D. H. Lawrence, writing in 1928, pretty much summed it up: “The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine high up over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul.”
The Land of Enchantment, the state motto of New Mexico, is certainly an apt description of a state with diverse landscape and population. This is a state in which the air is crisp, the water fresh, and the people warm and friendly.
The desert scenery here is absolutely breathtaking. The red rock cliffs and sprawling mesas make a drive through New Mexico seem a lot shorter than the 375 miles I-40 travels through the state. Northern New Mexico also boasts the mountains of Taos, and gives that part of the state a look more Colorado than Arizona.
New Mexico’s National Parks and Monuments offer a wide variety of outdoor and educational experiences. There are dormant volcanoes, ancient lava flows, ice caves, fossil sites, archeological digs, and unique geology just waiting to be explored.
White Sands National Park is one of the most distinct—and arresting—pieces of earth in the lower 48. Stretching 275 square miles, the majestic white dunes here aren’t composed of your typical beach sand but rather from gypsum crystals left behind from a nearby dried-out lake bed. The result looks more like a white-sand version of the Sahara desert than New Mexico; you half expect to see camels waltzing by.
The richly diverse volcanic landscape of El Malpais offers solitude, recreation, and discovery. Explore cinder cones, lava tube caves, sandstone bluffs, and hiking trails. While some may see a desolate environment, people have been adapting to and living in this extraordinary terrain for generations.
Discover an oasis in the desert at El Morro National Monument. The natural watering hole is tucked at the base of colorful sandstone cliffs. Walk the Inscription Trail to see thousands of inscriptions that bear witness to the visitors who sought refreshment there throughout the centuries.
Petroglyph National Monument protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago. These images are a valuable record of cultural expression and hold profound spiritual significance for contemporary Native Americans.
And we’d be remiss to leave out Carlsbad Caverns, a massive system of 119 known caves beneath its surface. Carlsbad Caverns are truly enormous; Will Rogers called the cave system “the Grand Canyon with a roof over it.” The most popular route through the cave is the Big Room (the largest single cave chamber in North America) which consists of a well-lit concrete path that will take you an hour or more to complete.
New Mexico is home to some of the oldest, continuously inhabited communities in North America. The Pueblos of Taos, Acoma, and Zuni have existed for countless lifetimes. Places like Chaco Canyon and Aztec were developed and populated thousands of years before Europeans arrived to America’s shores.
New Mexico’s cities are incomparable bastions of history, culture, and art. Santa Fe was called the Dancing Ground of the Sun by early Native American inhabitants and dubbed The City Different by town fathers at the turn of the 20th century. By any name, Santa Fe is one of the world’s top award-winning and most beloved destinations—four centuries of history and legend, ancient and modern cultures, visual and performing arts, and expansive culinary delights.
If you’re like us and many RVers, you love exploring America’s vast and varied culinary landscape during your travels. And I’m not talking fast food. If I could eat in only three states for the rest of my life, New Mexico would be in this select group.
No adventure in New Mexico is complete until you have experienced the cuisine. If you’ve never had New Mexican food, then prep your taste buds now! At the center of it all is the chile in both red and green varieties which is used in everything from enchiladas to wine and ice cream.
Chiles are the soul of New Mexican cooking which blends Native American and Hispanic influences into a cuisine unto itself. Chile comes in two varieties: red or green. Which one you will prefer is up to your palate. (Note: New Mexicans use the spelling chile, not chili, to mean the plant and the green or red sauce they make from it.)
Chile is the New Mexico’s largest agricultural crop. Across the state chile is consumed at every meal, is celebrated in songs and at festivals, and is the subject of the Official New Mexico State Question, Red or Green?, estimated to be uttered over 200,000 times a day in the state.
If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.