Sacred and secular, old and new, desert and hills – New Mexico is a state of contrasts, making it rich in its diversity of food, culture, terrain and attractions.
The varied offerings of three of the cardinal directions that make perfect day trips from Albuquerque have already been discovered, leaving the western part of the state as the final frontier to explore in this Land Of Enchantment.
For an experience that will bring you back 1000 years in time, drive an hour west of Albuquerque on I-40 to the Acoma Pueblo, the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America. Built upon a 367-foot sandstone bluff, the Pueblo is home to 4800 people and 250 dwellings, none of which has running water, sewer systems, or electricity. Also within the Pueblo you will find the San Esteban del Rey Mission, a Catholic mission constructed in 1629.
Educational tours and cultural exhibits are offered at the Sky City Cultural Center and Haaku Museum. Pottery making demonstrations are provided, and a visit to the gift shop is an absolute must for anyone desiring to purchase authentic Native American art and jewelry. To take the 90-minute tour of the Pueblo, you must buy tickets at the Center, and photography and dress code rules apply.
If you’re in the mood for extremes, then a trip just under two hours west of Albuquerque to the Ice Caves and Bandera Volcano is in order. Located in the west central Zuni Mountain range along the Continental Divide, these natural landmarks can both be reached within an hour’s walk of each other along an ancient lava trail lined with twisted Juniper, Fir, and Ponderosa Pine trees. There is even gemstone mining for the younger members of the family, and a trading post with a shaded picnic area provide opportunities for souvenir shopping and a relaxing outdoor lunch.
Continuing your education and appreciation of nature’s gifts drive thirty miles west of the caves and volcano to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, a refuge for displaced, unwanted and un-releasable wolves and wolf-dogs. You can watch, meet, and even feed these majestic creatures by booking a tour in advance, with your visit supporting the rescue and lifetime sanctuary and care of these animals.
For a day trip that will whet your archeological thirst, head 180 miles northwest of Albuquerque to the Aztec Ruins National Monument. A preserve of the 11th-century Ancestral Puebloan structures in New Mexico, this monument allows visitors to step back in time and take a self-guided tour of this three-story archeological site. You can walk through the Great House and original rooms, admiring the stone masonry and wooden roofing still intact. You even get to enter the ceremonial Great Kiva, used for religious and purification purposes. There is also a museum, a garden, native plants walk, and interpretive programs.