Northern New Mexico is laced with treasures, from Santa Fe's museums and Taos' arty environs to cliff dwellings dating back 900 years. Starting in Santa Fe...
SANTA FE, N.M. — Northern New Mexico is laced with treasures, from Santa Fe’s museums and Taos’ arty environs to cliff dwellings dating back 900 years.
Starting in Santa Fe, with its more than 200 art galleries, you can prowl the adobe Palace of the Governors, multicultural museums and memorable restaurants. Each morning Native American craftsmen display their wares on blankets on the north side of the central Plaza. Here you not only find jewelry, carvings and other crafts, but great stories from the vendors if you have the time to listen.
You can’t overlook a local heroine, artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and the museum and archive dedicated to her. About an hour north of Santa Fe lies Bandelier National Monument, set aside to preserve the marvelous cliff dwellings, which you can view from an easygoing trail. There are 75 miles of hiking trails, camp sites and thousands of archaeological remnants.
Just north of Bandelier is the historic town of Los Alamos. Famous as the site of the Manhattan Project (where scientists developed the atomic bomb), it’s still the location of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where classified research carries on and security guards meet you at the highway entrance.
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Los Alamos averages the highest IQ per capita in the nation and to validate that claim, you can try to decipher the equations on the chalkboard at the Central Avenue Grill. They were the original formulae designed to bring the Manhattan Project scientists up-to-date when they arrived. The largest employee in the town is still the lab.
There are 19 pueblos (or Indian reservations) in New Mexico. East of Los Alamos sits the San Ildefonso Pueblo (505-455-3549). Visitors are welcome, but bringing in a camera will cost $10. It’s well worth it because San Ildefonso harbors one of the most beautiful churches in the area, circa 1930, complete with a little graveyard in front.
It’s here, too, that you can meet Kreig Kalava who, along with his sister, continues the traditional pottery making of their mother.
North of Los Alamos is the village of Abiquiu, onetime winter home of Georgia O’Keeffe. The artist lived part of the year at nearby Ghost Ranch, where you can still spot many of the geological inspirations for her paintings and take tours. Another gem found north on Highway 84 is Los Ojos and the master weavers at Tierra Wools. You can watch them dye the local churro wool and weave tapestries based on ancient designs. They offer casitas were you can stay and classes throughout the year.
Continue north to the old western town of Chama. . Here you can board the Cumbres & Toltec steam railroad, a narrow gauge train that serpentines 64 miles through the Rockies. . Round trip runs $83 to $148.
Southeast of Chama is the town of Taos, with scores of colorful boutiques, historic estates and art tours. The estate of socialite Mabel Dodge Luhan is here. Luhan collected the works of such artists as Ansel Adams, Willa Cather, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, D.H. Lawrence (he painted one of the windows in her house), Georgia O’Keeffe, Thornton Wilder and Thomas Wolfe.
If you have time, visit Ranchos de Taos south of Taos, where the famous San Francisco de Asis Church rests. Built in the 18th century, it is one of the most painted and photographed churches in the Southwest.
A short jaunt south to Cordova will take you to master wood carver Gloria Lopez Cordova, (follow the signs to Gloria’s Shop) a fourth generation carver who boasts items in the Smithsonian and still works out of her humble home
Take the picturesque High Road — the backcountry route — to Chimayo where you can visit Lisa and Irvin Trujillo at Centinela Traditional Arts. Irvin is a seventh generation weaver, a shy wizard at his craft.