New Mexico is aptly referred to as the Land of Enchantment. I’ve visited New Mexico many times because it borders my home state of Texas, but I hadn’t ever traveled up to the northern part of the state until December 2017/beginning of January 2018. Santa Fe has a unique culture, emphasized by the abundance of adobe buildings and homes. There are red peppers hanging all over the city square, and Native Americans line against the exterior of the Palace of the Governors to sell jewelry and other textiles.
If you are in the market for turquoise jewelry, Santa Fe has more than any city I’ve ever visited; however, beware that prices can be quite high. Stores sell different types of antiques, figurines, art, ceramics, and other items of that nature. I noticed that some of these items were imported from Mexico, so if you want to buy original Native American work, it would probably be best to purchase from them on the square–don’t forget cash.
There’s also a thriving art scene there with many local artists and art museums. I really liked the aesthetic of the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA).
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is a main attraction in Santa Fe, and it is a beautiful cathedral. It’s right in the center of everything and a nice, calm place to stop and refresh.
While driving north from Santa Fe on Highway 285, we noticed multiple signs indicating that Poehl Cultural Center Museum was up ahead, so we decided to stop there. It’s a relatively small museum but had several interesting pieces and a cool layout.
If you love trees a lot like me, the Santa Fe National Forest is fun for a quick visit. We drove through the forest and it reminded me of driving through the forests at Yellowstone National Park. Reaching the forest requires a bit of a drive from Santa Fe because it’s in a remote area.
Bandelier National Monument completely blew me away. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it was such a neat experience to climb into the side of the cliffs where Pueblo people used to live (there’s tons of fascinating information about the Pubelo at the visitor center and throughout the park). Even though I’m afraid of heights, I still very much enjoyed hiking around Bandelier. There was one popular path that I didn’t climb because it looked very steep and there were signs cautioning against it for people who are afraid of heights or have health issues. Thankfully, there are handrails to help guide you along and plenty of ladders as well.
The trails were surrounded by pine trees, and even though there were quite a few people, it felt very relaxing. Bandelier was definitely the highlight of the trip, and I highly recommend it.
We stumbled upon the Tsankawi Prehistoric Sites on the drive back to Santa Fe from Bandelier. There was a family there taking pictures and a few tourists, but there were far fewer people there than at Bandelier. There was more room to explore openly and the natural rock formations were similar to those at Bandelier but smaller in size. There were fewer restrictions on where you could explore and there also weren’t any handrails or staff there.
The sunset in Taos on New Year’s Eve was unforgettable. It looked like the sky had been set on fire then slowly bled up into swirls of pink, purple, and blue. Enchanting.