Top 10 Most Famous New Mexico Landmarks Travelers Talk About
It may seem like there aren’t many places to visit in New Mexico, but past travelers have raved about everything from stunning natural wonders to important national landmarks that make a trip to the true southwest worthwhile. Whether a visitor is looking for a little alien adventure, a trip back in time to a place that seems to predate history or rugged badlands that seem to defy logic, there is something for everyone in New Mexico, and we’ve put together a selection of the ten most talked about attractions.
1. Sandia Peak: Believe it or not, it’s skiing that draws tourists to this tallest of Albuquerque New Mexico landmarks, and getting there is half the fun (for some, it IS the attraction). An aerial tram takes visitors on a scenic and serene tour for 2.7 miles up and along the over ten thousand foot high mountain. Over canyons and forests, the reward is an observation deck that allows passengers an unparalleled view of the desert landscape below, whether or not they intend to don a pair of skis.
2. Petroglyph National Monument: A bit north of the ski slope friendly Sandia mount can be found an amazing example of early American civilization. Here, New Mexico landmarks in the form of symbolic drawings forever embedded in volcanic lava rock draw thousands of visitors each and every year. Petroglyph monument is the largest park of its kind in the country, and features primitive images from both early Spanish settlers as well as Native Americans dating back as far as seven hundred years.
3. Santa Fe Historic District: Although most people associate original American settlements with the east coast, this northern neighbor to Albuquerque boasts the oldest state capital in the United States. The year was 1610 when some of the first New Mexico landmarks appeared here, in the form of adobe buildings. A still standing defensive wall as well as a central plaza are also incredibly well preserved and make a stop at the historic part of this old town well worthwhile.
4. Bandelier National Monument: The ancestral Pueblo people are the focus of this National Park that comprises over 33,000 acres, just northwest of Santa Fe. One of the oldest of all New Mexico landmarks, the carved out fifty square mile monumental site pays homage to thousands of years of human history that are evidenced here in many forms including caves, petroglyphs and even multiple story ancient homes. Nearly two hundred thousand people visit each year to witness some of the best and most well preserved examples of early human history.
5. Bisti Badlands: Strange shapes carved from sandstone by erosion are the highlights of this badlands region, one of the most visited New Mexico landmarks. Northwest of Santa Fe, colors from red to orange to pink emphasize the desert landscape and its host of hoodoos, with no two being exactly alike. Mounds of sandstone that seem intentionally shaped look like mini mountains amidst the barren Earth below them and the entire area seems alien, especially apart from the capital city that it’s located so very near.
6. Nambe Falls: Much of the area around Santa Fe is composed of dry and desert landscape. Therefore it’s no wonder that a tall and refreshing cascading waterfall found just north of Santa Fe has the ingredients required to really draw a crowd. Although Nambe Falls, one of the most popular of all New Mexico landmarks, is for many the highlight of the area, the actual park it’s found in is over 19,000 acres. In terms of nature and wildlife, it’s an important area. However, historically it was even more important to the Pueblo people who used it both as a place for culture and religion.
7. Roswell UFO Museum: Something happened in New Mexico just a bit north of Carlsbad, and the population has not forgotten about it. Although purportedly covered up as an incident involving a weather balloon, true believers attest that it was an alien aircraft that crashed in Roswell in 1947. There is no solid evidence that this most controversial of all New Mexico landmarks ever existed, but that hasn’t kept the surrounding area from becoming a little UFO capital city. The museum found here is dedicated to both the supposed alien crash and features art, research information, historical information and more about the event and alien life theories in general.
8. Carlsbad Caverns National Park: There are 119 different caves found in this park situated near Carlsbad in the southeast portion of the state. Although located in the Guadalupe mountains, it’s not the above ground attractions that draw guests. Spectacular cave formations that were created from the dissolving of limestone by sulfuric acid are what tourists come to see, especially Carlsbad cavern, the park’s show cave and one of the most popular New Mexico landmarks. Here, dripping and dangling formations of limestone appear as decorative beige shards, hanging down from the cave’s roof. Created by flowing water, the stalactites themselves seem to form a canopy under which guests can explore.
9. White Sands National Monument: There are few parks as appropriately named as this one, a designated National Monument found west of Carlsbad. Gypsum is the material that comprises the white sands found here at one of the most beautiful of all New Mexico landmarks, and the largest dune field of its kind in the world. Perhaps one of the most interesting things about White Sands is not that its disputed status as a contender for consideration as a World Heritage Site was thwarted due to the potential for conflicts with military operations; rather, an invasive species. In the later part of the 1960s, the Oryx, a horned member of the antelope family, was introduced here by the Game and Fish department as an attempt to provide sports hunting in the area. The species proved to be predator free and thrived, a little bit too much, choking out other local species in the daily battle for sustenance.
10. Spaceport America: Just what is it about this complex of hangars found just of the missile range found at White Sands that is so unique? Well it’s one of a few places in the world where flights that leave Earth bound for outer space are located. Although just under a dozen actual “intergalactic” flights have actually left from this futuristic find amongst New Mexico landmarks, guests that don’t have the available funds to head out on a suborbital journey should still consider coming by for a visit. There are tours of the facility available for guests choosing to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground and themselves stationed in their home atmosphere.