This post is a bit late in coming as I was in New Mexico earlier this summer. Still, I wanted to make some time for one of my very favorite destinations.
Though I make Seattle my home, my heart always gets pulled back to The Land of Enchantment. If I didn’t feel the need to be near water, I would likely be living there. But the Pacific Northwest’s green mountains and plethora of lakes, rivers, bays and sounds makes it my number one choice.
I do travel to New Mexico fairly regularly, particularly now that I lead culinary tours to Santa Fe once a year. When I can, I tack on extra days prior to or after the tour to spend time in the area. I’ve driven this area by car, tour bus and even motorcycle (my favorite mode of transportation!).
If you’re visiting for the first time, consider renting a car (if you’re not a motorcycle rider, that is) and make the trip from Santa Fe to Taos, stopping in Chimayo along the way.
Here are some highlights and some things to do in each of the areas:
Santa Fe – With nearly 300 sunny days a year, Santa Fe is the antithesis of Seattle. I usually travel to the area in the spring/early summer. This is a great time of year because the weather isn’t too hot yet and when there is a little rain shower, it is little. The skies clear up quickly and the sun comes out.
During this shoulder season, you can likely find a reasonably-priced hotel near the Plaza. It’s in this area that you’ll find a high concentration of jewelry, clothing and souvenir shops, restaurants, bars and cafes. Once you’re settled in, it’s easy to explore this area by foot.
Must sees in Santa Fe:
- Visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
- Wander outside the Palace of the Governors where you can shop for Native American jewelry being sold by the craftspeople themselves
- Spend Friday night on Canyon Road where gallery openings abound
- Stop by the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market on a Saturday morning and peruse the fresh veggies, fruits and other homemade treats and handmade goodies
- See the miraculous staircase at the Loretto Chapel
Chimayo – While on your way to Taos, be sure to stop by the small town of Chimayo, less than 30 miles from Santa Fe. This is a major pilgrimage area for locals, particularly on Good Friday when upwards of 30,000 people are known to make their way to Santuario de Chimayo during Holy Week.
Whether you’re religious or not, sit in the courtyard and take some time to soak up the spiritual vibe here.
Must sees in Chimayo:
- Visit the tiny Santuario (church)–you might be lucky enough to arrive during mass
- Stop by the El Potrero Gift Shop next door and pick up some excellent dried chili (I buy the green and put it on popcorn)
- Walk around the back side of the church to see the large altar with candles and hanging beads as well as all the crosses placed on the wire fence in memory of lost souls
- Have lunch at nearby Rancho de Chimayo
Taos – A friend recently compared Taos to what Santa Fe was 30 years ago. That’s a pretty good description. Like Santa Fe, Taos, located just over an hour north of Chimayo, is Southwest through and through but on a much smaller, more manageable scale. Here you’ll find adobe homes, antique and jewelry shops, and restaurants serving delicious New Mexican cuisine.
Must sees in Taos:
- Visit 1,000 year old Taos Pueblo
- Hike the trails in nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains
- Ski at one of the many resorts
- Stop by the mid-19th century Kit Carson Home & Museum
When you go
Albuquerque is the largest nearby airport. Fly in here and rent a car from an agency such as our website sponsor, Enterprise. In addition to offering great deals in New Mexico, they’ve just launched a website for their European car rentals as well.
Taos Pueblo by Ron Cogswell