Albuquerque, founded in 1706 on the Rio Grande River is a much bigger city than Santa Fe with a population of around 700,000 people. The city was named by the first Governor, Francisco Cuervo y Valdez in honor of the Duke of Alburquerque – the ‘r’ in his name later dropped.
Albuquerque is a high altitude desert city at about 5000 feet elevation and is very picturesque being next to the River with the Sandia Mountains forming the skyline. You can head out on a trail, or take the Sandia Park Tramway to the top of the Mountain and at 10378 feet high, to get a great view over the city and countryside. See www.sandiapeak.com
The city has built up a high tech business reputation, but also has great heritage and cultural attractions, at one stage being on Route 66. The neon signs from those times still shine in Albuquerque.
Like Santa Fe, there is a lot of Adobe architecture to be seen, and in the center of the Old Town there is a Plaza de Armas (simply called the Plaza), where many of the historic buildings are located, including the San Felipe de Neri Church rebuilt in 1792, Galleries and interesting shops. Head to Rio Grand Boulevard NW and Central Avenue NW.
A good way to see the city is to take a Trolley tour, that takes about 1 ½ hours to travel past some of the city’s highlights with an on board commentary. The ABQ Trolley Tour company is located at 800 Rio Grande Boulevard NW See www.abqtrolley.com Tel: 505 240 8000.
Some of the city highlights include –
Albuquerque is a great place for hiking, trail rides, golf courses, rafting and ballooning, go karting and more where due to its months of clear blue skies and altitude it has become a popular place for outdoor activities and particularly Balloonists.
West of Albuquerque is the Petroglyph National Monument – located at 6510 Western Trail NW (Tel: 505 899 0205), about 17 miles from Albuquerque. The Petroglyphs (Rock Drawings) are said to be 400 to 700 year’s old.
The Acoma Pueblo is perhaps the most amazing of all Pueblos, as it is built on top of a mesa (a flat tabletop Mountain with steep sides) that rises from the land about 367 feet. Acoma Pueblo is located about 1 hour west of Albuquerque and is said to date back to 1150 AD, the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America. It is best to come here on a tour – and see the site as well as the San Esteban del Rey Mission built in 1629. Also here is the Haak’u Museum and Sky City Cultural Center, where you will see collections of ancient pottery.
The Town of Gallup (population around 21,000) is located close to the border with Arizona on Route 666 and over 43% of its population are Native Americans – being from the Navajo Nation, Hopi and Zumi tribal groups. This is where some of the best Native American jewelry, weavings, paintings, pottery and crafts are created. Look for Red Rock Park and Museum, the Gallup Cultural Center and see lots of Route 66 memorabilia at the old El Rancho Hotel, where many of the Hollywood stars in Western movies once stayed. There are lots of walking and bike trails in the forests near Gallup to enjoy too.
The Canyon de Chelly in Arizona is where you can also see the remnants of ancient Pueblo buildings in the canyon built in the 1300’s. This is the land of the Navajo Nation and is about 92 miles west of Gallup, about 1 ½ hours distance away.
Las Cruces – is the second biggest city in New Mexico and about 225 miles south of Albuquerque and 50 miles north of El Paso in Texas. Las Cruces is called “The city of the Crosses” and has a population of around 100,000 so it has all the facilities, hotels, shops and restaurants that you would expect in a city of this size, and it is located in a valley with a backdrop of the Organ Mountains.
The main reason to come to Las Cruces is to see the White Sands National Monument, just 45 miles east from Las Cruces. This is where you will find pure white gypsum sand dunes that stretch out to the horizon covering an area of 275 square miles. The White Sands National Monument is truly awe inspiring to see – and a must see if you come to this part of New Mexico. It feels like you are in the middle of the Sahara desert – with nothing but the white sand and the sky above you. The Visitor Center can provide you with more information about the formation of the sands, the plants and animals that live here and also tell you about the “Trinity Project” – the time when the first Atomic bomb testing was undertaken nearby in 1945.
In Las Cruces city there are a number of museums to see –