New Mexico has long been called the Land of Enchantment because of its beautiful scenery and historical appeal. While it is a sparsely populated state today, it has had people living there for thousands of years.
Some of the oldest continually occupied cities in the nation are located in the deserts of New Mexico. The following landmarks are the most popular and will give you a taste of this enchanting land.
Famous Landmarks in New Mexico
1. White Sands National Park
White Sands National Park, in southern New Mexico, is the largest gypsum dune field on earth, taking up about 250,000 acres.
The sand is 30 feet deep and there are dunes that are 60 feet tall. It is in a remote area surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range.
The area is called the Tularosa Basin, which was once a huge lake. You may drive from the visitors center into the heart of the dunes. There are several trails, backwoods camping areas, and sledding areas.
There are hundreds of species of wildlife, many of which are invertebrates, living among the dunes. Most wildlife there is white, or off-white, and several species live only there.
The Apache Pocket Mouse and the White Sands Woodrat are two species endemic to the area. There is also a white earless lizard that is common.
It was listed as a national monument in 1933 and promoted to national park status in 2019. About 600,000 people visit each year.
2. Bandelier National Monument
The Bandelier National Monument preserves ancient pueblo habitats in northern New Mexico. The structures were built about 1150 a.d. and 1600 a.d., and it is mostly a wilderness area of 50 square miles.
No motorized traffic is allowed in this wilderness area that has about a one-mile elevation change along the Rio Grande. With such a vast difference in ecology, there is a wide range of plant and animal life to explore, in addition to the ancestral Puebloans.
There are about three miles of roads that get you close to the interior, and then there are 70 miles of trails to explore. Some of the trails have ladders and ropes to help you navigate the terrain.
The park was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and it is a national historical landmark itself. The Frijoles Canyon has many pueblo homes and structures, as well as rock paintings and petroglyphs.
There is abundant wildlife, including deer, squirrels, bears, mountain lions, and many smaller animals. The Bandelier National Monument is about 70 miles northwest of Sante Fe in a fairly remote area.
The area was designated as a national monument in 1916. It is close to Los Alamos where the atomic bomb was developed.
3. Taos Pueblo
Taos Pueblo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the United States, with people living there for at least 1000 years.
There is evidence of people living in the area for 3,000 years, and some of the ruins can be dated to 1000 a.d. It is close to the modern city of Taos, New Mexico, and is about 80 miles from the Bandelier National Monument.
There are about 4,000 people living there and they are part of the Eight Northern Pueblos people group. About 95,000 acres is attached to the area and it is native land. It features a multi-story residential complex of brown adobe structures.
You may visit the site during normal business hours, and there are various festivities held there during the year that visitors may also observe. Their language has never been written, and while they accept visitors, a lot of their culture remains unknown to the outside world.
4. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns National Park has more than 100 caves, but the largest one is called The Big Room and is the largest single chamber in the United States. It is 4000 feet long, 600 feet wide, and 255 feet high at the tallest point.
Millions of years ago, the area was a coastline for an inland sea. Before 1932 visitors had to walk a ramp that took them to the cave.
Today there are elevators that take you to the entrance. In addition to the Big Room, there are several other places that have names, such as the Bifrost Room, Bel Chord Room, Bat cave, and the Ballroom.
The Chocolate High is a maze of small passages. The network of caves is so large, areas are still being discovered. Of the 120 caves, only a few are open to the public. The caves are also known for bats, and they can often be observed fleeing the caves at sunset.
Above ground, there are several trails where you can explore the desert scenery of southern New Mexico. Rattlesnake Springs is a natural oasis in the desert and a popular area for people to visit.
5. Acoma Pueblo
Acoma Pueblo is a Native American pueblo 60s miles west of Albuquerque and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in North America.
There are four villages in the Pueblo area that are open to the public. It is the source of famous Acoma pottery. The city has been continuously occupied for more than 2,000 years.
Today there are three-story buildings that are accessed by ladders from the outside. A road was blasted through rock in the 1950s to give access to motor vehicles. Less than 50 people live in the pueblos on a permanent basis.
About 50,000 people visit the site each year. The pueblo has no electricity or running water. There are about 5,000 people who identify as Acoma people today, but they keep their culture closed to the outside for the most part.
In 2008 the Acoma people opened the Sky City Cultural Center, which has a museum to preserve Acoma culture. Acoma pottery has been famous for centuries and is still made there in the traditional way.
6. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
The Gila Cliff Dwellings is a national monument that protects ancient cliff dwellings in the Gila Wilderness in southwest New Mexico.
It is one of the few remaining examples of dwellings by the Mogollon people, and this is believed to be the northernmost area where they lived. The area follows the Gila river and is a rugged and arid area.
There are steep-sided canyons, mesas, and bluffs, with elevations ranging from 5000 to 7000 feet. There are 445 rooms in five caves that archeologists have identified. There are also other ruins in the area dating from the 1200s.
A museum and visitor center is near one of the main ruin sites and has exhibits of Apache and Mogollon artifacts. There are 400 miles of trails in the Gila Wilderness, and primitive camping is allowed. It is in a remote area 45 miles from Silver City.
7. Sandia Peak Tramway
The Sandia Peak Tramway is a tram on the edge of Albuquerque that goes to the top of Sandia Peak and is the world’s third-longest span of this type.
It was created in 1966 to access the ski slopes, and new cars were again installed in 2016. It makes about 10,000 trips per year and is a major tourist attraction.
At the top, there are restaurants, trails for hiking, and picnic areas. The trip takes 15 minutes and covers more than 3000 feet of elevation. From the top, you may see all of Albuquerque and 11,000 square miles of land.
8. Four Corners Monument
The Four Corners Monument marks the intersection of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. It is the only place in America where four states meet.
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It is along U.S. Highway 160 and is in a very remote part of the country. It also marks the boundary of the Ute and Navajo Native American Nations.
The monument is a historical site that has a granite disc, with a smaller bronze disk marking the boundaries. Around the monument, Ute and Navajo artisans sell food and crafts they have made. It has been a popular tourist destination, even though it is very remote, since the late 1800s.
It was established prior to, and during the Civil War, as the government created regions to prevent the spread of slavery. The nearest city is Gallup, New Mexico, which is 125 miles away.
9. Very Large Array
The Very Large Array is one of the largest radio telescope observation areas in the world. It is in central New Mexico between the towns of Magdelena and Datil.
There are 28 radio telescopes mounted on double parallel railroad tracks do different configurations can be used. The telescopes are used to explore space.
The site is used for scientific purposes but is open to the public. You could take a self-guided tour of the area open to the public. There is a museum and visitors center, but there are very few amenities in the area.
10. San Francisco de Asís Catholic Mission
The San Francisco de Asis Catholic Mission is a historic architectural site near Taos, New Mexico. It was built in the late 1700s as part of a small Mexican and Indian farming community.
It is a well-preserved example of the New Mexico Spanish Colonial Church and is a popular subject for artists.
It was designed as a national historical landmark in 1970. It is one of the most photographed and painted churches in the world.