Breathtaking sunsets, expansive deserts and wide open plains. Imposing mountain ranges, lush green forests and gargantuan caverns. Historic and artistic cities and a reputation for the extra-terrestrial. The state of New Mexico in the south west of the USA boasts them all, and much more besides.
Nicknamed “the land of enchantment” the sparsely populated state of New Mexico somehow manages to live up to that lofty billing with its spectacular topography and fascinating history and culture, much of which is wholly unique to the state. The Pueblo and Navajo Native American and Spanish cultures of New Mexico are still very much alive and well here, and are not merely there for historical recreation and touristic purposes. A strong Hispanic culture and lineage also helps determine the state’s distinctive character and culture.
Along with Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Nevada, New Mexico encompasses part of the celebrated “grand circle,” America’s largest concentration of national parks and monuments, dovetailed by scenic byways. The State’s historic national parks and monuments include the equally overwhelming and enchanting Carlsbad Caverns (where at sunset you can watch the Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from the caverns in the amphitheatre); the beguiling beauty of White Sands; the awe-inspiring sight of Shiprock in Navajo country; and the striking cliff dwellings and Pueblo settlements at Bandelier National Monument. There are many more parks and monuments besides these, as well as innumerable amount of alluring trails and untamed lands ready to catch your eye.
When it comes to cities, New Mexico has just as much to offer. Albuquerque, the largest city in the state, is a colourful metropolis which is renowned as the ballooning capital of the world, hosting the International Balloon Fiesta each year. It’s a hip and lively city that is also famous for its arts and a lively music scene (popular indie bands The Shins and Beirut started here). Its Old Town, museums and cultural centres coupled with its attractive setting, straddling the Rio Grande river make it a popular destination and a good base for travelling through the state.
Santa Fe, with its distinctive and earthy adobe architecture, is the USA's oldest state capital, and is world renowned for its sophistication and highly artistic community, as well as the numerous festivals and cultural events it holds each year. Whether you are here to catch a glimpse of the oldest church and house in the whole country; to add to your collection of paintings or Navajo weaving and sculptures at the many shops and famed Indian markets; or merely take in the pleasant ambience and flavour of the city, there is much here to amaze.
Down in the southeastern quarter of the state lies Roswell; a small and relatively unexceptional city until a fateful day in 1947 when it suddenly became synonymous with all things extra terrestrial, after a UFO reportedly crashed near the city that year. Visitors here largely arrive to sample the eerie and the alien; and an impressive museum has since been erected here documenting the famous incident, plus regular UFO centred events and conferences take place here regularly too.
New Mexico truly is an enchanting place to visit, and it is somewhere you will want to experience again in a hurry.