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Are you looking for the ultimate New Mexico travel guide? Look no further! This guide has everything you need to know about the Land of Enchantment, from the best places to visit for outdoor adventures to areas abundant in historical significance and bastions of culture.
Explore deserts, mountains, and forests. Discover lively cities with art galleries, music venues, and delicious regional cuisine. Discover the secrets and stories that make New Mexico unique, from incredible natural scenery to its traditional Indigenous cultures.
Get ready to journey across this stunning state as we explore some of the most amazing places to visit in New Mexico.
New Mexico is a great place to explore, and many things to do when you visit. From hot air balloon rides over the Rio Grande Valley to exploring the ancient ruins in Chaco Canyon, the variety of activities available in New Mexico is sure to keep any traveler busy.
- Best Things to Do in New Mexico
- 1. Bandelier National Monument
- 2. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
- 3. White Sands National Park
- 4. Petroglyph National Monument
- 5. Aztec Ruins National Monument
- 6. Pecos National Historical Park
- 7. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
- 8. Santa Fe Plaza
- 9. Chaco Culture National Historical Park
- 10. Take in the Cultural Attractions
- 11. Spending Time Shopping and Dining
- 12. Language
- 13. Currency
- Where to Stay in New Mexico
- Vacation Rentals
- How to Get Around New Mexico
- Public Transportation
- Air Travel
- Travel Tips for Visiting New Mexico
- Know the Weather and Climate
- Get Lost in the Mountains
- Embrace the Heat of the Chile Culture
- Engage with Native American Art and Culture
- Appreciate the Ancient Architecture
- Immerse Yourself in the Night Sky
Best Things to Do in New Mexico
1. Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument protects a vast area home to ancestral Puebloans in the captivating Frijoles Canyon. Exploring this national reserve rewards you with mesmerizing cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and ancient masonry villages.
The hikes range from easy to strenuous, allowing visitors to soak up exceptional canyon views and immerse themselves in the engaging historical background of those who once called it home.
2. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is an off-the-beaten-path tourist attraction that offers visitors an incredible journey into the past. Located in the Gila Wilderness, this national reserve grants incomparable insight into the 13th-century Mogollon culture. Walking among the ancient dwellings carved into the cliffside instills a profound connection to the land and its former inhabitants.
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3. White Sands National Park
Experience the surreal tranquility of the world’s largest gypsum dune field at White Sands National Park. This otherworldly landscape of rolling white sand stretches as far as the eye can see, strikingly contrasting the blue sky and surrounding mountains. Surrounded by a seemingly endless expanse of shifting, pristine sand, visitors can enjoy the hiking trails, picnicking, and sledding down the dunes—a truly unique experience.
4. Petroglyph National Monument
Located in Albuquerque, Petroglyph National Monument boasts a fascinating array of petroglyphs etched onto volcanic rocks by ancestral Pueblo peoples and early Spanish settlers. With multiple outdoor trails showcasing diverse cultural and natural resources and stunning landscapes, this site remains an indispensable stop for history enthusiasts and casual explorers.
5. Aztec Ruins National Monument
While not linked to the Aztec civilization, the Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico offers visitors impressive examples of ancestral Pueblo architecture. Wander among the 900-year-old stone structures and explore the Great Kiva, an immense ceremonial chamber that highlights the ingenuity and creativity of the ancient builders.
See Related: Best National Parks in the USA to Visit
6. Pecos National Historical Park
Positioned at the core of the Pecos Valley, this historical park offers a captivating window into the lives of Pueblo inhabitants who lived here centuries ago. The Pecos National Historical Park offers an engaging glimpse into the past with its excavated Mission Church ruins and pueblo structures along the 1.25-mile trail, making it an insightful visit for both history buffs and nature lovers.
7. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Delve into the depths of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, home to more than 119 known caves, enormous chambers, and stunning limestone formations. Here, you can descend into the Big Room, the largest single-cave chamber by volume in North America, or ascend to the surface to enjoy a scenic drive through the park’s rugged landscape. Stop by the visitor center if you’d like to get more information on maximizing your visit and staying safe in this rugged terrain.
8. Santa Fe Plaza
The heart of Santa Fe, the downtown Plaza, offers an energetic and bustling atmosphere filled with one-of-a-kind eateries, shops, galleries, and museums. A locale rich in history and culture, this district epitomizes the city’s captivating spirit and stands as an unmissable stop on any New Mexico adventure.
9. Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Plunge into the ancient world of Chaco Culture National Historical Park and its impressive architectural ruins. With multiple trails leading to ancient settlement remains, visitors can marvel at the skill and precision used in constructing these sandstone buildings by a civilization that peaked over 1,000 years ago.
10. Take in the Cultural Attractions
New Mexico is an excellent destination for excursionists looking to experience the culture and history of the area. The Chaco Culture National Historical Park is a great place to learn about the history of the Native American people who lived in this area. The park and research center offers tours and educational experiences for visitors to learn about the culture and daily lives of those who once inhabited the area.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a great way to experience the dynamic culture of New Mexico. The festival includes colorful balloons, performances dedicated to the state’s indigenous populations, and stalls showcasing unique local art. Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return offers interactive exhibits and installations for those looking for an even more absorbing activity. The Forked Lightning Ranch offers van tours of the Civil War sites.
New Mexico has accommodated diverse desires, from the petroglyphs of Bandelier National Monument to the interactive exhibits at Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return.
11. Spending Time Shopping and Dining
New Mexico has many shopping and dining options, from Albuquerque’s ABQ Uptown and Winrock Town Center to Santa Fe’s Canyon Road and the downtown Plaza area. Visitors can find unique gifts and souvenirs to take home or enjoy a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants nearby. Shopping in New Mexico is a great way to support the local economy while experiencing the state’s culture.
Albuquerque’s Old Town is a great place to find traditional Mexican clothing, jewelry, and pottery. At the same time, Santa Fe’s downtown Plaza area offers a range of restaurants and galleries where visitors can find unique art and crafts.
If you desire more uniqueness, check out the colorful balloons and green chiles of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. No matter where you are in New Mexico, you can find a thing unique to take home with you or a delicious meal to enjoy.
The official language of New Mexico is English, but specific communities may speak other languages. Spanish settlers initially brought their language to the region, which is still said in some areas.
Knowing the language spoken in New Mexico is crucial to make the most of your trip. Additionally, knowing local customs and etiquette when traveling in the state is crucial.
The currency used in New Mexico is the US dollar. Carrying cash with you when traveling in New Mexico is wise, as some establishments may not accept credit cards. Additionally, it is crucial to double-check with your hotel before drinking tap water in New Mexico.
Where to Stay in New Mexico
When traveling to New Mexico, knowing where to stay is crucial. From luxury resorts to budget-friendly accommodations, New Mexico has many options. In Santa Fe, you can find hotels like the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe, The Inn of the Five Graces, Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, and Bishop’s Lodge Auberge Resorts Collection.
In Northern New Mexico, you’ll find ski resorts such as Taos Ski Valley, Angel Fire Resort, and Ski Santa Fe. New Mexico also has many camping sites, including Brushy Point Campground, Heron Lake State Park, Columbine Campground, Carson National Forest, Cottonwood, McCrystal Campground, and Elephant Rock Campground.
For anyone searching for more luxuries, vacation rentals are widespread throughout the state and provide travelers with a comfortable home away from home. No matter what type of accommodation you choose, you’ll surely have a great time exploring New Mexico.
New Mexico has a wide range of hotels, ranging from luxury resorts to budget-friendly options. In Santa Fe, you can find hotels like the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe, The Inn of the Five Graces, Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, and Bishop’s Lodge Auberge Resorts Collection.
These hotels offer incredible panoramas, luxurious amenities, and many activities to keep you busy while exploring the city. For those looking for a unique experience, the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa is an excellent choice. Located near Taos, this spa offers self-pampering experiences and mud baths that will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
In Northern New Mexico, you’ll find ski resorts such as Taos Ski Valley, Angel Fire Resort, and Ski Santa Fe. These resorts offer access to some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the region, along with other activities such as gondola rides, scenic views, and a range of shops and restaurants.
Red River Ski and Summer Area is an excellent choice for a more budget-friendly option. This ski area offers access to some of the region’s best skiing and snowboarding, hot springs, and a range of shops and restaurants.
No matter what hotel you are looking for, New Mexico accommodates diverse desires. From luxury resorts to budget-friendly options, you will surely find a thing to suit your needs. Irrespective of your search for a relaxing spa experience or a more budget-friendly stay, you will find what you desire in New Mexico.
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Camping in New Mexico is an excellent choice for those exploring the great outdoors. Countless New Mexico camping sites include Brushy Point Campground, Heron Lake State Park, Columbine Campground, Carson National Forest, Cottonwood, McCrystal Campground, and Elephant Rock Campground. These campsites offer access to some of the most amazing views in the state and various activities such as, hiking trails, fishing, and rock climbing.
For anyone searching for a bit more off the beaten path, options interesting places such as The Cosmic Campground, Cimarron Canyon, and Pecos River Corridor Recreation Area exist. Dispersed camping is allowed on public lands in New Mexico for no more than 14 days within 28 days.
No matter what camping experience you seek, New Mexico accommodates diverse desires.
If you desire a more luxurious stay in New Mexico, vacation rentals are the way to go. With a range of options from cabins to condos and villas, you can expect to find a thing to suit your needs. Travelocity provides the best vacation rental deals in a range of locations throughout Southwestern New Mexico.
There accommodate diverse desires, from Ghost Ranch to the House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe. For anyone searching for a bit more unique, local rentals are available, such as the High Noon Restaurant and Saloon in Albuquerque, Eldora Craft Chocolate, and Cafe Pasqual’s in Santa Fe. No matter your vacation rental type, you will have a memorable stay in New Mexico.
How to Get Around New Mexico
Exploring New Mexico by car, bus, train, or plane is a great way to discover all the state offers. With an abundance of national parks and monuments, bastions of culture, and local wildlife, New Mexico has plenty of things to do. You can choose the best way to get around the state, depending on your itinerary.
The Greyhound bus company is the most convenient and cheapest option to reach smaller towns in New Mexico. ABQ RIDE is the major public transportation within Albuquerque, but there are a few other ways to get around the city and outlying areas. NMDOT offers a wide range of multi-modal transportation services to all New Mexicans.
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief runs through New Mexico, stopping at Albuquerque (ABQ), Gallup (GLP), Lamy (LMY), Las Vegas (LVS), and Raton (RAT). The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad also runs between Chama, New Mexico, and Antonito, Colorado. Renting a car is also popular, as drives between cities and destinations are deceptively long.
You will enjoy exploring New Mexico regardless of your transportation type. Its cities are full of epic New Mexico attractions, from the Carlsbad Caverns National Park to the American Southwest. Visit the Albuquerque Museum, the Bandelier National Monument, and Petroglyph National Monument. There is also the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the extensive array, and the Los Alamos National Lab.
No matter your destination in New Mexico, you will surely find a thing to explore.
Driving is a great way to explore New Mexico, and knowing the regulations and the best roads to drive is crucial. The state has 25 scenic byways totaling over 2,900 miles across a diverse landscape.
Some of the best routes to go in New Mexico include the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, High Road to Taos Scenic Byway, and Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway. These byways provide a great way to experience the local culture, hot springs, ancient cliff dwellings, dunes, and other tourist attractions.
New Mexico has many large cities and small towns, such as Santa Rosa, Las Cruces, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque. Each city has unique attractions, from the Atomic Bomb Museum to the Golden Eagles of the Navajo Nation. Driving is also a great way to explore New Mexico’s many green chiles or to take a road trip to explore hidden gems like the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge or the Very Large Array Research Center.
Irrespective of your search for a scenic drive or a convenient way to get around, driving is a great possibility for exploring New Mexico. With a few car rental companies, comparing prices and amenities with the Discover Cars comparison tool is easy. Before heading out, check the road rules and plan your route to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
See Related: Rental Cars That You Can Take Out of State
When exploring New Mexico, many public transportation options are available to tourists. The Sandia Peak Tramway is a great way to get to the top of the mountain, while the New Mexico Rail Runner Express is a convenient way to get around the state.
Greyhound buses also provide service to many cities in New Mexico, perfect for those looking for an inexpensive way to get around. Many local transit agencies, like Main Street in Santa Fe, offer convenient and affordable services. Hotels usually provide shuttle services, perfect for tourists looking for an easy way to get around.
Irrespective of your status as looking to take a tramway, a train, a bus, or a shuttle, there is a public transportation option to get you to your destination. Remember that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted public transportation, so checking local guidelines and restrictions is crucial before planning your trip.
Air travel is the best option for those looking to travel to New Mexico from further away. The Albuquerque International Sunport and the Roswell International Air Center are the main airports in New Mexico, with the Albuquerque International Sunport being the busiest airport in the state. Additionally, many other airports in the American Southwest, such as Old Town in Albuquerque and the Los Alamos Airport, serve New Mexico.
Whether your destination is New Mexico, air travel is efficient and convenient. Book your tickets in advance to ensure the best fares, and don’t forget to check local guidelines and restrictions before planning your trip.
Travel Tips for Visiting New Mexico
Before planning a trip to New Mexico, knowing the state’s location, history, culture, and major cities is essential. New Mexico is a large state located in the southwestern United States, bordered by Colorado (north), Oklahoma, Texas (east and south), and Arizona (west).
It is home to the best places to visit and many unique tourist attractions, including hot springs, rock climbing, and even the site of the atomic bomb’s first test. The state is also home to many exciting places and outdoor activities, such as llama trekking, and large cities such as Santa Fe (the state capitol) and Albuquerque.
New Mexico’s rich history includes ancient civilizations and the Manhattan Project, making it a fascinating place to visit. Besides, the state boasts a unique blend of Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures reflected in the authentic flavors and culture.
With its diverse landscapes ranging from arid deserts to lush forests, New Mexico is an ideal destination for tourists looking for outdoor activities and exciting places to explore. It is no wonder why it is one of the top destinations for excursionists across the globe.
Know the Weather and Climate
New Mexico has a varying climate with mild winters in the south and hot, dry summers. The state is known for its white gypsum sand, green chiles, and large cities in the summer.
Temperatures in the summer often exceed 100°F, so travelers should pack appropriate clothing and sunscreen. But winter brings colder temperatures and snow in some areas, so it is best to check the forecast before visiting.
New Mexico is also a haven for the most spectacular natural beauty in the United States, including the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The state is also home to Taos, a small mountain town at the base of the mountains. Cumbres Pass is 10,015 feet above sea level and famous with hikers and skiers, so visitors should plan their trips accordingly.
By understanding the weather and climate of New Mexico, you can plan your trip accordingly and make the most of your time in this beautiful state. While the summer can be hot and dry, the winter brings cooler temperatures and the chance to experience the great outdoors. Don’t forget to check the forecast before visiting, as the state sometimes closes due to missile tests.
Get Lost in the Mountains
In New Mexico, the mountains are more than just massive heaps of rock and dirt. They are spiritual conduits, breathing life into the very soul of the place. To sincerely experience New Mexico, you must venture through these highlands and let their energy envelop your entire being.
Lose yourself among the towering peaks and lush, hidden valleys of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains or explore the volcanic Jemez range, where hot springs and ancient cliff dwellings await the discerning traveler. Remember to carry plenty of water, as the arid climate can be unforgiving.
Embrace the Heat of the Chile Culture
New Mexican cuisine is built on a foundation of chile peppers, with green and red varieties taking center stage. While in the Land of Enchantment, make it a priority to indulge in these robust flavors.
Savor piquant dishes like green chile stew or stacked red chile enchiladas in your quest to connect with the essence of this extraordinary place. But be warned: these fiery fruits can be deceptively potent, so pace yourself and maybe have a glass of milk nearby—just in case.
Engage with Native American Art and Culture
New Mexico’s Native American roots run deep, imbuing the state with a rich history and colorful cultural tapestry. Make time for pueblo visits, where you can witness ancient art forms that have remained unchanged for centuries, like pottery, weaving, and turquoise jewelry.
Seek out immersive experiences, like ceremonial dances, and be prepared for moments that will leave you speechless in their beauty and depth.
Appreciate the Ancient Architecture
The architecture in New Mexico is astonishing. From ancestral Pueblo ruins to the adobe dwellings that populate modern-day Santa Fe, the craftsmanship here is unparalleled.
When visiting the state, take the time to admire these structures and consider the centuries of history they represent. Many of these buildings have been painstakingly preserved or restored, providing visitors a tangible connection to the past.
Immerse Yourself in the Night Sky
New Mexico’s night skies are a revelation. With minimal light pollution and wide, open spaces, the celestial display is stunning. Don’t miss the opportunity to cast your gaze skyward during your visit.
Arrange a stargazing tour, visit a local observatory, or recline beneath a velvet blanket of twinkling stars and let the cosmos envelop you. The ethereal beauty of the New Mexican sky will etch itself into your memory forever.
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- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.