Before visiting New Mexico, I had no idea it was full of amazing places to see and things to do. I figured I could spend a couple days in Santa Fe, eat some Mexican food, drink a margarita or two, and move on. But after doing a little research, I ended up dedicating a week to driving around the state and seeing what it had to offer. Here’s a bunch of stuff you really can’t miss on a trip through New Mexico.
If you love margaritas, you absolutely need to spend time here. Every restaurant has their own spin on the iconic drink, and there’s even a Margarita Trail you can follow to try them all out. Of course, the Mexican food here is also incredible. The city itself is vibrant, with unique architecture and bright colours everywhere. They have famous artisan markets every weekend, as well as a great farmers’ market with fresh produce from nearby. It’s also surrounded by parks and forests, with some killer hikes you can easily access from the city.
Here’s where I free-camped near Santa Fe.
This town is WEIRD. You definitely don’t need to spend more than a couple hours here, because outside of its alien museum, there’s really nothing to see. The museum itself is bizarre as hell, in an amazing way. It’s all about the UFO that “landed” here in Roswell back in the 1950s, and the huge government conspiracy to cover it up and hide it from the public. The town has really leaned into the ~alien~ of it all. There are alien murals and signs everywhere, as well as heaps of alien merch. The streetlights have even been painted to look like aliens. It’s really something else.
I camped at the nearby Bottomless Lakes state park.
Uh…who had any idea that you’d be able to find this white sand paradise in the middle of southern New Mexico? You’re driving through the brown dessert and then all of a sudden, BAM, there are towering white sand dunes. It’s a sprawling national park, with a couple of marked trails you can follow through the dunes. I recommend driving out to the end of the road and doing the Alkali Flat trail. You can also rent boards from the visitor centre and slide down the dunes. I camped near a lake right near the park so I could get there early before it got too hot.
These amazing mountains rise out of the flat ground, looking dramatic as hell. There are a couple of hikes you can do here, which offer amazing views all the way down to Mexico. I camped in a free spot on one side, where you can find a bunch of trails. On the other side, you’ll find the actual entrance to the park, with an official camp site. Here the trails are a bit more shaded which is ideal in summer.
Truth or Consequences
Another place that’s literally just worth a quick drop-in, Truth or Consequences is a little town with a crazy name. Back in the ’50s it was just called “Hot Springs”, when a famous radio show said they’d broadcast a live episode from any town which would change its name to Truth or Consequences. It helped put the small town on the map, and is a good stopover point on your way south from Santa Fe.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park
This was probably one of the best national parks I visited on my trip. It’s full of these amazing ancient sites that were built by native civilisations over a thousand years ago. Some of the walls are amazingly intact, and you can hike right through them. We did the hike up to Pueblo Alto – I recommend you do the full loop which has awesome views out over the rocky landscape and the giant Pueblo Grande ruins.
If you find Chaco Park interesting, you should definitely make a trip to Aztec. It’s a really well-preserved ruin, with some of the structures rebuilt so you can see what they used to look like. You can walk the 1km loop through the old village, and even walk through the rooms and doorways. They’ve got an awesome museum with artefacts and tons of info.
This little town doesn’t have much but it does have an AMAZING Mexican place. It’s called El Bruno, and it’s got a cute little outdoor patio. The food is really delicious and authentic, and the margaritas are huge. I had a big bowl of the local specialty – green chile stew – which was unlike anything I’d tasted before. Definitely worth a stop by.