K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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Alyssa has been writing about exciting travel topics for Trips to Discover since 2013. After living the big city life in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Alyssa sold the bulk of her possessions and became a digital nomad, living full-time in her camper and working from wherever she could find an outlet and an internet connection for her laptop.
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Aptly named “The Land of Enchantment,” New Mexico offers endless adventures, as it’s a place of wide-open spaces, deep cultural roots, and impressive landscapes that run the gamut from forest to desert and mountain to valley. Reconnect with yourself and the nature that surrounds you in these iconic New Mexico towns, as these fabulous destinations and top-rated cities offer everything from historic sites to fascinating landscapes and everything in between.
Taos is an exciting destination in New Mexico if you love skiing and snow sports. There are several ski resorts here to hit the slopes and take in the mountain scenery. But Taos is also a fun town to visit any time of the year, even when the snow isn’t falling. It has an artsy vibe, and the scenic landscapes have even drawn in artistic legends like Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams. You’ll often find craft fairs here, as well as the Taos Art Museum to experience the city’s artsy side. 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 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
New Mexico’s capital is an especially enchanting city with a small, walkable downtown that offers a number of attractions, including a picturesque central square that serves as a gathering place of all types, which makes for some great people-watching. Santa Fe is an artsy city with Native American crafts and jewelry for sale, musicians performing impromptu songs on open lawns, and so many galleries with beautiful items for sale. 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, and drawing.
Albuquerque is a large New Mexico city that offers a little something for everyone. “Breaking Bad” fans will enjoy taking a tour of the iconic TV filming sites, and active travelers will love the great bike routes through and around the city. In the fall, the city really comes alive with the International Balloon Fiesta, a huge event that launches hot air balloons into the New Mexico skies. Make sure to explore Albuquerque’s historic Old Town, get birds-eye views from the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway, and sample local beers and wines from the area’s many breweries and wineries. If you’re looking for a local place to stay, check out the city’s top Airbnbs.
One of the state’s most unusual landscapes is the incredibly striking snow-white dunes of White Sands National Park, 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.
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.
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. One of the best parks in New Mexico, it is home to over 300 known caves, with more discovered every year.
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.
You’ll only need to take a short drive from Santa Fe to reach Chimayó, which is a town founded by Spanish settlers in the 17th century. It’s surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and has deep spiritual roots. In fact, it’s often considered to be a Christian pilgrimage site, but people of all beliefs enjoy the history, architecture, and beauty here. The El Santuario de Chimayó is a National Historic Landmark and the site where miraculous healing is believed to have happened hundreds of years ago. After walking inside and around the church, check out the nearby stores to shop for souvenirs and locally made goods.
Bosque Del Apache 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 from a falconer, raptor breeder, or wildlife rehabilitator about the strategies hawks and falcons use to catch their prey and raise their young.
Travelers who have a fascination with the paranormal owe it to themselves to visit Roswell, the alleged site of an alien spaceship crash in 1947. The UFO museum is fun to visit, and you can even bring your leashed dog inside! Other local attractions are Bottomless Lake State Park and the Roswell Museum and Art Center.
What draws many people to Truth or Consequences is the town’s name, which is admittedly quite peculiar. In 1950, a radio show host set out a challenge for a town to change its name to that of his game show, and this is the town that did it! When you visit, “T or C,” make a point to relax at one of the local spas. There are hot springs in the area that can be experienced in soothing and historic adobe bathhouses. For outdoor recreation, head over to Elephant Butte Lake State Park nearby.
One of the most popular destinations in New Mexico, Chaco Canyon National Historical Park 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 four stories high, 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.
Head to the southern part of the state to visit the outdoor lover’s paradise of Las Cruces. This is where the Organ Mountains are located, which provide some remote and challenging hikes. The Organ Mountain Desert Peaks National Monument also offers biking, fishing, and camping. In town, get your taste buds ready for the Las Cruces Green Chile Trail. You can also explore some interesting ghost towns and the White Sands Missile Range Museum and Missile Park while you’re in the area.
Another lesser-known town in New Mexico that we love is Cloudcroft, which is the gateway to the lovely Lincoln National Forest. This is a small mountain town with a deep history connected to the railroad. Come here for a small-town vibe and to check out fun local festivals. The Bad Ass Mountain Music Festival is a fun and affordable outdoor music event that takes place over a couple of days in mid-June. In July, you can check out the Jamboree Arts & Crafts Fair. And in the winter, this is a great place to be if you love to ski. Ski Cloudcroft is the southernmost ski area in the state and a family-friendly destination for skiing, snowboarding, and tubing.
After spending some time in the large town of Las Cruces, make a plan to drive over to nearby Mesilla as well. This is a charming and historic small town with a lovely town square and lots of locally owned shops surrounding it. Once you’ve walked through the picturesque streets and popped into a couple of stores to browse, stop into the Spotted Dog Brewery for a pint of local craft beer. Depending on when you visit, you might be able to join the annual Cinco de Mayo festival in May or the Diez y Seis de Septiembre Fiesta in September.