20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in New Mexico

Jul 22, 2021

New Mexico is not just a great destination for all kinds of travelers, it's a great place to visit, with almost no sights at all, because it's just so big and diverse. There's so much to see in the state that even if you skip the country's most popular sights and focus instead on exploring some of its lesser-known destinations, you still won't have seen everything that New Mexico has to offer.

Regardless of where you go, New Mexico is always super nice to visitors, offering friendly locals, a wonderful climate, and the country's best restaurant and hospitality scenes. However, you can have a great experience by staying in the state's various cities and towns, as well as on or near its many beaches.

To help you get started, our New Mexico list of the best places to visit will inspire you to visit this awesome state.

Petrified Forest National Park

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Petrified Forest National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Petrified Forest National Park contains some 2,000 petrified logs and 200 pounds of petrified wood. Fossils were formed when an inland sea covered the area 10 million years ago and were further transformed by volcanic activity and floods into a petrified mass of wood over the next 70 million years. In 1917, Edward Przybylski discovered the first piece of petrified wood in the park. This was followed by nearly a century of research to document the region and its rock formations, and subsequent restoration efforts. The dense green forest around the park has long been an ideal destination for photographers. The park is open for limited day-use only. Make sure to note that visitors must enter the park by car and not on foot or horseback.

Albuquerque

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Albuquerque, New Mexico: en.wikipedia.org

New Mexico is rich with culture and history, and is home to the Jemez Pueblo, a Native American group dating to the 1500s. Albuquerque itself is a lively, colorful city with a lively downtown, and best known for its huge rodeo event, the Albuquerque International Sunport. Both the city and the airport are served by several airlines. New Mexico State University in Albuquerque and PNM Solar are also well worth seeing.

State Capitol

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New Mexico State Capitol: en.wikipedia.org

A large stone building with the words "State of New Mexico" etched into it, the State Capitol in Santa Fe is the state's official seat of government. Occupying a large central site in the city's downtown, the building was constructed between 1908 and 1915. Painted white and trimmed in red, the building has a neoclassical facade and large, round windows with Corinthian columns. The most ornate room is the Senate Chamber, a stunning blend of marble and heavy timber that is lit by dozens of chandeliers. On the south side of the building is the old New Mexico State Building, a seven-story Beaux-Arts structure built in 1894. State Capitol Square is also home to the State Museum, which preserves historic buildings from the state's past, including the land grant that originally settled the area in the early 1800s. It is in the original Johnson State Office Building, which is an early 20th-century three-story structure that was built to serve as the Santa Fe governor's offices. As the second-oldest capitol building in the country (behind the U.S. Capitol), the building is open to the public at all times.

Santa Fe

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Santa Fe, New Mexico: en.wikipedia.org

Santa Fe's Historic Plaza is a busy crossroads with museums, galleries, cafes, and shops. It's a fascinating place to wander about and soak in the cultural atmosphere. On the east side of the plaza is the stately Governor's Palace, dating to 1912. The Plaza School of Fine Arts is a must-see for architecture buffs, but many other galleries and museums are dotted around the area, including the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Museum of International Folk Art, both housed in restored adobe buildings. New Mexico is a great destination to visit and Santa Fe is the best place to experience it. In recent years the city has gone from "underwhelming" to "inspiring."

Taos Pueblo

Photo of Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
Taos Pueblo, New Mexico: en.wikipedia.org

Taos Pueblo is the largest Pueblo in North America, with a population of more than 10,000 people living in 4,600 homes. The Pueblo is open daily to the public with frequent guided tours, and visitors can explore all the main areas of Taos Pueblo. The pueblo is considered a living museum, preserving its Native American culture and history. Stroll the well-kept streets of the village and feel the Old World atmosphere. Try the daily Native American Taos bread, made from 100 percent cornmeal and used in most of the soups in New Mexico. It's also a wonderful place to spend an evening in one of the many restaurants, bars, and even nightclubs that are spread through the village.

Canyon de Chelly

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Canyon de Chelly National Monument: en.wikipedia.org

Canyon de Chelly is one of the largest and most spectacular archaeological sites in the world. This breathtaking scenery is home to many colorful villages and tribal groups and a range of huge petroglyphs. Canyon de Chelly National Monument was established in 1912 by the federal government as a national monument for the Hopi tribe. Its center is the town of Shongopavi, which consists of a few huts, a small museum, a church, a grocery store, and a small number of buildings at Navajo Falls, which provide a view of a spectacular canyon. Nearby are the remains of Mogollon culture sites, including several abandoned villages and many amazing cliff dwellings. Numerous Chaco Canyon pottery pieces, including those at Chaco Culture National Historical Park, in northern New Mexico, were made by the inhabitants of the region. Ruins at Nokayama, in New Mexico, were created by a tribe called the Arikara.

Mount Taylor

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Mount Taylor (New Mexico): en.wikipedia.org

Located in the southeastern corner of New Mexico, Mount Taylor was first ascended by Herbert M. Taylor on November 26, 1899. In 1907, the first aerial photography of the summit revealed the summit to be circular, and it was thus renamed Mount Taylor after Taylor, who was a captain in the US Cavalry. What makes Mount Taylor special are the geothermal steam vents around the summit. At the crater of the highest, the Mountain Pass, at 8,098 meters, in 1957, NASA launched the first live-in space station. Visits are by helicopter, as the road into the park is very steep and rough. Mount Taylor is around a 30-minute helicopter flight from the park entrance at the village of Alpine.

San Juan Pueblo

Photo of Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico
Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico: en.wikipedia.org

The largest of the 49 Pueblos of New Mexico, San Juan Pueblo is located on a windswept mesa overlooking the desert, and has a population of 3,863. The pueblo is home to the second largest Pueblo Revolt, after that of the famous 13 Pueblos revolt against Spain, as well as a cultural center for Native American art and history. The people of San Juan Pueblo have been maintaining a strong and distinctive form of agriculture on the mesa top since the 1100s, growing corn, beans, squash, and chile. Visit the Sandia Pueblo Museum to learn more about the history of this area, which has been inhabited by the Hopi, Zuni, Tewa, and Pueblo people for many centuries. San Juan's Pueblo Market, located on the main plaza, has several small eateries and is a fun place to shop. To reach San Juan Pueblo, take Highway 16 west from Albuquerque.

White Sands National Monument

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White Sands National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Designed by the great Southwestern architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous desert sand dunes of White Sands National Monument are perhaps the best-known desert landmark in the country. The landscape was an inspiration for Wright to design the Arizona Biltmore, so well-known for its formal gardens, and inspired his circular style in the industrial area of Flintkote near Phoenix. The most unique thing about White Sands is not so much the unique geography of the dunes themselves, although the sight of them surrounded by pure white sand can be quite exhilarating, but more the history associated with them. In 1880 the first yellow dwarf star was discovered and named after the first dune of the monument. The dunes were used by the U.S. military during the 1930s to train pilots for the highly accurate Norden bombsight. Today, the monument is managed by the National Park Service, with the slogan, "God made the earth, but Frank Lloyd Wright designed the dunes."

El Malpais National Monument

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El Malpais National Monument: en.wikipedia.org

El Malpais National Monument is located in southwest New Mexico on the Gulf Coast, and was declared a national monument on October 16, 1974. The exact date of the earliest human presence here is not known, but after extensive archaeological investigations have shown the remains of six Native American tribes in the area. After a brief visit to the visitor center, spend a few hours on a self-guided hike. Most notable are the 40-foot petroglyphs and pictographs etched into the shale cliffs. Each of the trails is different, with signs available at the visitors center.

Bandelier National Monument

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Bandelier National Monument: en.wikipedia.org

Situated in a canyon in the southern part of the Navajo Reservation, the National Monument is protected by an oval-shaped canyon wall, known as El Malpais, measuring about 200 meters long and 70 meters wide, in New Mexico. It is an impressive sight: A flat plateau running between two chasms, it rises steeply from the New Mexican desert, then unexpectedly cuts through a massive cliff with walls up to 80 meters thick. At the base of the plateau, the great canyon suddenly widens, exposing some of the largest canyons in North America. The monument, often described as "America's Grand Canyon", has fascinated and awed people for centuries. Stone Age people used the area as a campground, while the First Americans also ventured in. After the Spanish conquistadores, the region became home to the Navajo people. Its inaccessibility ensured that only a handful of Americans had even seen it, but the Indians believed that spirits were hidden in its depths. Eventually, the Monument was declared a national monument in 1935. An entrance station and one of the museums, the Horsethief Canyon Museum, is located in nearby Bandelier National Park.

Taos

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Taos, New Mexico: en.wikipedia.org

Situated in a small but very beautiful valley northwest of Albuquerque, Taos is an ancient Pueblo Indian village and the artistic capital of New Mexico. Formerly the home of the infamous Geronimo, it's also the country's best-kept secret. Popular and culturally rich, Taos retains its Spanish colonial character, with cobblestone streets and outdoor cafés. Its Pueblo Revival style buildings contrast with the East-meets-West of the region, and its views are unsurpassed in the area. The town's Pueblo Indian Museum is world renowned for its collection of fine pottery and its distinctive ceramics-making traditions. If you are seeking culture, ancient art, and deep history, Taos is the place to be.

Agua Caliente Museum

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Agua Caliente, Arizona: en.wikipedia.org

Agua Caliente's fully renovated Art Deco museum-gallery is now home to a world-class collection of Native American art and artifacts, as well as premier collections of Southwestern art and ethnography. Major exhibitions include the much-anticipated retrospective of the late photographer and fashion icon Lillian Bassman, titled in association with her family, and a blockbuster show on Pablo Picasso featuring his Cubist and surrealist work. Two traveling exhibitions covering the evolution of fashion are also on view at the museum. Perhaps the most significant new feature at the museum is an educational, state-of-the-art Early American gallery that showcases some of the finest silver and ceramics from the 1700s to the 1940s, and has expanded the collection to reflect the whole of North America. Gustavus Vasa Smith, one of the nation's most famous antiquities dealers, and his daughter Diana will be opening a private museum in August of 2016 on a 10,000-acre ranch near Santa Fe, but it will not be a full-fledged museum and is only open during special events, such as the museum's own art openings.

Isleta Pueblo

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Pueblo of Isleta: en.wikipedia.org

The New Mexico town of Isleta Pueblo is built on the side of a mountain where it is protected from the wind. Located at an elevation of 7,000 feet, it is home to 1,700 inhabitants. Pueblo pottery dating back to the 18th century is also on display, along with several Western shows and entertainment. There are over 35,000 Spanish colonial-era buildings in Isleta Pueblo. Many of these were constructed by one of the pueblos biggest benefactors, Manuel Gomez. This monument has some fine examples of Navajo stone work, in particular some ancient petroglyphs.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

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Chaco Culture National Historical Park: en.wikipedia.org

The culture of the Chaco Canyon flourished during a time known as the Southwest's height of civilization. Spanning parts of New Mexico and Arizona, Chaco, with its 100,000 inhabitants, was the most culturally developed society of the area during the late 9th and early 10th centuries, when it was known as "the City of the Dead." The Chaco, also known as "The Great Houses," is a culture's greatest achievement. It served as a center for trade with other cultures and represented an advanced architecture for the area. Among the most impressive of these is the huge and imposing Red Palace, a great, massive ceremonial center built at the Chaco peak. It took over four years to construct, starting in AD 850 and continuing through AD 930. At its zenith, it housed 1,000 people and included 40 rooms, numerous palaces, plazas, a great court and elaborate ceremonial centers. Today there is a small but pleasant museum at the site that showcases the intricacy and the bold architecture of the Chaco.

Mesa Verde National Park

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Mesa Verde National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Mesa Verde National Park is one of America's most unique and well-preserved prehistoric sites. With a unique layered cliff-top walled city-state, this well-preserved site features one of the greatest concentrations of ancient architecture ever discovered. Covering 200 square miles, the park features 60 cliff dwellings that were inhabited for more than 1,000 years. While the majority of these structures date from the 12th to the 13th centuries, some have walls that date back as far as 1100. The best preserved structures are at the top of the various mesas where they sit next to the mysterious Cliff Palace, which itself was a wooden structure raised on the cliffs above the ancient residents' dwellings. With more than 250 prehistoric sites in Mesa Verde National Park, visitors can see a variety of sites, including Pueblo Bonito, Sun Temple, Spruce Tree House, and South and North Keetwongs, each of which has exhibits about the ancient site and architectural characteristics. This is also the place to visit to see the mysterious Rainbow Bridge.

Santa Fe Opera House

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Santa Fe Opera: en.wikipedia.org

The New Mexico Santa Fe Opera is a major part of the city's cultural landscape, providing a beautiful setting for opera performances that are known for their excellent presentations and focus on first-rate international repertoire. It is located at 301 E. Palace Avenue in the downtown area and was built in the Spanish Renaissance style. The building is named for Adolphus Busch, a German-American beer magnate who financed the project. A plaque on the exterior of the building commemorates Busch's contribution. The New Mexico Symphony and Opera are also located in this downtown complex and have played their respective programs there for the last 25 years. The Opera House sits on the National Register of Historic Places.

Las Cruces

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Las Cruces, New Mexico: en.wikipedia.org

Dedicated to research in the broad area of human behavior, Las Cruces' main attraction is the University of New Mexico. With more than 50,000 students, the university boasts one of the world's most respected psychology faculties, as well as a medical school with renowned research facilities. Las Cruces is also known for the International Space Hall of Fame and Museum, housed in an impressive domed building dedicated to flight. There are more than 150,000 residents in the Las Cruces metropolitan area and it is estimated that 50 percent of them are foreign-born.

Rio Grande Gorge

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Rio Grande Gorge Bridge: en.wikipedia.org

The Rio Grande Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is New Mexico's premier tourist attraction, with visitors drawn by the stunning canyon scenery and the longest suspension bridge in the world. Exploring this grand canyon is easy. Visit the New Mexico Welcome Center, located at the Canyon's mouth and a mile from the I-25 Bridge. The state-run center provides travelers with excellent information on canyon sights and attractions, including a 200-acre self-guided historic and ecological trail that takes you through the canyon's natural wonders. A great way to learn about the area's geology is to go on a raft trip. The self-guided canyon trip includes a one-hour river adventure on the Rio Grande, a film, and a slide show. Among the most popular excursions is the Gran Bridges Tour, an easy 10-mile drive from the visitor center on the old Rio Grande Highway. It takes visitors along the middle of the river to the other side of the canyon. There are naturalist interpreters and videographers on duty who will guide you through the different geologic layers of the canyon's wall. If you have never been on a river raft trip, this one is an ideal way to experience the park's excitement and awe.

Palace of the Governors

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Palace of the Governors: en.wikipedia.org

The Palace of the Governors is a historic, architectural and cultural landmark in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Built in 1610, the palace has housed the state governors for the past 300 years. Built by Spain's viceroy Don Diego de Vargas, the palace contains two courtyards, numerous banquet halls, and the long, serpentine cloisters of the Santa Fe Cathedral. The Santa Fe Cathedral is the fourth oldest continually used cathedral in the United States. The palace's Archives Museum is the world's largest archives collection, housing manuscripts, records, and artifacts of the state's colonial history. A number of workshops are also located in the building. The Palace of the Governors is located on the Plaza, New Mexico's oldest square. The plaza is lined with the hacienda-style Palace of the Governors and Old Town's residences and shops, making it a museum unto itself. Nearby is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the Church of San Francisco.