Santa Fe is one of the most beautiful and unique cities in the Southwest and draws a large number of visitors each year, but just outside the city limits lie several towns with their own charm. From old-west style towns to mountain villages and artist meccas, these towns are more than worth the trip.
#5: Los Alamos:
Because the Southwest is covered in so many national treasures, from the Grand Canyon to Mesa Verde, places like Los Alamos get overlooked. The secret gem of Los Alamos is the gateway to 3 national parks that offers some of the best outdoor excitement in the state. Bandelier National Monument has cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and over 70 miles of hiking trails offering no shortage of activities. Valles Caldera National Preserve is a 13-mile-wide volcanic depression that provides some of the best fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and even hunting. Did you know that the atomic bomb was created in Los Alamos? You can learn about its inception and other feats of science, engineering, and technology at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
#4: Las Vegas:
If you thought Las Vegas was in Nevada, you were (partly) wrong. New Mexico has a charming town just East of Santa Fe that looks right out of a Western movie–mostly because Las Vegas is a popular set to stage Western films. Starting in 1913, the town was the main backdrop for many silent films and has grown in the film world to host classics like Easy Rider, Convoy, and Red Dawn. Today the town is still used frequently for movies ranging from comedies like Wild Hogs and TV series like House of Cards, to the music video for Beer for my Horses by Toby Keith. Head into town, see if you can spot a building from your favorite scenes, and experience the true West!
Just south of Santa Fe lies a ghost town turned into an artist’s oasis. While the town only consists of a couple hundred people, the art scene is thriving. The town boasts having the most artists per capita in the entire United States and it is apparent from the second you arrive. Meander through the colorful village filled with teals, reds, lime greens, deep blues, and every other color of the rainbow. The art you will find here is as unique as the town itself. Even the restaurants create culinary masterpieces! The Mine Shaft Tavern and The Hollar are two of the most unique eateries around Santa Fe and are more than worth the trip. Don’t forget a stop at Shugarman’s Little Chocolate Shop to satisfy your sweet tooth with some world-class chocolate.
#2: Jemez Springs:
Drive along Highway 4 through the beautiful mountains to the Northwest of Santa Fe and you’ll stumble upon a serene mountain village called Jemez Springs. As the name suggests, there are natural thermal pools all around the town, with one of the most popular being the Jemez Hot Springs. These relaxing blue pools are surrounded by warm adobe buildings and scenic mountain views. If relaxation is what you’re after then a trip to Jemez Springs is your solution. The area also has several primitive hot springs tucked into the forest and requires a little adventure to get to. Between the McCauley Warm Springs, Spence Hot Spring, and San Antonio Hot Spring, you can find somewhere secluded to enjoy the natural surroundings.
Just 40 minutes north of Santa Fe, a trip to Chimayo is absolutely essential. The High Road to Taos Scenic Byway is one of the most beautiful drives in the state and plants you in the holy town of Chimayo. The town is most famous for El Santuario de Chimayo, a stunning catholic chapel that is now an important pilgrimage site bringing over 300,000 visitors per year. There are several other chapels and religious sites in the area to visit as well as the plentiful weaving shops. You can find the perfect accent rug or wall piece in one of these artisanal weaving shops and watch them create their masterpieces right before your very eyes! While in town make sure to stop by the Rancho de Chimayo restaurant for some of the most flavorful Mexican food your taste buds will ever experience. They have been satisfying guests for over 50 years and recently won the James Beard Award! Chimayo is also home to Casa Escondida, an enchanting bed & breakfast in the foothills of the Sangre de Christo and Jemez Mountains. With so much beauty around, you’ll want to stay a couple of days to absorb everything Chimayo has to offer.
Add these towns to your bucket list and spend some time touring around. Spend the day mountain biking in Los Alamos and relax in the warming pools of Jemez Springs afterward. Take the scenic route to Albuquerque and stop for a bit in the colorful town of Madrid. Escape from the city for a weekend in Chimayo and wander through the magnificent cathedrals and culturally rich town. The possibilities are endless in these unique New Mexico towns.
Ready to tour New Mexico? Book a stay at Casa Escondida, a hacienda-like Bed & Breakfast in Chimayo, NM.