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New Mexico’s Natural Beauty

New Mexico’s immense natural beauty and rich cultural heritage make it a joy to explore. Mountains ring many of the cities with vast deserts and spectacular sunsets in between. Most travelers in New Mexico immediately make plans to visit Santa Fe, Taos or Albuquerque, and rightfully so. Each is worth exploring for its culture, culinary and outdoor possibilities. Not to be overlooked, Gallup boasts plentiful Native American art and jewelry, while southern New Mexico offers a Southwestern vibe and culture all its own.


Popular Demand

Sandia Peak Tramway

Soaring above deep canyons and the rugged mountainside, the longest aerial tram in the Americas whisks passengers to the 10,378-foot crest of the Sandia Mountains high above the city of Albuquerque. Twin red and blue cars ascend more than 2.5 miles in 15 minutes. At the top, which can be 20 to 30 degrees colder than city temperatures, visitors can take in the 11,000-square-mile panorama, hike trails weaving through fir and aspen, ski in winter or dine at the TEN 3 restaurant, featuring views of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. 

Earthship Biotecture 

Sustainable in every conceivable way, Earthship Biotecture rises from the high desert near Taos. These houses are built of natural and upcycled materials — earth-packed tires, glass bottles and soda cans. Food grows via indoor gardens; water is harvested and stored; and the home’s energy is entirely off-the-grid. Self-guided tours in the visitor center and a 10-minute movie explain design principles. Guided walking tours discuss the history and design of Earthships and give access inside educational facility buildings. Private tours offer a peek inside some of the nation’s most remarkable dwellings.

White Sands National Park

Truly a natural wonder, miles of pure white sand form undulating dunes at White Sands National Park. As the world’s largest gypsum dune field at 275 square miles, it can actually be seen from space. Visitors can hike a variety of trails, some with red markers for orientation, slide down the dunes in a rented saucer or just ogle at the surreal landscape on the eight-mile Dunes Drive offering numerous turnouts. Gypsum doesn’t absorb heat from the sun, which makes the sand cool and comfortable to walk on, even in summer.

Up and Coming

Route 66 

On its way from Chicago to Santa Monica, historic Route 66 bisects New Mexico with more than 600 miles down memory lane. Although its centennial anniversary isn’t until 2026, events commemorating the Mother Road will begin this fall. Starting at the state’s eastern border at Tucumcari, Route 66 stops include the pink-stucco Blue Swallow Motel. Journeying west to Gallup, which has an abundance of Native American crafts and jewelry, numerous Route 66 attractions and towns in between will host myriad events. 

Indigenous Celebration 2022  

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Santa Fe Indian Market and indigenous art events across New Mexico. Two new galleries will open at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture: Here, Now and Always and the Balzer Native Market and Contemporary Art Gallery. Santa Fe is also celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Institute of American Indian Arts and the 50th Anniversary of the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, which stewards over 10,000 indigenous cutting-edge works in the heart of downtown.

Truth or Consequences 

Becoming known as America’s most affordable spa destination, laid-back Truth or Consequences boasts 10 hot mineral spring soaking houses. Flowing from a rift along the Rio Grande, thermal waters reach temperatures up to 115 degrees and contain trace elements of 38 minerals plus natural chloride, a germ killer that sterilizes skin and purifies water. Some establishments offer massage, reflexology, mud wraps and more. A renaissance on historic Main Street has spurred new shops and galleries, restaurants, wineries and the highly lauded Truth or Consequences Brewing Co. 

Overnight Sensations

Hotel Chaco

Inspiration for Albuquerque’s AAA 4-Diamond Hotel Chaco originates from the ancient Anasazi community, whose members lived at Chaco Canyon between 850 and 1250 A.D. Their Puebloan ruins lie at Chaco Culture National Historical Park, some 50 miles northwest. Guests enter the lobby rotunda through a hallway enclosed by water and fire elements; registration lies under a giant, glass oculus representing three sacred eagles. Part of New Mexico’s family-owned Heritage Hotels and Resorts, this property lies in Historic Old Town and the Sawmill District. Level 5 rooftop restaurant features 360-degree views on its wrap-around terrace loaded with comfy couches.

El Rancho Hotel

Situated on historic Route 66, the El Rancho Hotel became the home-away-from-home to movie stars of the 1930s and ’40s when Westerns were filmed near Gallup. Rooms are dedicated to each star who stayed here, so guests can pick their favorites from the likes of Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Mae West and many more. Rumors suggest that several rooms are haunted. From its glitzy neon sign to the lobby’s dramatic red-carpet staircase and Indian artwork, this historic gem shouts Old West. The iconic 49er Lounge serves cold beer and hand-squeezed margaritas.

Memorable Meals

Campo at Los Poblanos 

Albuquerque’s Sandia Mountains form the backdrop for 25 acres of lavender fields, stately cottonwood trees and gardens at Los Poblanos. The historic inn and organic farm tout one of the Southwest’s purest field-to-fork menus. Seasonal ingredients are picked on-site and supplied through longstanding relationships with local organic farmers and herdsman. Dishes incorporate honey, stone fruits, figs, eggs, greens and vegetables harvested and grown in their 1934 Lord and Burnham greenhouse. After a meal, shop for lavender products in their boutique and stroll the picturesque farm.

D.H. Lescombes Winery and Bistro 

Planted nearly 400 years ago by Spanish settlers, the Mesilla Valley nurtured the country’s first wine grapes. Here, the Lescombes family has crafted wine for six generations. D.H. Lescombes Winery and Bistro in Las Cruces features a well-rounded wine list — the family creates more than 40 labels — and Hatch green chili-inspired dishes served on a garden patio. Begin their winery tour at the bistro with a mimosa followed by a guided vineyard tour, lunch and wine pairing at the Lescombes’ home near Lordsburg before exploring their Deming operation with tastings straight from the barrel.

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.