Guest writers Nathan and Shelby share their tips to visit New Mexico’s tops Historic Sites.
If you’re planning a vacation to New Mexico, you should consider visiting some of the many historical sites in the state. Just one of the several charms that make New Mexico such a culturally rich area to explore.
New Mexico Historic Sites
Pueblo-style adobe architecture, hanging dried chilli’s, and a very diverse landscape including desert, mountains, flower fields, and forests lining rivers to name some traits.
And through all this beauty and culture is an even bigger story.
History of New Mexico
We’re talking a wealth of history passed down through many generations. A history that we can amazingly see today by visiting any of the remaining historical sites throughout New Mexico.
Here is a quick list of our 3 favorite historical sites in New Mexico:
1. Taos Pueblo
Out of all the historic locations we saw, Taos Pueblo was easily one of the most beautiful historic locations we’ve seen.
Popular for the stacked tan adobe buildings, this quaint village sits peacefully alongside the Taos mountains of the Sangre De Cristo Range.
As if the dramatic mountain scenery isn’t enough, there is also a small steady stream running directly through the village by the name of Rio Pueblo de Taos. One of the most picturesque locations in New Mexico.
Taos Pueblo is nearly 1,000 years old and is currently home to 150 people. The villagers belong to a Native American tribe known as the Puebloan people.
Puebloan Peoples Language
The adobe pueblos are one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the entire US. This village is just one of the 8 Northern Pueblos who speak styles of the Tanoan language.
A language that has never been written down or transcribed, which makes much of the Puebloan culture unknown to society today.
These unique structures are made entirely of adobe, sun-dried bricks made from mud and straw. To this day they upkeep the buildings by adding fresh adobe.
Enjoy Roaming Taos Pueblo
Visitors can walk along these magnificent adobe homes but must abide by the restricted area signs.
This is to protect the privacy of the residents. You’ll find some locally sourced gifts sold within homes marked as businesses.
We enjoyed roaming the rustic village, learning about the Puebloan culture, and taking in the alluring scenery along the way.
Luckily we had the chance to visit during the winter!
The brilliant white snow complemented the adobe buildings and landscape so perfectly. Even the river was slightly frozen over making the Taos Pueblo a lovely winter wonderland.
Friendly Dogs of Pueblo
To top it off? Dogs. Dogs everywhere!
If you love dogs, this is a huge bonus.
You can tell these dogs are loved and are right at home. Many of them were so calm, barely even reacting to us wandering the area.
Some let you come up close and pet them, but don’t expect them to stand up while they’re lazing about!
Take a Free Tour
- Tours are also available if you wish to learn more about Taos Pueblo.
- Tour guides dive much deeper into the culture, history, and the people of the pueblos and last around 20 – 30 minutes.
- Tours are free, but we do recommend tipping cash to show appreciation for their time and historical insights.
2. El Santuario de Chimayo
El Santuario de Chimayo is a small church built in the small town Chimayo, a beautiful location below the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
It is known as one of the most visited and holy sites in the United States. Making this one of the most visited tourist attractions in New Mexico, averaging 300,000 visitors a year!
This site is considered the most important pilgrimage site in the country.
Popularity arose because of the curative powers of the holy dirt which resides in the area. This dirt is believed to have miraculous healing powers which cure a wide variety of diseases.
During Holy Week, pilgrims will walk long distances to reach El Santuario de Chimayo to pay their tributes. What’s incredible is that many walk all the way from Santa Fe.
This can be as far as 30 miles. Some reports state that others may even walk as far as Albuquerque which is about 90 miles away!
What To Know Before Visiting
While free to visit, this land is considered holy and its properties should be respectfully viewed.
The compound contains 2 beautiful chapels – the El Santuario de Chimayo and the Santo Niño de Atocha Chapel. You can go inside each chapel for a closer look but pictures are not permitted.
El Santuario de Chimayo has a lovely courtyard, one of the more iconic features on the property. We immersed ourselves in the environment and enjoyed feelings of peace and tranquility.
States easily achieved in place so highly revered and seemingly remote. Religious or not these elements cast a spell.
Outside of the chapels, make sure to explore the rest of the area.
Other Things to See and Do
You can visit the welcome center, a couple of gift shops, a trading post, and a few other historical markers. There is even a small coffee shop right up the road, about a 3-minute walk from the chapels.
When visiting, consider making a small donation to help contribute to maintaining this historical site. Also, bring a small container so you can take home a pinch of holy dirt!
Even though we did not visit for religious reasons, we still felt a sense of ease walking about.
The architecture, verdant scenery, and overall vibe of this sacred place is not one to miss. Especially if you’re searching for one of the best historical sites in New Mexico.
3. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
If you’re a nature enthusiast AND a history buff, then hiking to historic cliff dwellings in the middle of the forest is right up your alley.
Hike a short 11-mile loop trail up to ancient dwellings, literally embedded straight into the cliff-side. Not something you find just anywhere in a forest.
Over thousands of years, different groups of nomadic people would seek cover in the caves above the Gila River as a temporary shelter.
It was the people of the Mogollon culture that decided to make it a permanent home in the late 1200’s.
The Mogollon built approximately 40 rooms spread throughout 5 large caves housing several families.
Eventually, the Mogollon’s moved on, leaving the empty rooms as a glimpse into their past.
Stepping (or Climbing) Into The Past
Today, you can actually climb up a staircase or ladder into the caves themselves and explore the insides of these historic cliff dwellings.
You can access the caves by following the Cliff Dwellings Trail inside the monument.
Enjoy a scenic trek up a small mountain trail until you reach the base of the dwellings. Before you enter the caves a ranger will greet you sharing some brief history and expanding on any questions you may have.
Once we climbed inside we were immediately blown away by the overall size of this place. Definitely enough space to comfortably house a small community, think a modern day apartment complex!
Built without ceilings, rooms shared walls and had narrow cutouts for doorways and windows. A massive open area within the cave served as a common area for inhabitants.
You could literally put yourself back in time by standing within these archaic structures.
After exploring the area and traveling through the caves, continue down the trail which loops you back to the beginning where you started.
Step Into The Past and Explore Some of the Best Historic Sites in New Mexico
Overall, it’s an easy hike with a huge reward. It’s fascinating to imagine how these tribes once lived in these primitive (yet advanced) cave dwellings.
We’re so grateful to have had the chance to witness and explore a preserved historic landmark like Gila Cliff Dwellings.
If you want more info on the Mogollon Tribe, be sure to visit the nearby NPS visitor center which holds a small museum in the back.
The museum displays Mogollon artifacts found in the surrounding area as well an exhibit on the Chiricahua Apache who consider this land to be their homeland.
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There is so much culture and impressive history throughout New Mexico. This is just 3 of the many extraordinary places to see within the state. Each all so unique in their own way.
Not only is it interesting to learn about the past of each historical site, it’s amazing to experience them within their beautiful landscapes.
A wonderful escape from present day into historic New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment. We hope you have a chance to experience these amazing locations for yourself!
AUTHOR BIO: Nathan & Shelby
Nathan and Shelby met when they were just 16 years old. Their curiosity for new places began with daily exploration of their suburban hometown in California.
As they got older they’ve continued to traverse further and longer.
By age 20 they discovered Route 66. This open road ignited a fire within, sparking an even deeper passion for travel.
Since then they’ve fallen in love not only with each other but with the freedom that comes with exploring our natural world. With their experience and tips, they hope to inspire the adventurer in you!