New Mexico: Land of Enchantment
New Mexico is a state known for its ethnic diversity. For one, there is a rich Native American heritage, most notably of the Navajo and Pueblo peoples. Also, New Mexico has a higher percentage
of Hispanic Americans than any other US state. Given the total population, however, New Mexico is one of the least densely populated states. Mountains and deserts dominate the landscape.
Area-wise, the state of New Mexico is the fifth largest US state, spanning a total of some 121,000 square miles. The elevation differences are remarkable, which also makes for a diverse climate.
New Mexico has both hot and dry deserts and high, snowy peaks. Wheeler Peak at 13,161 feet is the highest point within state boundaries. Common knowledge believes that New Mexico is only made up of
arid steppe and desert lands. But the more mountainous areas are in fact heavily forested, especially in the northern portion of the state.
The Rio Grande is the third longest US river. Known in Mexico as Rio Bravo, the river bisects New Mexico into an eastern and western portion and runs through the entire state from north to south.
When the first Europeans reached the area, what is today New Mexico was settled by Pueblo Indian tribes, most notably the Apache, Navajo and Ute peoples. After being settled by the Spanish, the
region became a Mexican province. After the Mexican-American War, the New Mexico territory was ceded to the US. Organized as an official US Territory in 1850, New Mexico would not be admitted to
the Union before 1912 as the 47th state.
National / Protected Sites
New Mexico houses numerous national forests and parks as well as other protected sites. At the northwestern tip the Aztec Ruins National Monument is located. It lies close to the towns of Aztec
and Farmington and preserves ancestral Pueblo structures. Close by, a little to the south, is another Native American complex, Salmon Ruins and Heritage Park. At these two sites, visitors can explore
the amazing housing structures dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Pueblo structures can also be seen at Pecos National Historical Park.
In the northeast, the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field is a major attraction, with the Capulin Volcano National Monument as its center. Hiking trails circle the volcano rim and even lead down into
the mouth of the non-active volcano. A totally different geological region is home to the White Sands National Monument. Located close to Alamogordo, it is comprised of thousands of gypsum dunes,
known as the “white sands.”
Evidence for the city’s history that spans four centuries is all but visible. Santa Fe also houses the oldest building in the nation (the Palace of the Governors) and with San Miguel Mission also
the oldest US church. The Loretto Chapel is home to the “miraculous staircase,” built by a stranger in the late 19th century who some believe to have been St. Joseph himself.
But Santa Fe is not all history. The city has a vibrant, modern side as well, manifested for example in the many fascinating art galleries like the Wise Up Gallery or the Medicine Man Gallery,
displaying native art and products from the region. Given the importance of Santa Fe as the state’s capital, it takes little wonder that the city has a wide variety of lodging options.
The Los Alamos region offers a time travel from centuries past to modern-day times. The region is a center of technological advancement, most notorious for the Los Alamos Research Center, inaugurated
in 1943, where the first atomic bomb was developed. The Los Alamos National Laboratory is today’s largest employer. The Los Alamos region houses Native American structures, for example at Bandelier
National Monument, and is also the site for any kind of outdoor recreation imaginable. Whether visitors want to engage in hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing, fishing, birding, camping,
swimming, golfing, hunting, cross country or downhill skiing: Los Alamos has it all. The breathtaking mountain scenery is always accompanying the activities.
Albuquerque is New Mexico’s largest city, located in the central portion of the state. The city has roughly 500,000 inhabitants. Albuquerque holds a wide array of museums and sites in store for visitors.
One of the more thrilling must be the American International Rattlesnake Museum. Albuquerque Biological Park (including the Botanic Garden, Aquarium, and Zoo) is a great site for family visits.
Due to the warm weather conditions, Albuquerque is an ideal year-long destination. Since the city was founded as early as 1706, there are plenty of historic sites to visit. The historic heart is Old Town.
A must-do is the Sandia Peak Tram that takes visitors up 2.7 miles on an aerial tramway. On the way and on the peak, the outlook is simply stunning.
New Mexico holds something in store for everyone. The state with the most visible and rich Native American heritage also offers year-round outdoor activities. In places like Albuquerque, the weather
is warm all year long. But in the mountainous areas, winter sports are a great way to spend your time. People interested in a rich history can also not go wrong in this rich and diverse state.