Río Mantaro Valley Villages
Two main road systems link Huancayo with the villages of the Río Mantaro Valley: izquierda is the east and derecha is the west side of the river, as you head into Huancayo from the north. It's best to confine your sightseeing on any given day to one side or the other, as few bridges link the two sides.
Perhaps the most interesting excursion on the east side is a visit to the twin villages of Cochas Grande and Cochas Chico, about 11km from Huancayo. These villages are the major production centers for the incised gourds that have made the district famous.
On the west side, the town of Chupaca has an interesting livestock market. Starting early, you can visit and continue by bus to Ahuac, then hike or take a minibus a further 2km up to Laguna Ñahuimpuquio, which offers restaurants and boat rides. From the east shore a path climbs to a ridge for great valley views and Inca ruins.
While most trading is done in Huancayo, the villages are easily visited from the city. They have few facilities but there is no substitute for the experience of seeing the crafts in the villages themselves (plus the quality of the handicrafts is superior to what is available in Huancayo's markets). The key is an ability to speak some Spanish and make friends with the locals.