldt during their expeditions to the ‘new world’.

Our hacienda tonight has a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, Turkish bath and the possibility of massages (extra charge for massages).

Overnight at the Hacienda (dinner a la carte).

Day 5: Cotopaxi ride, to Hacienda Los Mortinos (B,L,D)

The day can start with an early morning shop – the hacienda has an excellent shop providing another opportunity to purchase the lovely local crafts.

A short drive to the main Cotopaxi national park entrance where we meet the horses, on the way, guests visit the fascinating Agustin hacienda built on an Inca site. Fine examples of Inca stonework – including complete walls, are on view.

A spectacular ride awaits (6-7hrs), up into the National Park to canter across the wide, barren plains at the base of the Cotopaxi Volcano (the highest active volcano in the world). Several herds of wild horses inhabit the park and to ride along side these long-maned horses galloping freely across the rugged terrain is an exhilarating experience. Part of this ride follows the main Inca highway which linked Quito with Cusco, Peru.

The ground is covered with tiny pumice stones and lichen on this arid plain created by lava and ash from the mighty Cotopaxi volcano. Passing a shallow lake on the high plains we then ride across a very surprising ‘luna landscape’ – huge boulders and hard baked ocre-coloured mud and onto rolling grassy hills for some more fast paced riding.  We arrive at a ‘hosteria’ in an absolutely stunning location – mid-point between four volcanoes – for an overnight stay.

Note: The accommodation on day 5 will be at a new Hacienda or a Mountain Inn. The decision will be based on the number of participants (one has too few rooms for larger groups). Both lodgings are situated in idyllic locations with stunning views, cosy rooms and excellent food.

Day 6: Cotopaxi National Park to Jesuit Hacienda (B,L,D)

A day riding in the wild open expanses of the Andean highlands enjoying the open terrain, no sign of habitation and spectacular views of the close by Cotopaxi snow-capped volcano.

We ride into Cotopaxi national park to canter across the wide, barren plains at the base of the Cotopaxi Volcano. Several herds of wild horses inhabit the park and to ride along side these long-maned horses galloping freely across the rugged terrain is an unique experience.

Part of this ride follows the main Inca highway which linked Quito with Cusco, Peru as well as the Inca route leading down to the Amazon. We ride to the old Inca fort that guarded this supply route. The ground is covered with tiny pumice stones and lichen on this arid plain created by lava and ash from Cotopaxi volcano.

We then ride across a very surprising ‘luna landscape’ – huge boulders and hard baked ocre-coloured mud, between fascinating glacial and volcanic features and onto rolling grassy hills for more fast paced riding.

After a picnic lunch amidst this stunning scenery, we ride out of the national park to a recently converted old Jesuit Hacienda seeped in history and now a very comfortable highland hacienda.

Day 7: Valley descent. Return to Quito (B,L)

Guests ride out of the lodge along dirt tracks, ford a river and head down a very scenic valley northwards towards civilisation and Quito (5-6hrs).

We pass polylepis trees (‘paperbark trees’) and alisos and other native trees & plants as we cross wooden bridges, ride through streams and along sandy tracks. A chance of some final canters across the pastures, avoiding encounters with the fighting bulls.

We often meet the local horsemen (Chagras) checking the cattle and have also frequently seen Andean Condors on this route as well as eagles, hawks, kestrel, fox and deer.

Descending into the valley along a lane bordered with native trees & shrubs humming birds, finches, flycatchers and many other bird species flit tree to tree in front of us. Meeting the cobbled roads guests say goodbye to the horses and are driven back into Quito (75 minutes).

On the way to the hotel we will take a quick detour through Colonial Quito. Overnight in a comfortable hotel in Quito.

Note: Weather conditions may mean a lower valley route is taken, with fast paced riding across huge fields then descending along dirt and cobbled tracks.

Day 8: Depart Quito (B)

Following breakfast, guests are accompanied to the airport in time for their outward flights, or are picked up at their hotel to continue on extensions.

Prices From $4,175 / £3,540 per person

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What's Included?

Horse (spare horses taken), guide and grooms, 3 meals per day, snacks and water on rides, 7 nights accommodation, national park/private reserves etc. entrance fees, transport to and from Quito, transport of bags between lodgings and all local taxes. Saddlebags and poncho for each guest.

What's Not Included?

Tips and personal expenditure such as bar bills, flights (we can look for these), insurance, personal items, flights, Quito arrival services and hotel (we can arrange these), alcoholic or soft drinks


Haciendas and hotels, 3* standard with private bathrooms.

Haciendas are often working farms with accommodation.

Tour Staff

Guests are always accompanied by a guide (bilingual: English/Spanish) who has many years experience of riding.

In addition, at least one ‘groom’ is present – a usually a skilled local horseman.

Both guides and grooms have excellent local knowledge and are good riders. There is also additional ground staff.

Professional guides speaking other languages are available on prior request.


We can cater for almost all dietary requirements – please contact us for more.

Whether staying in a hacienda, estancia, hostal or country ranch, the food is excellent, filling and not overly spiced.

Dishes are a mixture of international and local, some meals ‘a la carte’, sometimes set menus.

Delicious tropical fruit such as papaya, mango and custard apple are often on offer in Ecuador as well as hearty highland soups made with prime local ingredients including beans, pulses and vegetables.

If picnic lunches are served, they never consist of just a sandwich – fruits, salads and more where possible.

As well as lunch, variety of snacks and also bottled water all provided each day.

Activity Level

Riding level for this is intermediate and above, meaning you need to be confident cantering and riding in open spaces, at speed.

Enjoyment from the rides can be greatly increased if you are physically fit and your riding muscles are toned. Guests are welcome to arrive before the start of a set date departure tour in order to do an extra ride with the guide to ‘de-rust’.

You can request instruction if you wish and for private groups can have a riding lesson at the farm on day 1 prior to the riding out or have more formal lessons prior to day 1 (prior notice needed).

Enquire about booking

Practical Information

Introduction to Ecuador

Ecuador is the second smallest South American country, and one of the most varied.

It comprises three main geographical areas: the coast, highlands and Amazon plus is home to the Galapagos Islands.

Because of its relatively compact size, it makes a great holiday destination as you can move from highlight to highlight fairly easily and rapidly.

Geography of Ecuador

Landscapes vary from the drier south to the more humid north.

The Highlands, or sierra, encompass two Andean Cordilleras (the Central and Western), which run north to south through the country. Ecuador’s largest volcano is Chimborazo (6,310m) whose summit, because of its proximity to the equator, is the closest point on earth to the sun. Several of Ecuador’s volcanoes are still active, and it’s a great area for trekking.

Descending the steep, east-facing slopes of the eastern Cordillera, one passes through a transition zone comprising dense cloud forest and humid high jungle, before entering the Amazon lowlands.

This mainly primary rainforest covers a third of the country, accounts for 5% of the population and stretches across Ecuador, from its Colombian to its Peruvian borders.

The Galapagos Islands are simply unique. Lying 600 miles off the mainland, the archipelago comprises the summits of gigantic equatorial volcanoes.

The flora and fauna of the Galapagos, long separated from their continental cousins, have evolved differently. Charles Darwin used his observations there to develop his theory of Evolution.

Weather in Ecuador

Ecuador lies between latitudes 4º south and 2º north. Overall, climate varies according to time of year, altitude and region.


The Sierra 

In the Ecuadorian highlands, there is little temperature variation by season as temperature depends largely on altitude.

In Quito, shade temperatures range from 6 to 10ºC in the morning and from 19 to 23ºC in the afternoon, with cool nights. In the lower basins between mountains, it gets significantly warmer.

Rainfall depends on whether an area lies closer to the eastern or western Andes. To the west, June-Sept is the dry period and Oct-May the wet (with often a short, dry spell in Dec or Jan).

The best period to visit Quito and trek and climb volcanoes such as Cotopaxi is the west Andean dry season of June-Sept and Dec/Jan. This is also Ecuador’s high season. During the Oct-May wet season, most rainfall is in the afternoons.

To the east, Oct to Feb are dry and Mar-Sept are wet. Overall, the southern highlands are drier than the northern highlands.


The Coast

On the Pacific coast, rainfall becomes less from north to south. The coast can be enjoyed year-round, although from June-Sept mornings are often grey with the garua mists.

Jan-May is the hottest and rainiest time of year.


The Amazon

In Ecuador’s Amazonian region, rain can fall at any time, but Dec-March is usually the driest season and Mar-Sept is usually the wettest period.


The Galapagos Islands

Galapagos can be visited at any time of year.

The warm season is Jan-Jun, bringing calm, warm waters (around 70°F) and sunny days (72-9°F or 22-32°C), February and March being the hottest and sunniest months with blue skies and sunshine.

The islands receive slightly more rainfall during these months, occasional heavy bursts in the afternoon. Great for snorkelling and you can spend a lot of time in the water without wetsuits, with great, clear waters.

The dry ‘garua’ season is Jun-Dec an it’s a great time for marine life. August and September are the coolest when you may need a jacket in the evenings and the sea can be choppy and temperature drops around 15-24ºC on average.

There can be mist on the islands in the mornings (garua) which usually burns off by midday leaving overcast skies or a sunny afternoon.

Sea temperatures may drop to 60°F- 72°F (15-22°C) during this time and snorkellers will want a wet suit for prolonged periods in the sea.


Kit list

Good kit is vital for every trip.

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Guests are kindly requested on all rides/treks to take a minimum of personal belongings with them. Vehicles bring on guests’ belongings to each nights’ lodgings. Luggage storage can be organised in Quito during the ride/trek.

Please note some trips involve overnights at high altitudes where temperatures sometimes fall below freezing. Please do bring clothing for COLD weather (riding and for evenings).

Contact lenses and glasses

The rides can be dusty at times and the air is very dry therefore contact lenses can irritate. Guests have experienced problems with contact lenses. We suggest bringing a pair of glasses to replace lenses if necessary.

Guests are strongly advised to bring and use their own riding helmets.

Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.

Below is a more detailed kit list.


Equipment provided for the riding tours:

  • Saddlebags
  • Rain ponchos
  • Half chaps (a few pairs are available on prior request.)
  • Water bottles
  • Bed linen & towels
  • All bed linen and towels will be provided at the haciendas/hotels tours.


Clothing, equipment & personal effects:

Riding in the highlands:

Multiple thin layers of clothing are recommended for the changes in temperature.  The Ecuadorian Highlands are famous for ‘all four seasons in one day!’


  • Insect repellent.
  • Towel & wash-kit.
  • Wet Wipes/antiseptic hand-wash cream.
  • Toilet paper (1)
  • Sunscreen (factor 30+) and lip salve.
  • Head-lamp (plus spare bulb and batteries).
  • Penknife.
  • Travel alarm clock.
  • Binoculars.
  • Swimming costume
  • Plastic bags – ‘Zip-loc’ & tough bin liners.
  • Camera and film / memory cards (take at least twice the amount you think you will need!).
  • Camera and phone chargers.
  • Book, e-book, mp3 player/ipod or other for free time.
  • Spanish/English phrasebook.
  • Extra snacks i.e. cereal bars or favourite chocolate bars.
  • High quality sunglasses with protective lenses – NOT fashion glasses
  • Travel adaptor



Multiple thin layers of clothing are recommended for the changes in temperature.

  • Stretch trousers/jodhpurs (we advise against denim jeans/baggy trousers. Lightweight jodhpurs).
  • Riding chaps – full or half length.
  • Thin ‘long johns’/stockings/stretch lycra-style cycling shorts are useful under trousers/jodhpurs.
  • Thermal underwear (if you feel the cold).
  • Woollen & cotton scarf.
  • Fleece jacket & wool jumper.
  • Warm waterproof jacket (suitable for cold evening temperatures & occasional rain/high winds when riding).
  • Long sleeved cotton shirts and T-shirt.
  • Solo neck jumpers (cotton and/or wool).
  • Strong boots (hiking boots/riding boots with rubber soles – you may have to walk on rough terrain).
  • Trainers/canvas shoes/deck shoes (for evenings & market visits – comfortable, low/no heels).
  • Riding gloves.
  • Wide brimmed hat (‘Stetson’ / Panama/ safari style). Panama hats can be purchased in Ecuador.
  • Day pack.
  • Evening wear (trousers, shirt and sweater for the hotels, no formal wear necessary, except for special occasions).


Miscellaneous others

  • Money belt.
  • Passport (original) + a good quality photocopy.
  • U.S. dollars cash, mixed-denomination notes, undamaged and unmarked.
  • ATM cash/credit card.
  • Any inoculation certificates.
  • Personal & medical insurance certificates.
  • Presents e.g. Postcards from home.
  • Comfortable clothes for travel, smart clothes for night life.

ATOL holiday protection

Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.

We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.

We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.

When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.

You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.


What is ATOL?

The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.

And  ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.


Who is covered?

To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).

If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.

If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.

Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.

For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.


I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?

If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.

We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.

If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.

You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.

Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest

Some 40% of Ecuador’s and is covered by Amazon rainforest.

As well as being rich in wild life, Ecuador’s rain forest is still home to a multitude of indigenous tribes, some of which have opened their communities to ecotourism.

A 4 or 5-day visit to one of the quality lodges will allow you to venture into beautiful primary forest.

Native guides lead you on verdant forest trails where you will see monkeys, tortoises, frogs and an array of birds including toucans and macaws.

Large mammals like jaguar, tapir and giant anteater have been spotted, but are elusive.

Ecuador’s Cloud Forest

Ecuador’s cloud forest covers its rolling hillsides as they descend from the high Andean plateaus into the rain forest or down to the Pacific coast.

Most of this tropical forest lies between 1,200-2,700m/3,937-8,858ft above sea level, an evergreen, lush and moist forest, teeming with bird  and insect life.

Much of the cloud forest is readily accessible from Quito making it perfect a 2 or 3-day stay.

There are many lodges with virgin forest, home to a dazzling variety of hummingbirds, refreshing waterfalls for swimming, zip lining and wildlife walks.

The humming birds, Cock of the Rock and the chance of spotting larger mammals such as the spectacled bears are just some of the attractions of spending some time in this amazing ecosystem.

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Cotopaxi National Park is dominated by the almost perfect cone shape of Cotopaxi (5,897m/19,347ft), an active volcano and the second highest mountain in Ecuador after Chimborazo.

The national park is well worth a visit for trekking in the foothills, climbing smaller peaks like Ruminahui, downhill mountain biking, horse riding or just enjoying the National Park itself.

The surrounding páramo is good for bird watching – you may see condors soaring above.

There are lots of lovely hacienda and mountain refugios to stay at in and around the park, and from which there are a variety of walks, horse rides and bike rides for all levels.


Ingapirca Ecuador

Ingapirca (meaning wall of the Inca) is just an hour from Cuenca and is the most important Inca archaeological site in Ecuador.

The site is in good condition and consists of a main elliptical building thought to be a sun temple, with typical Inca features such as trapezoidal doorways and niches.

There are Inca trails leading to and from the site, so you can visit on a day trip or incorporate a visit as part of a trekking itinerary.

You can travel here from Cuenca, or make it part of a trip from Baños to Cuenca.

Quito, Ecuador

Ecuador’s vibrant capital Quito sits in a stunning location, surrounded by snow capped volcanoes and many of the  high peaks of the Andean sierra.

There is plenty to do for visitors of all ages and interests. The old town of Quito is a UNESCO world heritage site, with many beautiful churches and colonial facades, a wonderful range of museums and picturesque squares.

For an over view of the city and along the Avenue of volcanoes to north and south and to help with acclimatising  try taking the Teleferico (cable car) up the eastern slope of Pichincha volcano.

At night Quito is a lively city. Head to the modern Mariscal area where tourists and locals alike find a great range of restaurants, bars and night clubs.

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