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Top 8 Must-See Spots In New Mexico

Updated: Feb 20

New Mexico stays true to its state motto, "The Land Of Enchantment", with stunning desert landscapes, breathtaking snowcapped mountains, bubbling hot springs, and remarkable national monuments. It is a state which was recently added to my travel todo list, after having seen the numerous geological sights to visit, during what I call the "COVID web-surfing era of 2020-2022".

When I planned a weeklong road trip in late December of 2022, my family couldn't comprehend why we had to visit New Mexico of all the places, for the holidays, and why we would need to spend a week there. By the end of our trip, they were pleasantly surprised at how much they liked and enjoyed this underrated state. We realized that this "Land of Enchantment" has something for everyone - whether you are a bird lover, a hiking enthusiast, a lover of US history, a foodie, a shopper extraordinaire, or just someone looking for a place to relax and rejuvenate, New Mexico has it all. For this trip, we flew in and out of Albuquerque, and drove all around the state.

Below is a list of places we found most interesting and which we highly recommend for any first timer to New Mexico. However, the list of things to see and do in NM is just not limited to the ones below. We hope to visit the Badlands, Four Corners, Gila Cave Dwellings and many more sights we were unable to cover, on our next trip to this enchanting land.


>> Got a question about New Mexico that you need answered quickly? DM me on Instagram @SolaraStills and I’ll be happy to help! I only accept DMs from followers, so hit the follow button before sending.


1. Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs

Did you know that the state of New Mexico is a hot bed for hot springs, thanks to the geothermal activity throughout the state? There are two kinds of hot springs - the natural kind, set in a natural surrounding, amidst forests and cliffs, and the "cultivated" kind, which are part of a resort or a spa. With either, it is a great way to unwind and release all the stress of everyday life. We visited one of the most popular hot springs resort in New Mexico, Ojo Caliente, which is about an hours drive from Santa Fe. Set at the foot of beautiful red cliffs, the resort offers 9 different mineral pools/baths, each with its own unique healing property. You can opt to either spend a night at the resort and enjoy the pools and the spa and massage services, or buy a day pass and spend the entire day and night at Ojo Caliente.

So many hot spring "pools" to choose from at Ojo Caliente

2. Taos Pueblo

Located about an hour and 45 minutes from Santa Fe, in the town of Taos, Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a living Native American community that’s been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years. Currently, about 150 Taos Pueblo people live in the walled city. The land consists of ceremonial buildings and multi-story adobe dwellings, and is a great example of the living culture of the Pueblo Indian people. There is a free 30 minutes walking tour that comes with the ticket price, where the guide narrates the history and the cultural life and development of this region. This is the largest Pueblo of its kind and well worth the visit.

Top : View of the multi-storied adobe dwellings. Bottom: San Geronimo Catholic Church grounds

3. Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument in northern New Mexico, is about an hours drive from Santa Fe. The area has numerous, well preserved, cliff dwellings of ancient Pueblo tribe of Native Americans from 1100AD. There are some really great hikes, and the best are the ones that take you through the entire dwelling areas and then to the Alcove House (to get to it, you’ll have to climb up 3 tall wooden ladders, and a few short ones). I highly recommend doing the Alcove House, but be warned, if you’re not good with heights, then you may want to view from the ground. This is a unique outdoor activity to consider if you are in Northern New Mexico.

The holes in the cliff are all ancient cave dwellings

Can you spot the steep ladder leading to the cave (Alcove House)?

Ladders setup to explore the caves in the cliffs.

4. Old Town Santa Fe

Old Town Santa Fe is filled with so many charming, Insta-worthy places along with a great mix of culture, history, food and views of adobe style architecture. Founded in the early 1600s this "City Different" is where Spanish and Native American culture meet the Wild West.

Top L : Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi; Top R: The colorful corridor of The Museum Of Contemporary Native Art

Bottom L: The Moorish architecture of the Scottish Rites Temple; Bottom R: Farolito lights lined Inn at Loretta

5. White Sands National Park

Located 3 hrs south of Albuquerque and an hour north of Las Cruces in New Mexico, White Sands National Park is one of those places you will never forget and something you will talk about for years to come. As the name suggests it constitutes miles and miles of white dunes, which are made up of - not snow, not sand, but gypsum crystals! It is the largest gypsum dune field in the world and its simplistic white beauty will just take your breath away! These gypsum minerals once lay at the bottom of an ancient lake, which has now dried up, leaving behind these white crystals for us to marvel. We hiked the almost 5 mile Alkali Flats Trail, climbing sand dunes upon sand dunes until our hearts were content with the the white majestic beauty. My blog here contains more info about the hike as well as additional pictures of the scenery.

6. Bosque Del Alpache National Wildlife Refuge

During our trip, we were fortunate enough to witness the thrilling sunset fly-ins of snow geese and sandhill cranes at the picturesque Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Thousands of birds winter here, enjoying the warmer climate and the beautiful setting of the refuge. It was a truly magnificent sight, when half hour before sunset, thousands of sandhill cranes and snow geese came swooping down, cackling so loud that you could hear them a mile away! We had never seen anything like it before!! This is a must-see place when you are in New Mexico.

Sandhill cranes returning home for the night

Sandhill cranes in flight

The sun sets over the Refuge

A flock of Sandhill cranes

7. Carlsbad Caverns

When I mentioned Carlsbad Caverns to my family, they groaned in unison as we had seen enough cavers with stalactites and stalagmites in our past travels. But their complaints fell on deaf ears and we made the 3 hour road trip from Las Cruces to the Caverns, while passing through the town of El Paso, Tx. It is highly recommended to book your timed entry to the Caverns online, as it is a popular tourist destination. The only restaurant closeby is The Cactus Cafe, in the town of Whites. So plan ahead to grab food at the cafe before or after your tour. You have an option to take an elevator to the bottom of the cavern or hike down a steep path, about 1.25 miles long, until you reach the Big Room, the main attraction in the Cavern. I strongly recommend the latter, as you pass many beautiful formations along the way, which you will miss if you take the elevator. Once you reach the Big Room, another 1.25 mile pathway leads you to some of the most incredible cave formations you will ever see, some of which began forming four million years ago! Carlsbad Caverns is the motherlode of all caverns, just by the sheer vastness of the place. There are so many chambers to enter, with each taking you into an entirely different world. Based on the time of year you visit, you can also signup for the Kings Chamber Tour and Bat Flight Tour.

The start of the steep downhill climb to the caverns

A mirror reflection of the stalactites

8. Old Town Albuquerque

Albuquerque's Old Town is the historic heart of the city. With its Southwestern charm, good food, historic architecture, it has something for everyone. You can spend hours in the Main Plaza, browsing through numerous galleries with Southwestern art, cute boutiques and souvenir stores peddling Native Indian wares or spend the entire day visiting the numerous museums in Old Town. With many restaurants and bars to choose from, we found Little Anitas to have a good vegetarian selection of New Mexican cuisine.

Many "Breaking Bad" photo ops in Old Town

The quaint alleyways of Old Town Albuquerque


>> Got a question about New Mexico that you need answered quickly? DM me on Instagram @SolaraStills and I’ll be happy to help! I only accept DMs from followers, so hit the follow button before sending.



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