Pack your bags and head out for an adventure of a lifetime in the beautiful expansive areas of New Mexico. Whether you want to go scuba diving in the desert, sledding on a sand dune, or strolling with a wolf, this Southwestern state offers it all. As for accommodations, New Mexico vacation rentals give you a chance to step away from crowded resorts and hotels to take the road less traveled. Check out the 10 best hidden gems in New Mexico that put the “zing” in amazing.
1. El Rancho de las Golondrinas, Santa Fe
A historical ranch, El Rancho de las Golondrinas, now operates as a living history museum that features interactive learning opportunities for visitors. Located on the way from Mexico City to Santa Fe, it once served as a stop-over for travelers. Docents dressed in period costumes coach visitors in carding, weaving, washing wool, and colcha embroidery. The museum seeks to help visitors learn about the culture and traditions of the state’s Hispanic ancestors while preserving the history of the area.
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2. Sky City, Pueblo of Acoma
The oldest, continuously-inhabited village in North America, Sky City, is a village that dates back to 1100. Three homes still in use date back that far. Over 250 structures atop a vast sandstone mesa overlook the valley, which lies 367 feet below. The village, still inhabited by a few members of the Acoma tribe, has no electricity or running water. For many centuries, inhabitants climbed the hidden ladder, which only they knew how to find. The 13 families who live there now serve as caretakers and tour guides of Sky City and the museum.
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3. White Sands National Monument, Tularosa
Take the kids sledding in the Chihuahuan Desert–yes, in the desert–on the dunes of White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico. The gift shop on-site, and stores in town, sell sleds and sled wax. Technically, it isn’t sand; rather, it’s a 7,000-year-old gypsum dune field that measures about 275 square miles. Year after year, some dunes can move as much as 30 feet per year, moved by the wind. The reserve in the park features some distinctive animals, including the Bleached Earless Lizard.
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4. Blue Hole, Santa Rosa
Let friends think you’re crazy when you tell them you plan to go scuba diving or swimming in the desert, as that’s exactly what you can do at the Santa Rosa Blue Hole. Standing out like a sparkling sapphire amid the prickly pear cacti and sagebrush, this artesian well measures about 80 feet in diameter at the top and broadens to 130 feet at the bottom. At 80 feet deep, this clear blue swimming hole maintains a temperature of 62 F with a constant flow of 3,000 gallons of water per minute. A network of sinkholes that form in the limestone bedrock exist throughout the area, connected by underground tunnels.
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5. Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, Ramah
Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary exists to rescue wolves, wolf dogs, and other canines. Their mission statement includes three goals: rescue, sanctuary, and education. Among the types of tours available, the basic guided tour teaches visitors about canine behavior. These tours last between 45 and 90 minutes, with very little exertion required, and there is no interaction with the animals. The one-hour Canine Encounter takes visitors who are at least 18 years old into some of the social habitats to meet some of the animals and learn why they are here. Potential meetings include wolves, wolf dogs, dingoes, or New Guinea singing dogs. The 30-minute Wolf Walk features a private walk with one of the Educational Rescues and a handler through the property, but interaction with the animal is not promised.
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6. Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos
The visitor center at Bandelier National Monument includes a short, informative video that helps put the site in perspective before you go exploring. The monument preserves the pueblo homes and territory of the ancient Pueblo people. They built the homes of adobe mud, stone, and other materials from about 1150 to 1350. Picking up a trail guide at the center helps you learn more about the sites with descriptions of the numbered stops. The Main Loop Trail meanders just over a mile through the archaeological sites, which takes about 45 to 60 minutes. To explore the small cavates — human dwellings — use the ladders along the trail. Strollers and wheelchairs navigate only the first part of the trail, but the second part includes stone stairs.
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7. Earthships, Taos
When you visit this New Mexico attraction, consider making one of the Earthships your Taos vacation rental as well. Looking like something out of science fiction, these homes on a mesa use solar power, wind power, recycled water, car bar batteries, and other types of off-the-grid technologies. Visitors drive by or ask for a guided tour to get the full story about the purpose of the homes and how the owners built them. There’s also a training academy that teaches interested parties how to build their own earthships.
8. Plaza Blanca, Abiquiu
You walk only about a quarter of a mile to reach the base of Plaza Blanca, but it feels so remote, as if you are miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Also called the White Place, this treasure of eroded volcanic formations inspired Georgia O’Keeffe and other artists to paint the inspiring, otherworldly scenery. It’s advisable to go in the cool of the day and take plenty of water, so everyone has energy to climb through and over this treasured of bleached geological formations as you explore.
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9. Sitting Bull Falls, Carlsbad
When making your Carlsbad vacation rental reservation, the famous cavern on your itinerary makes perfect sense as a go-to attraction. Be sure to make time to get to the best-kept secret in the area, Sitting Bull Falls. It’s a little recreation area that lies about an hour southwest of town, and it includes a picnic area to make the visit complete. From the parking lot, the paved walkway down to the lookout over the falls is only about a quarter of a mile. The waterfall spills about 150 feet into a delightful pool where visitors wade and swim.
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10. Bisti Badlands, Farmington
Colorful mushroom-shaped formations of sandstone and shale cover the Bisti Badlands landscape. It’s helpful to stop at the Farmington visitor center to pick up a free map for Bisti to decide which areas you want to visit. Most of the time you walk on smooth, level ground without vegetation or obstacles. A couple of miles from the parking lot, there’s an interesting area that includes some large petrified logs among the hoodoos.
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