Underrated Travel Destinations: New Mexico

Why you should consider visiting the state of New Mexico


The New Mexican landscape is a gorgeous combination of snowy mountains and red desert cliffs

Colonized by Spain in 1598 by the Spanish and home to humans as far back at 25,000 BC, the state of New Mexico is full of history and is one of the most forgotten states in America. With deep Spanish, Native American, and Mexican roots, New Mexico also has a rich culture entirely unique from anywhere else in the country and the world. Dotted with deserts, mountains, gorges, rivers, and sand dunes, New Mexico is also home to one of the most visually stunning natural environments in America. Some of the highlights that make this state so interesting and worth visiting include:

The Captivating Cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque

The beautiful Sandia Mountain range backdrops the city of Albuquerque

Albuquerque, surrounded by expansive red-dirt plains and backdropped by the impressive Sandia Mountain range, is both visually stunning and culturally diverse. Throughout the city, you can immerse yourself in both Native American and Spanish culture. To best experience the traditional Pueblo culture, visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center where you can try traditional dishes of the Pueblo and buy handcrafted goods. For an immersion in local Native American history, visit the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico or walk through the amazing Petroglyph National Monument which features ancient rock art. For those interested in experiencing Spanish and Mexican culture, visit shops and restaurants in historic Old Town or visit the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Albuquerque also allows those wishing to see the natural beauty of the state an opportunity to take a lift to the top of the Sandias where you can see expansive views over the local scenery and mountain range.

Traditional Pueblo architecture influences current buildings and style in Santa Fe

North of Albuquerque, Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico and also boasts a wide array of cultural and interesting experiences and is a major center for the arts. Around Santa Fe, you can witness New Mexican history and culture at the historic Loretto Chapel and San Miguel Missions. Also, take a trip around the Santa Fe Plaza to shop at local shops selling traditional foods, art, and handcrafted items. To experience the vibrant art scene in Santa Fe, visit one of its numerous acclaimed art museums including the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, and the New Mexico Museum of Art. Santa Fe is also home to one of New Mexico’s most famous attractions, the renowned Meow Wolf. This attraction houses unusual and interesting art exhibitions that allow visitors to immerse in the art via multimedia elements and a running narrative.

Natural Wonders Across the State

Tent Rocks National Monument

The winding canyon tunnels at Tent Rocks are a whimsical place to explore

This stunning natural wonder on the Cochiti Pueblo reservation near Albuquerque takes visitors through a fantastical landscape. At this national monument, you wind your way through a narrow path surrounded by towering rock walls and interesting rock formations. The name of the monument comes from the many rock formations with a tent-like appearance. These rocks feature cone peaks and are often capped by small boulders on top.

Rio Grande Gorge

Stunning views over the gorge can be taken in from the metal bridge which spans across the gap


The Rio Grande Gorge runs through the outskirts of the northern city of Taos at the base of the Rocky Mountains. The best place to view the gorge is from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge outside of Taos. The bridge is the tenth highest in the US and gives panoramic views out over the gorge in both directions and the surrounding Rocky Mountains.

The Southern Rocky Mountains

The deep hues of blue, reds, whites, and greens which coat the Rocky Mountain landscape make this a popular subject for local artists

The southernmost portion of the Rocky Mountains that passes through New Mexico contains many peaks over thirteen thousand feet, some of the tallest in the Rockies. These mountains are called The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which means the blood of Christ. The name of the range likely comes from the red hues of the landscape. One of the best locations to experience the Rocky Mountains in New Mexico is in the northern city of Taos, which is situated at the base of tall peaks and has a world class ski resort.

White Sands National Monument

Gentle ripples in the sand create a soothing oasis in the desert

Spanning 275 miles of desert in the Tularosa Basin in the southern portion of New Mexico, White Sands National Monument is one of the most visually stunning locations anywhere in the United States. The glistening dunes of the monument are formed of white gypsum, and they form the world’s largest gypsum dune field. The isolated and mystical aura of the monument make it an exciting place to explore by car, foot, or bike.


The stunning Shiprock rises high above the plains and is a humbling site to behold

The majestic Shiprock rises from the desert plains of the Navajo Nation. This breathtaking rock formation towers over 1,500 feet above the desert below. Located in the center of the area historically occupied by the Ancient Pueblo People, the rock is seeped in Navajo religion, myth, culture, and tradition. This amazing formation is one of the best sites for tourists to visit the the northwestern portion of the state, and the rock is a popular spot among both photographers and rock climbers.

Abundant Historical Sites

Chaco Canyon

Extensive ruins are left from the thriving Pueblo culture at Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon is the most important site of the Ancient Pueblo People in the southwest. The site was home to thousands of people during the years from 850 AD through 1250 AD. As a historically significant location for the Pueblo culture, the site features impressive ancient architecture representative of its past prosperity. Over time, Chaco Canyon became the ceremonial, economic, and political center of the San Juan Basin. At the site, in addition the stunning remaining ruins, the site also houses extensive collections of uncovered artifacts from the site in an interesting museum. During your visit, you can also hike of trails around the site.

Bandelier National Monument

At Bandelier National Monument, visitors can actually climb into the ancient dwellings remaining in the cliff face

Located near the city of Los Alamos, Bandelier National Monument is another one of New Mexico’s unique historical sites. The National Monument shows signs of human presence dating back 11,000 years and features historical ruins such as petroglyphs and carved caved dwellings. This ancient site is an especially incredible location to visit as it protects 33,000 acres of beautiful, rugged canyon landscape. You can explore the extensive natural surroundings on many various hiking trails.

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Walls from the ancient inhabitants of this site still survive in the natural caves of the cliff

For thousands of years, the Gila Cliff Dwellings were used as a temporary residence by Nomadic travelers. In the 13th Century, a group known as the “Mogollon Culture” established a permanent residence at the site for a period of twenty years, and left behind an extensive archaeological and architectural record. Around the site, visitors can go on nature walks and hikes through the beautiful landscape backdropping the dwellings.

the state of New Mexico is full of history and is one of the most forgotten states in America”

Hopefully, you will now be inspired to travel to the wonderful state of New Mexico and visit the exquisite sites of this often overlooked state.

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