Taos, New Mexico
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community that is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark.
- Some area irrigation ditches built in 1696 are still in operation.
- Scenes from “Easy Rider” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (both 1969) were shot in Taos.
- The town’s legal name is Don Fernando de Taos.
- The most successful North American revolt against Europeans was initiated at Taos Pueblo in 1680.
Of art, skiing and a pueblo
Tourist interest in Taos way outpaces the bland indicator of size. The town’s population hovers around a modest 5,000 to 6,000. However, the community draws visitors from far and wide, especially the more venturesome, for a short list of key reasons.
For one thing, Taos is an artists’ colony. Three other attractions are out of town, but not far away: the Taos Pueblo, a Native American community that has existed for more than 1,000 years; the Taos Ski Valley, which is an incorporated town in its own right, and, third, the mountainous terrain and Rio Grande. The mountains and river are natural lures for active travelers.
The town’s high-altitude desert mesa site, 6,967 feet above sea level, provides the kind of thin atmosphere and lighting that attracts and inspires artists. In fact, that statement applies to the entire Taos County. As a result, some nearby villages also are tiny artists’ colonies, adding to the number of places in town or out of town to shop for art or simply to admire it — along with the landscape. Taos venues for admiring the art include the Ernest Blumenschein House, the Harwood Museum and the Taos Art Museum.
Another variation on the art colony theme is the unique Taos Pueblo, an internationally acclaimed village distinguished by its richly colored multistoried adobe architecture. The pueblo’s artists are known for their clay pottery, drums, jewelry and paintings. Tourists enjoy the extra attractions of annual festivals and the community’s powwow.
Taos Ski Valley is the best known of the area’s ski options, but not the only one. Cross-country skiing is on offer, too. Active visitors have choices as well for biking and hiking plus rafting on the Rio Grande
Taos touts itself as a place to tend to both body and soul. It promotes restaurants promising simple local favorites as well as sophisticated fare, with chefs often relying on local, organic produce. As for the soul, the town invites visitors to rejuvenate in its “sacred places. You don’t need a map to find sacred places in Taos. They’re everywhere,” we are assured. This is not your grandfather’s rustic hometown.
Things to do for Venturers
- In summer, go kayaking on the Rio Grande or the Rio Chama. Also, go whitewater rafting on the Rio Grande where the water flows south from the Taos Gorge, passing between canyon walls lined with petroglyphs and boulders made all the more impressive when bald eagles perch there.
- Or, go rock climbing in the Taos Gorge on the Rio Grande.
- Head to Red River, an old gold mining town, for your choice of outdoor activities, including hiking and biking in the mountains.
- See Taos and the colorful and varied landscape that surround it from a hot-air balloon.
- Participate with locals, in June, as they “mud” the exterior walls of the 200-year-old Spanish mission church at Ranchos de Taos. Winter snows and spring winds damage the layers of mud that cover the adobe structure, and so it must be replastered with mud each year.
- Join a guided photo tour and llama expedition in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Trips can be half or full days or multiday camping treks.
Things to do for Centrics
- Learn more about the indigenous culture by visiting the Taos Pueblo with its strikingly handsome set of adobe buildings. The Native Americans live in mud dwellings as their ancestors did for centuries.
- Ski at Taos Ski Valley.
- At nearby Red River, get around the area the way the town’s founders did, on horseback.
- Collect Wild West experiences. Attend the Taos Rodeo in June, or schedule your trip to coincide with the annual Taos Powwow in July.
- Eat local favorites, such as chile rellenos, enchiladas, posole and tamales.
- Book a tour or plan a self-guided tour of the historic areas of Taos, which was first settled by Europeans in the 17th century.
Things to do for Authentics
- If yours is a summer visit, see mock bank robberies and shootouts at Frye’s Old Town in nearby Red River. Stay on for a chuck wagon-style dinner and an outdoor Western stage show.
- Visit frontiersman Kit Carson’s Taos home, which is a National Historic Landmark. Then head over to the state park named for him to visit his grave and that of his wife.
- Enjoy the opportunity to work on your golf game at local courses.
- Try your luck at the Taos Mountain Casino, a 100% smoke-free facility at the Taos Pueblo.
- Shop for Native American drums, jewelry, paintings, pottery, sculpture and weaving.
- Select a spa and book a full round of pampering treatments. The city is surrounded by natural hot springs. You also can take a dip in natural thermal pools along the Rio Grande in the Taos Gorge.
For more information, consult the Official Taos Vacation Guide at taos.org