If you’re looking for New Mexico attractions to tack onto your itinerary, be sure not to miss these six sights in the Land of Enchantment.
Pueblo Indian Reservations
More than 15 different Pueblo Indian tribes are scattered all over New Mexico, some of which are open to tourists via guided tour. Pueblo people are well known by their unique living character. They aren’t nomads like other Native Americans, rather they’re still living in their homeland and have built houses that have lasted for generations. Acoma Pueblo and Taos Pueblo are considered two of the oldest continually inhabited communities in North America. The adobe buildings have been standing since 1200 A.D. and have been continuously modified over the years by repair work with mud and water.
White Sands National Monument
The dunes have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dune field. The gypsum is so light, the dunes move from west to east as much as 30 feet per year. Gypsum is a very soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate. The water table is not far below the surface of the sand dunes, which served as a great water source for Native Americans in the area.
The plants and animals of the dune fields have adapted to this constantly changing environment. The plants found their way to live in the gypsum: as the dunes grow taller, they made their stem longer to live above the dunes. Three species of lizards, one pocket mouse and numerous species of insects have evolved a white coloration for survival in the white sands. Evolution and natural selection is happening in front of us at the white sands.
New Mexico has the largest petroglyph site in North America, featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago. The Three Rivers petroglyph site in the south of New Mexico dates back to 900 to 1400 A.D. Ancient people created these petroglyphs by using stone tools to remove the dark patina on the exterior of the rock.
Many of the images are recognizable as animals, people, brands and crosses; others are more complex. We can partially understand what these people ate, what they hunted and what they believed from these paintings and rock art, but not everything. These images are the cultural heritage of a people who’ve long since moved into other areas or moved on through history for many reasons. It’s amazing how this rock art can survive for over a 1,000 years in this tough environment.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
The majestic Rio Grande, the one that divides the United States and Mexico, shows its gorge in northern New Mexico. The Rio Grande starts north of here in Colorado and the approximately 50-mile gorge runs northwest to southeast of Taos, New Mexico, through the Taos Plateau volcanic field. There are a few scenic bridges, but the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is the one you want. The gorge is 800 feet deep, and you can see 10 miles in both directions. Geologically, the Rio Grande Gorge was partially created by separation in the earth’s crust when the North American and Pacific plates scraped against each other some 29 million years ago. Now, this deep and gorgeous valley offers one of the best stretches of whitewater rafting.
Very Large Array: VLA
Twenty-seven radio telescopes are scattered around the southwest of New Mexico in the form of a Y. This configuration makes it possible for the twenty-seven radio telescopes to work together as one giant telescope. An individual telescope is as big as a baseball diamond.
Because I’ve always wanted to be an astronomer, VLA was one place I always dreamt of visiting. There’s not much to see: just a bunch of radio telescopes and a control room. However, to see the place where the darkest and the deepest secrets of universe are revealed was pretty amazing. The daily walking tour is free, and the guided tour is available on the first Saturday of every month. There are several astronomical events in the area, so be sure to check with their visitor center.
Santa Fe has a lot to offer. It’s almost overwhelming how charming this place is. It’s a place of art, history, music, food and culture. As the second oldest city in the United States, they have the oldest house, the oldest extant shrine and the oldest church. Santa Fe was designated a UNESCO Creative City in 2005, the first U.S. city to be so honored and currently one of only a handful of Creative Cities in the world. They offer the best New Mexican cuisine and a lively downtown atmosphere. Santa Fe is not the biggest city in New Mexico, but it’s certainly the most charming.
For more on Juno’s adventures, visit her blog: Runaway JunoGoogle+