The best base for touring the Mantaro Valley  is Huancayo (3,240 meters), an unfortunate sprawl of cement buildings topped off by the exhaust of far too many old buses.
The city’s biggest attraction is the Sunday market, where fresh food is sold side by side with handicrafts. There are not many other sights, nor good lodging options, in the city itself—the best options are on the edge of town or in the nearby village of Concepción.
A new train service now cuts from Lima  up into the highlands to Huancayo. Ferrocarril Central Andina (Paicheta and Giraldez, Lima tel. 01/226-6363, www.ferroviasperu.com.pe ) operates a Sunday train that stops in all major tourist destinations. At 11 hours, the ride is a long one, but worth it for the scenic views and a once-in-a-life-time experience. The coaches connect to a bar and lookout deck and have tourist (US$80) and economy (US$46) seats.
There are lots of options for bus service to and from Huancayo. The best include Ormeño (Mariscal Castilla 1379, www.grupo-ormeno.com.pe ), which has Royal and normal class buses to Lima . Other options include Cruz del Sur (Ayacucho 281, tel. 064/22-3367, www.cruzdelsur.com.pe ); Mariscal Cáceres (Real 1247); and ETUCSA (Puno 220, tel. 064/22-6524).
With the Carretera Central running through Huancayo, finding transport around the Mantaro Valley  is easy. All transportation to the north (Hualhuas , San Jerónimo , Concepción, Jauja , Sicaya) passes the corner of Giráldez and Huancas. Transportation to the south passes the nearby corner of Ferrocarril and Giráldez.