There are many small towns and settlements spread out across New Mexico, including an estimated 400 or so abandoned ghost settlements built by settlers, miners and others over the years – which may be no more than a couple of crumbling walls or a chimney to signify that there was once people living there, but sometimes a line of buildings too on a main street with an old saloon or other buildings.
The original Pueblo Indian adobe buildings were built in what is called a “puddling” technique using hands to form the mud used in the thick walls and shape the building, with wooden poles to support a roof structure and then the Spanish added their brick making skills to build stronger wall structures, later adding glass windows and wooden doors they brought with them. Since then the style has evolved with mixtures of cement and cement render used in place of mud, creating what is today recognized as a Territorial or South Western Architectural style, which you will see throughout the South West.
From a tourist perspective, the most intriguing site is seeing the original Anasazi Pueblo buildings built in cliff sides, largely protected by the caves and cliff sides from the effect of the weather and storms. Some of these cliff side cities may be hundreds and even thousands of years old.
Just east of Santa Fe, about 17 miles is Precos National Historical Park where you will be able to see the ruins of a Pueblo rock and mud village that date back to AD 1100, as well as a Spanish Mission Church built in 1619 and inside the Park is the Forked Lightning Ranch House at one time occupied by Greer Garson.
To the north of Santa Fe, about 50 miles is Abiquiu, a small town, where there is great scenery which has inspired many artists including Georgia O’Keeffe who came to live here as well as movie makers and movie stars. This is where the movies City Slickers and also the 4th Indiana Jones movies were shot. Abiquiu has spectacular high desert scenery and is where you will find the Ghost Ranch complex (See www.ghostranch.org Tel: 877 804 4678) with a Dinosaur Museum showing some of the 200 million year old skeletal remains of dinosaurs that once lived here, as well as a Trading Post and Accommodation too. The area has been home to Navajo Indians for centuries, and when the Spanish settled in the area, the Ranch was called “El Rancho de los Brujos” (The ranch of the witches), the name designed to scare off potential intruders, with the canyons around the ranch used by cattle rustlers to hide in. Today the Ghost Ranch is owned by the Presbyterian Church and has become a spiritual retreat, attracting artists, writers, painters, photographers, hikers and others to see, relax and enjoy this special part of New Mexico.
Further north is Taos a small town that dates back to 1615. This is where the Taos Ski Resort (See www.skitaos.org) is located on the mountains next to the town. Some of the mountains are over 12,000 feet high, and there is great skiing, snowboarding to be found here. Besides the resort you will also find museums in Taos (See www.taoshistoricmuseums.org ) and walks to see the historic buildings and learn about some of the history of Taos and characters that lived here. About 25 miles south of the town is the Taos Pueblo, built around 1450AD (See www.taospueblo.com ). Here you will see multi storey Pueblo buildings with the Pueblo designated as a World Heritage site and also National Historic Landmark.
Also near Taos look for Angel Fire Ski Resort – see www.angelfireresort.com and Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort – see www.sipapunm.com – which is just 20 miles SE of Taos.
There is also a hot mineral springs Spa Resort, called “Ojo Caliente” (See www.ojospa.com Tel: 505 5832045 located at 50 Lo Nanos Rd in Ojo Caliente.
In summer, Taos is a popular place for white water rafting and river adventures on the Rio Grande River, and also there is the Rio Grande suspension bridge that crosses over the Rio Grande River Gorge. The town with its history, architecture, galleries, cafes and scenic location both in winter and summer make it a worthwhile destination.
The Bandelier National Monument is located about an hour from Santa Fe near Los Alamos covering an area of around 30,000 acres, and here you will be able to also see ancient cave settlements build into the walls of the canyons and the ruins of an old pueblo settlement dating back to the 11th century.
To the North West of Taos and 60 miles north of Sante Fe near the border with Colorado is Chama – a small town with just 1200 people or so. This is where the 3 feet narrow gauge Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad runs from May to October to Antonito in Colorado over the 10,015 feet high Cumbres Pass and through the Toltec Gorge. It is stunning scenery up through the mountains, with the old steam train pulling the carriages along and it is an all-day railroad adventure. (See www.cumbrestoltec.com ). The railroad dates back to 1880, from the time when it was used by miners and travellers here in Chama when it was a frontier boom town. See www.chamavalley.com