The meandering Río Mantaro opens out on a wide, fertile agricultural plain southeast of Tarma, revealing a gentler side to the mostly rugged highlands: undulating pastoral panoramas, the sophisticated city of Huancayo and, dotted in-between, various villages internationally renowned for the quality of their handicrafts.
Festivals are a way of life here. Residents say that there is a festival occurring each day of the year, and chancing upon some colorful celebration is highly likely. Also colorful is the local legend holding that back in the mists of time, two huge snakes had a battle, with the loser falling to earth to form the Río Mantaro.
For those who still crave remoter adventures, there are high-altitude hikes and even kayaking opportunities right down the valley. From Huancayo, some classic Andean travel routes connect through the hard-going but delightfully scenic valleys south to Huancavelica, Ayacucho, Andahuaylas and eventually on to Cuzco.