New Year, New Destination: Head to New Mexico

White Sands National Monument - New Mexico. Photo via Wikimedia, by David Jones.

White Sands National Monument – New Mexico. Photo via Wikimedia, by David Jones.

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A traditional list of the great American tourist attractions will not necessarily feature many destinations in the state of New Mexico. Overshadowed by larger states such as Texas and California, New Mexico is nevertheless one of the most interesting and beguiling areas in all of the United States. Although it has only had the status of a state since 1912, it has been occupied for significantly longer than that. Its first inhabitants, the Native Americans, still form a vital part of its life today along with a significant Spanish speaking population. Whether a visitor is looking for ancient history, art and culture, or just a relaxing time amidst breath-taking natural beauty, New Mexico has a lot to offer.

Any newcomer to New Mexico should start by visiting Santa Fe, the state capital. Whilst it is not the largest city in the state, it is the most historically interesting. With a population of 70,000 it is large enough to boast both a decent nightlife and a number of excellent tourist attractions. It is perhaps best known for its unique style of architecture, with most buildings in the urban area required to conform either to a Spanish Territorial or Puebloist style. This contributes to a feeling of travelling back in time when walking around the city’s streets, and generates a calm and cultured atmosphere. This is appropriate, as Santa Fe is well known as a centre of art and culture. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is situated in the city and pays homage to its most well-known artistic resident, whilst communities of writers and actors still ply their trade in the area to this day.

For those visitors who prefer natural beauty to man made art, New Mexico is also a perfect destination. A must-see area for such tourists is the White Sands National Monument, situated in the southeast of the state. This region stretches over 275 square miles, almost all of which is covered by fine white sand dunes and punctuated by hardy desert flora. With many miles of marked trails the hiking within the National Monument is superb, although visitors must be careful not to disturb the sensitive natural balance of the area. Given the non-urban character of much of the state, and the resulting lack of light pollution, White Sands is also one of the best places in the country for stargazing.

If Santa Fe represents the Spanish influence upon New Mexico, and White Sands showcases its natural attractions, then the Gila Cliff Dwellings illustrate how the earliest inhabitants of the region lived at peace with nature. Situated in the southwest of the state, and stretching over 533 acres, the Gila Cliff contains numerous interconnected dwellings built by the Mogollon people in the 13th century AD. Providing fantastic views, and situated within the wider Gila National Forest, the hike to the dwellings is one of the highlights of any visit to the state. In fact, the otherworldly strangeness of Gila is matched only by that other perennial tourist attraction in New Mexico, the town of Roswell. If you’re interested in the paranormal, then this UFO mecca is the place to be!

Whichever of New Mexico’s many destinations you want to visit; having your own transport means is recommendable. As in many places throughout the United States, public transport can be expensive and a number of destinations only reachable by road. Thankfully, Avis car hire in the USA presents a viable alternative and can be easily arranged. Simply choose the most appropriate vehicle, and enjoy a road trip you won’t soon forget!



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