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If you plan on visiting the Land of Enchantment, these fabulous destinations offer everything from historic sites to fascinating landscapes and everything in between.
Santa Rosa and the Blue Hole (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Surprisingly, one of America’s driest states is home to a world-renowned scuba diving site, the Blue Hole. Located in Santa Rosa, the natural, bell-shaped pool is 80 feet deep and is famous for its incredible clarity and constant water temperature of 61 degrees. It’s considered an artesian aquifer, where rainwater trapped beneath the ground is forced up under natural pressure. The spheres you see bobbing on its surface are attached to underwater diving platforms. It appears in the midst of the arid high mesas like a grand, brilliant blue gem, and is not just for divers, it’s also considered to be one of the top 10 natural swimming holes in the nation.Hotel Info
Carlsbad Caverns (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Secretly nestled below the Chihuahuan Desert and the Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico, is an incredible treasure in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. On the surface this area looks deceptively normal – in fact, it’s hard to imagine that under this bleak stretch of landscape, there exists a magnificent world of exquisite beauty. Visitors are taken via elevator, 75 stories underground to an illuminated walkway where hundreds of formations are unveiled, including some that resemble ocean waves, soda straws and even the face of a mountain troll. The park is home to over 300 known caves, with more discovered every year. Park ranger tours as well as self-guided hikes are available, and from May through October, visitors can also join the Bat Flight program, an unforgettable event when hundreds of thousands of Brazilian Free-tailed bats exit the cave at dusk on their nightly forage for food.
Silver City (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Silver City is located in the remote southwest corner of New Mexico, serving as the high-country gateway to the beautiful Gila Wilderness. It makes an ideal base for exploring the famous Gila Cliff Dwellings and enjoying the multiple geothermal hot springs in the area. It offers plenty of attractions on its own, including fabulous Old West charm and a historic district with a number of outstanding eateries serving eclectic fare, coffee houses with a fun bohemian vibe and the popular Little Toad Creek Brewery & Distillery, which features a tasting room and tavern that produces house-crafted beers and spirits. The Silver City museum features some 20,000 objects relating to the peoples and history of southwest New Mexico, and on Saturday mornings between May and October, enjoy visiting the farmers’ market downtown. Nearby, explore the fantastic geological formations at City of Rocks State Park with its nearly six miles of well-marked trails, including a nature walk through a desert botanical garden, and be sure to check out its roll-top astronomical observatory where visitors are invited to view the night skies through the observatory’s telescope once or twice each month.
While you’re here, be sure to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monuments which offer a glimpse of the homes and lives of the people of the Mogollon culture who lived there over 700 years ago. Their dwellings, built within five of the natural caves of Cliff Dweller Canyon or in the open, are accessible to the public.
Taos (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Taos is famous for its striking scenery, vibrant mix of Anglo, Hispanic and Native American cultures, and its assortment of artists, artisans and counterculture refugees. The glorious sunsets seem designed to entice both artists and lovers, with creative energy pulsing through this little town of just under 5,000. Its blend of cultural traditions keeps this northern New Mexico town constantly evolving, including everything from the arts to food, with an especially impressive array of eateries that range from mom-and-pop cantinas to creative upscale dining. If there is a must-do, it is visiting the Taos Pueblo, a multi-story adobe village that has been continuously inhabited since pre-Columbian times. While many of the living spaces have been converted into shops for Pueblo Indian craftspeople, the Pueblo Indians have managed to diligently protect and preserve their culture. The area’s four ski resorts also make Taos a popular base for skiing in wintertime.
Chimayó (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Tucked within the foothills of the spectacular Sangre de Cristo Mountains just north of Santa Fe, is this small community originally founded by Spanish settlers in the late 17th century. Named among Budget Travel’s Most Beautiful Towns in the world, it’s famous for the weavings of the Ortega and Trujillo families, and many shops here contain their work and other fine crafts from the region. It also features the beautiful El Santuario de Chimayó, a shrine and National Historic Landmark, which marks the place where a miraculous healing is said to have happened some 200 years ago, when a friar was performing penances. The friar reportedly saw a light bursting from a hillside, and after digging, he discovered a crucifix, which was immediately named the “miraculous crucifix of Our Lord of Esquipulas.” A local priest brought it to Santa Cruz, but three times it disappeared and was later found back in its original hole. By the third time, everyone understood that El Senor de Esquipulas wanted to remain in Chimayo, and so a small chapel was built on the site, but after numerous healings occurred, the chapel had to be replaced by the larger, current Chimayo shrine, which is now known locally as the “Lourdes of America.” The crucifix still resides on the altar today, drawing some 300,000 visitors each year.
Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, San Antonio (Hotel Prices & Photos)
This breathtaking national wildlife refuge is home to tens of thousands of birds. In fact as many as 50,000 snow geese and 15,000 sandhill cranes gather here in autumn and stay through the winter, along with many different species of ducks. A bird watcher’s and photographer’s playground, this reserve at the north edge of the Chihuahuan Desert is most famous for hosting the annual Festival of Cranes in November each year. It hosts a variety of photography workshops, such as capturing the birds in flight, landscape photography, and educational workshops on the birds that live here, learning about the strategies hawks and falcons use to catch their prey and raise their young with a falconer, raptor breeder, and wildlife rehabilitator. Attendees can also watch trained hawks and falcons as they’re released to fly, chase lures, and sometimes even hunt wild quarry. All year round, one of the best things to do is to capture a photo of the birds erupting in flight before heading out on a hike or enjoying a picnic.
White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo (Hotel Prices & Photos)
One of the state’s most unusual landscapes are the incredibly striking snow-white dunes of White Sands National Monument, composed of gypsum. The wave-like dunes engulf 275 square miles of the Chihuahuan Desert and are considered to be one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. Walk 10 minutes from the road in just about any direction, and suddenly all you can see are an endless expanse of white dunes, some as high as 60 feet, with mountains glistening on the horizon and the blue bowl of sky. Ranger-guided and evening walks through the dunes are available.
Chaco Culture National Historic Park (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Chaco Canyon National Historic Park in northwestern New Mexico is home to the most extensive collection of ancient pueblo ruins in the country. This nine-mile stretch of canyon was the center of civilization for the ancestral Puebloan people, formerly known as the Anasazi, from about 900 through 1150 A.D. Sandstone blocks and timber were brought in from great distances to build the structures that are as high a four stories in height, and recent findings show they were likely constructed to align with solar and lunar cycles. One of the highlights is considered to be is Fajada Butte, a narrow, steep-walled butte that soars about 400 feet above the canyon and features a number of small cliff dwellings.
Santa Fe (Hotel Prices & Photos)
New Mexico’s capital is an especially enchanting city with a small, walkable downtown that offers a number of delights, including a picturesque central square that serves as a gathering place of all types, which makes for some great people watching. The laid-back city has long been known as a haven for artists, most notably Georgia O’Keefe, who lived here during summer months at the peak of her career. One of the best places in the U.S. to spark your inner-artist, you’ll find some 250 art galleries as well as one of the largest art markets in the nation. Once your creative juices are flowing, choose from one or more of the 200+ creative experiences available through workshops and hands-on art classes that focus on everything from photography, glassblowing and painting to pottery, weaving, drawing and more.