The central altiplano’s megametropolis, bustling Huancayo mixes its modern facade with a strong underlying sense of tradition. For many travelers this self-confident, cosmopolitan city will be their first experience of the Peruvian highlands – it stands within a lush, visually arresting valley on an exciting overland mountain route to Cuzco – and while its charms are less obvious than those of other Andean locales, Huancayo does not disappoint.
Some of Peru’s finest dining outside of Lima and Cuzco lies within the teeming streets, yet once you’ve sipped your espresso and sampled the region’s renowned cuisine in well-appointed restaurants, prepare yourself for Peru’s most interesting handicrafts – sold in the markets here and in the valley beyond – and vibrant and varied fiestas that take place almost daily.
There are, too, opportunities to learn Spanish or Quechua, to master musical instruments or to dabble in Andean cooking. For the adventurous, the dusty nearby hills hide weird rock formations and spectacular lakes while further afield, Andes trekking, extreme mountain biking and jungle tramping await. To top it all, Huancayo is the terminus for two of Peru’s (and South America’s) best railway journeys, including the world’s second-highest railway over the Andes to/from Lima.