Travel Guide to Northern New Mexico
Northern New Mexico Highlights
The heart of this distinctive city is the historic downtown. Santa Fe is the nation’s second-oldest city, founded in 1609-1610, and unlike most modern American metropolises, there’s a grounded presence here, as if its roots were long established.
Native American ruins, etched in petroglyphs, are on its doorstep. old spanish pueblostyle houses and churches still standing. Everywhere you look, adobe buildings, reminiscent of the city’s Aboriginal heritage, soften the look – smooth, rounded edges, baked in warm earth tones to blend in with their surroundings. Climb one of the nearby peaks, look down and you’ll barely know Santa Fe is there.
Perhaps most striking of all, however, is the art. Creativity springs from every corner. There are more galleries per square mile than anywhere else on earth. It’s a place to wander around, slow down and absorb the colors in the air.
If Sante Fe is cultured and chic, then Taos is its slightly more raucous and bohemian cousin. Nestled at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, it began as an artists’ colony at the turn of the 20th century, the first of its kind in the American West. Attracted by the light and the mythical colors of this high desert, artists from all over the world have begun to settle there; in doing so, they put the city on the map.
The spirit of expression they brought survives today – Taos has dozens of galleries, festivals, music venues and more. But with these artists also came something special. The city has become a haven for alternative beliefs and centre-left lifestyles. It’s the kind of place where you can be whoever you want and create whatever you dream of. And people do.
But it’s also a place of adventure: 2,500 square kilometers of wild public land surround this mountain town. In winter, the skiing is among the best in the country. Rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking and rafting are on its doorstep – and it’s all bathed in over 300 days of sunshine a year.
New Mexico is home to the Jicarilla Apache Nation, Mescalero Apache Tribe, Fort Sill Apache Tribe, Navajo Nation, and 19 pueblos, or Native American settlements. These small villages are living communities. Visiting them is one of the most satisfying opportunities to learn about authentic Native American culture and history in the area, and the northern part of the state is home to eight of the finest examples.
Taos Pueblo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in North America with a history dating back over 1,000 years. It is almost entirely made of adobe, with many of the original buildings largely unchanged since their construction over 500 years ago. These striking multi-level homes have attracted painters and photographers since the turn of the 20th century, including the greats Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe.
The scenic Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, about 50 km north of Santa Fe, is a Tewa village and renowned for its skilled artisans, especially the potters and wood carvers that visitors can see at work. Many balls and festivals, open to the public, take place throughout the year. The stag dance, held in January or February to ensure prosperity in the coming year, is considered one of the liveliest and most spectacular.