There is no shortage of unique attractions in New Mexico. It thoroughly deserves its nickname the Land of Enchantment, whether it’s the organic Native American pueblo architecture of Taos or the crystalline skies that seem freshly painted every hour. Soak in the ambiance, food and fun of Santa Fe and then hit the road to discover the rich Native American heritage here. Nature does its best to woo the soul at every bend, causing many visitors to seriously consider relocating.
New Mexico’s capital has been around for more than 400 years and oozes a heady mix of Spanish, Native American and Anglo heritage. The entire city is made of low-rise adobe buildings that seem fused with the high desert landscape. Browse for jewelry around the Plaza, wander Canyon Road and its world-class art galleries and eat as much Southwest cuisine as you can. There are downtown museums to educate you and the majestic Sangre de Cristo mountains looming overhead for outdoor recreation in every season.
Address: Northern New Mexico
The beautiful artist town of Taos is home to one of America’s coolest Native American settlements, the Taos Pueblo. Anchoring the heart and soul of this unique town, around 200 native Tiwa people still live in the stunning adobe structure that has been continually inhabited for over 1,000 years. It looks much as it did in 1540 when the first Spanish explorers made their way north. Try to visit on a ceremony day, when dancers spin and twirl around the plaza. Visitors are allowed to see many parts of the pueblo, except the sacred kivas, enjoy tasty Indian food like fry bread and shop for locally-made crafts.
Address: 120 Veterans Highway, Taos, NM 87571
New Mexico’s largest city pales in comparison to Santa Fe, an hour’s drive north, but it certainly has its notable attractions which are worth seeing. At the top of that list is Albuquerque’s Old Town, a 300-year old maze of cobblestone lanes, adobe buildings, artist’s shops, and restaurants. Experience the riverside environment of the mighty Rio Grande at the Albuquerque Biological Park or hop in the Sandia Peak Tramway for a ride to the summit that overlooks the city. The views from the top are sublime, especially at sunset. Visit in early October for the world's biggest hot air balloon festival.
Address: Central New Mexico
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
This spectacular network of 117 caves creates one of the world’s largest cavern systems, although only two are open to the public, Carlsbad Cavern and Slaughter Canyon Cave. The easiest way to see the caves is to take the elevator 750 feet down to the 14-acre Big Room for a self-guided tour. More rewarding though is to enter the cavern at ground level and take the traditional explorer route down. Special ranger tours are also available to take you to the deepest accessible trenches for an extra fee. Guided tours of other caves are available from the visitor center, and the mass bat exodus at sunset nightly in the summer is a marvel of nature.
Address: 727 Carlsbad Cavern Highway, Carlsbad, NM 88220
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
They have been abandoned for more than 700 years, but you wouldn’t know it looking at this ancient Native American city built into the side of a massive cliff outside of Silver City. A reasonable one-mile walk takes you back in time through a canyon where six caves are punched into the cliff wall. Climb the ladders to explore the 42 tiny rooms where hundreds of people once lived, worked and cooked for a period in the late 1200s.
Address: 44 New Mexico Highway 15, Silver City, NM 88061
If you have any interest or belief in UFOs, extraterrestrial beings or conspiracies, you may want to consider tacking the town of Roswell onto your itinerary. This is the site of the infamous US Air Force base where a UFO supposedly crashed in the 1940s, covered up by the US government. Today, Roswell is a pilgrimage site for space enthusiasts, and a real quirky town overall. In the right frame of mind, this place is a lot of fun, and the surrounding region has some excellent sites like Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge for birding and Fort Sumner, where Billy the Kid was shot.
Address: Southern New Mexico
High Road to Taos
Driving is the only way to really get out and experience the timeless quality of New Mexico, and the High Road to Taos packs a lot of highlights into a one-day drive. Starting at Sante Fe, this incredibly scenic, rural drive passes through old towns like Chimayo with its amazing Santuario de Chimayo and Cordova with its famous wood carvers. The drive ends in Taos, a gem of a town in itself, passing through orchards, red rock desert and the foothills of 13,000-foot mountains along the way.
Address: Northern New Mexico