Away from the tourist foot traffic, the lovely San Blas neighborhood of Cusco is a haven for locals artisans, weavers, sculptors, and potters as well as travelers looking for the city’s bohemian side. In recent years, small cafés, art galleries, boutiques, and yoga studios have set up shop along its hilly cobblestone streets and alleyways.
San Blas—also known as the Balcony of Cusco, for its stunning city views—is filled with talented people busy creating beautiful creations, and visitors are welcome to pop in and watch them at work. At Plaza San Blas, step into Cusco’s oldest parish church, the jewel box–sized Iglesia San Blas, which was built in 1544 over an old Inca temple dedicated to Illapa, the god of thunder and lightning. Go inside and see its famous golden altar and pulpit.
There are have many ways to explore San Blas as part of a larger half-day, full-day, group, or private tour that incorporates Cusco’s historic center, or multi-day tours that include visits to Lake Humantay, Machu Picchu, and other key attractions inside the breathtaking Sacred Valley of the Incas. Cyclists may opt to explore Cusco as part of an extended mountain bike trek. Many tours include a guide and round-trip transport but not food or drink; check specific tours for details.
Things to Know Before You Go
- San Blas is ideal for art and culture lovers, and anyone looking for a more mellow corner of Cusco.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes, as the streets are uneven and, in some places, very steep.
- Remember to drink water and keep hydrated, which helps acclimate to the altitude.
- Many tours are not accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
San Blas is tucked away in the hills above Cusco’s historic center. From the northwestern corner of Plaza de Armas, walk up the streets until the top of the hill to Plaza San Blas. Any of the little streets will reach San Blas. Alternatively, take a taxi to the neighborhood; there is no public transportation.
When to Get There
The district of San Blas is a wonderful spot to stay or to visit, day or night. Nighttime holds a special magic, as the narrow streets are illuminated; eateries and cafés are open for quiet leisurely dinners and drinks; and artisans are always working, many with their doors open. Cusco overall is enchanting any time of the year; for the best weather, visit between June and mid-September.
Walk Like an Inca
While there is more than one way to reach San Blas, there is not a more beautiful route than by the ancient Inca road, the Hatunrumiyoc, which in Quechua means simply “great stone street.” Along the way, look for the famous 12-angled stone set into the wall just outside the Archbishop’s Palace; it’s one of the oldest surviving walls in the city. This mysterious multifaceted stone block is officially categorized as a Cultural Heritage of the Nation of Peru object.