Updated: Sep 11, 2020
New Mexico and Santa Fe are a feast for the eyes. It’s almost like the orange of the earth climbs the walls to spread its color. Red chili hangs from the thresholds in front of turquoise doors that mirror the bright blue skies of sunny New Mexico.
The State’s motto, “Land of Enchantment”, sounds pretentious, like most do, but, in the case of New Mexico, it holds water. If you are a fan of art, culture or history, and are looking for a unique experience in the US, look no further.
Since travel is complicated right now, how about a virtual tour of New Mexico with Konsuu?
A rich and diverse history
New Mexico became a US territory in 1853. It was part of Mexico and had been colonized by the Spanish. Local history, however, begins far before the Spanish ever set foot on the Americas. Actually, when they arrived in the 16th century, they already found ruins of ancient civilizations and several native peoples. You can still visit the ruins of ancestral pueblo civilizations in Bandelier Monument National Park. Here’s a virtual hike for you to enjoy and learn more:
Santa Fe is the oldest state capital in the US and the Palace of the Governors, in historic downtown Santa Fe, is the oldest public building still in use, for over 400 years. It has been the residence of Governors and today is the site of the New Mexico History Museum (don’t miss it when you visit Santa Fe).
In Santa Fe, you will also be able to visit the oldest church in the US, the San Miguel Mission Church and also the oldest house. The house, though small, is open for visitors and full of antiques and curiosities and is right beside the San Miguel Church. Also be sure to check the Santuario de Chimayo. Built in 1916, it’s a 30-minute drive from Santa Fe and a spot of pilgrimage to this day.
San Miguel Mission Church, Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe also has a rich history as a trade post. The Santa Fe Trail is the backdrop for a lot of old west history, first as the trade route connecting the US to Mexico, then the American Southwest, having had a notable role in the Civil War as well.
If you like to experience the past and enjoy living history museums, check out El Rancho de Las Golondrinas. You will be able to experience life in Santa Fe in the 18th and 19th centuries and learn how to grind flour in a water mill or how to clean wool, spin, dye and weave it into beautiful fabrics. When you visit in person, don’t leave without trying the bizcochitos, New Mexico’s cookie! While you wait, you can try making them with this traditional recipe.
El Rancho de Las Golondrinas, Santa Fe, NM
Taos is another must if you are in Santa Fe and have time for a drive (1h30 min). Go visit the Taos Pueblo, where the Pueblo people have been living for over a thousand years. If you actually go there, don’t leave without trying the bread. It’s baked in wood-fired clay ovens and absolutely delicious!
Taos Pueblo, Taos, NM
New Mexico also boasts an important role in recent history. The Manhattan Project, responsible for the creation of the atomic bombs released on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II, was housed in Los Alamos, a 36-mile drive from Santa Fe.
In Los Alamos, the Bradbury Science Museum is an interactive museum that tells the story of science in the state, since the times of the Manhattan Project until now. The Los Alamos National Laboratory is one of the leading scientific research centers to this day, in several fields. Check out Bradbury’s virtual tour and get your fill of science and history.
Santa Fe, art mecca
If you are an art buff, you need to include Santa Fe in your travel bucket list. The city is an epicenter for art lovers and artists alike.
In the meantime, you can visit the museum dedicated to Georgia O’Keeffe, icon of American Modernism.
You will find most of the galleries and art studios in Canyon Road. It’s less than a mile long, but you will get to experience art in most of its forms.
Finally, check out Meow Wolf, an interactive art installation that will transport you to a world of unusual sounds, colors and experiences. While you don’t get to it in person, the 360o experience is a cool substitute.
In case you want something even more special, you can schedule visits to art studios or participate in art tours and discussions online.
Adobe, the clay that colors the walls
New Mexico architecture is, by itself, reason enough to visit the State. Although you may find several different styles all over Santa Fe and Albuquerque, what is known as Pueblo style is the most common. In the past, clay and straw were used to build the thick walls that mirrored the soil.
Adobe was used for building by the native peoples of the area long before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. Nicknamed “Pueblos” by the Spanish, the natives built homes of up to 4 stories using adobe, rocks and wood, molding the walls by hand, then laying them to dry before adding a new layer. Communal homes were usually built around one large main room, surrounded by smaller ones. Check out one of the Pueblo communities, like the Taos Pueblo, to see dwellings of Pueblo people today or Bandelier National Monument, to view the ruins of ancient Pueblo civilizations.
Taos Pueblo, Taos, NM
Adventure in 360o
The biggest hot-air balloon event in the world happens in the capital of New Mexico, Albuquerque, every year in October. Check out these amazing images of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (don’t skip this video, the aerial shots of Albuquerque’s sky sprinkled with colorful balloons are breathtaking!):
There are more than 500 balloons flying through the skies during the 9 days of the Fiesta. Do you want to catch a ride in one of the balloons? Try it out in this 360o video:
And don’t miss out on this opportunity to admire the beauty of Albuquerque in 4k/8k video:
If you enjoyed this last one, there is another one you might like here.
In Taos, besides visiting the Pueblo, check out the Rio Grande Gorge. The views are amazing and you can go for hikes.
Follow a mountain biker down one of the trails in 360o.
“Red or green?” That’s the question you will be asked pretty much every time you get into a restaurant in New Mexico. Red and green are the chili sauces. The red chili sauce uses the ripe red chili pepper, dryed out and ground (remember the chili hanging from the thresholds?). The green sauce uses green pepper, usually fresh. If you would rather not pick sides, answer like a true New Mexican: “Christmas” and have them both!
New Mexican cuisine is another reason to include the state in your bucket list. It includes elements of Spanish, Mexican and Native-American influences and should not be confused with Tex-Mex. New Mexico chili, for instance, is a local delicacy and usually produced locally.
If you are getting hungry, you can try this quick and easy guacamole recipe. After all, it really isn’t a true New Mexico culinary experience if it didn’t start with a bowl of tortilla chips (often made at the restaurant) with a serving of guacamole and the famous chili dips.
In this guacamole recipe, my tip is to use red onions instead of the white ones. You can use any kind of chili, but make sure it’s fresh.
New Mexico on the screen
Just in case all you really want is to Netflix and chill, you can still enjoy New Mexico:
Breaking Bad - The AMC series about the chemistry high-school teacher that goes into drugs to survive was a big hit and was filmed in Albuquerque.
El Camino - Feature movie that tells the story of what happened to Jesse Pinkman, one of Breaking Bad’s main characters.
The Kid (2019) - Tells the story of a boy whose life crosses paths of that of Billy the Kid and his gang, pursued by famous sheriff Pat Garrett. Billy the Kid is one of the most famous outlaws from New Mexico history.
Longmire - Despite the fact that the story happens in Wyoming, the series was filmed in New Mexico, in the Santa Fe area. The location for home of the main character, Longmire, is the beautiful Valles Caldera National Park (totally worth the visit!).
Only the Brave - Once again, the story is set in Arizona, but filming was done around Santa Fe and Los Alamos, NM.
Photos: personal archive.