There are unlimited fabulous places in New Mexico to explore.
The thousands of years of documented history and culture of the area make New Mexico one of the most alluring and fascinating places on planet Earth.
But, if I had to pick a few points on the map, I would choose these 11 interesting and beautiful places to visit in New Mexico. After all, they don’t call it “The Land Of Enchantment” for nothing!
Below, you’ll find my top picks for must-see spots in New Mexico. Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any of your favorites!
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Petroglyphs National Monument
Petroglyphs and pictographs always amaze me. I’ve been all over the Southwest and have seen so many in my travels, but none compare to the petroglyphs found at Petroglyphs National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is the largest collection of petroglyphs in North America.
Not only is it a place to view ancient artifacts, but there are three trails to choose from to see the more than 24,000 images in the park. There are also many other archaeological sites and five volcanic cones.
The petroglyphs were left by an ancient Pueblo society 3,000 years ago and are sacred to their ancestors that live there today.
To walk among these ancient drawings is something that I think everyone should experience. It is impossible to know exactly what all of the stories mean, but these people were wise and had a lot to communicate to the outside world and to the future generations.
Roswell, New Mexico
In 1947, Mac Brazel found wreckage that couldn’t be explained on his ranch outside of Roswell, New Mexico. Was it a weather balloon, a soviet spy craft or an alien craft from outer space?
The UFO craze was all the rage that summer in the Southwest with reported “sightings” of unidentified flying objects in several nearby towns.
The U.S. government got involved and stated it was a weather balloon, but then later changed their story, adding fuel to the UFO mania fire.
The city of Roswell decided this could be a great gimmick to put them on the map. Why not capitalize on all the media attention and turn the town into a stop on your cross country roadtrip?
So, that’s just what the city did and it is a spectacle to behold. Alien themed shops and restaurants line Main Street in Roswell. You can get a t-shirt and a mug and even have your picture made next to the roadside art of a family meeting aliens in Roswell.
It’s fun and entertaining, but not very convincing.
Whether you believe in aliens or not, Roswell, New Mexico is a worthwhile stop on your road trip of the Southwest.
If you visit Roswell on your road trip, make sure you stop at Carlsbad Caverns on your way back down to Interstate 10. It’s one of the best examples of underground caves systems that America has to offer.
Beneath the Chihuhuan Desert lies an underground world that few on the planet will ever get to see. This world formed when sulfuric acid seeped into the ground and ate away the limestone beneath the ground, creating passageways, and rooms.
But, the most interesting thing you will see when in the caves is an ancient coral reef. About 265 million years ago the cave was the bottom of the ocean and coral reefs, algae, ammonites, snails and other sea creatures made the sea floor their home.
Over time, the seafloor was covered with sediments 1,800 feet thick, hiding it deep within the earth. Over 20 million years, uplift and erosion has exposed parts of the reef within the cave. You have to see it to believe it. Isn’t nature amazing?
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
What could be better than a nine day party to kick off the beginning of fall? At the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, you can bring your RV and park at the fairgrounds for nine days while you enjoy the world’s largest balloon festival. This is a New Mexico tourist attraction that you won’t want to miss.
Watchmas 500 balloons launch into the clear blue skies of the New Mexican horizon. Enjoy different events such as the Dawn Patrol Show, which is when hot air balloons will take off during sunrise. This is an amazing experience.
My family and I got up at 4:30 a.m. and drove to the hill sides of Albuquerque and watched as hundreds of balloons lifted off at sunrise. The view was incredible against the backdrop of the Sandia Mountains. This is an experience I will never forget.
The Mass Ascension, which is when over 500 balloons take off at once dotting the sky with a a conglomeration of every type of balloon you can imagine, is mesmerizing. It’s incredible to see and unimaginable to conceive of the manpower and coordination this takes to execute.
There are also tons of other events throughout the week that makes this one of the most interesting and beautiful places to visit in New Mexico.
Capulin Volcano National Monument
Have you ever walked into the caldera of a volcano? I have and it’s thrilling!
Even though it hasn’t erupted in 60,000 years, I could imagine what it must have been like as I descended down into the crater.
Scientists have concluded that Capulin Volcano is at the center of an active field of volcanos called the Rayton-Clayton Field. Although it is not likely to erupt again, magma could flow near the volcano creating a new base for another volcano.
The oldest volcano is dated at 9 million years old, while the youngest is estimated to be about 45,000 years old. That’s pretty young in volcano terms. So, when you’re visiting New Mexico just think about how alive and active the ground beneath you is.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is a city for the historian and the art connoisseur. It’s a city for lovers of the gorgeous architecture of the Pueblo Revival style and foodies that love the old dishes of Mexico. It’s as colorfully vibrant as it is mystical.
If you visit this interesting and beautiful place in New Mexico, you will find yourself 7,000 feet above see level in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Here, you can walk down Main Street and enjoy 250 art galleries and dealers and a plethora of museums. Foodies will praise the area for the most exquisite examples of Southwest cuisine that a vacationing palette can handle.
There are many notable places to visit in Santa Fe.
Canyon Road, for instance, showcases 80 art galleries to peruse. You can also browse through the wares of artisans and makers from all over the Southwest at the Santa Fe Farmer’s market. There are even three ski areas for the sporty visitor to enjoy some downhill powder in the winter time.
Santa Fe should definitely be on your radar if you plan on visiting New Mexico.
Bandelier National Monument
When in Santa Fe, it’s convenient to visit Bandelier National Monument as it is only 40 miles away. For more than 11,000 years, the Pueblo people have called this area their home. Evidence of this is everywhere in this amazing national park.
The Pueblo people began making the volcanic tuffs into homes around 1100 CE. These include an elaborate system of dwellings that have been carved into the rock reached by an assemblage of ladders. You can explore The Alcove House and see how people lived so long ago.
Standing in one of the houses, it is easy to imagine why the Pueblo people thought this was a good place for a home. The light shines in and illuminates the interior making it feel so cozy and safe. A place you would like to spend time, even without modern conveniences. Bandelier National Monument is definitely one of the best places to go in New Mexico.
White Sands National Park
This is truly one of the best places to visit in New Mexico!
Sitting right outside Alamogordo, you will find a vast desert of pure white sand that spans 227 square miles. Located in an alcove between the San Andres and Sacramento Mountains, White Sands is an enigma in geology.
Gypsum, a mineral used in drywall and some processed food, erodes down from the surrounding mountains and is deposited into seasonal Lake Lucero, where it then gets blown by the wind when the lake dries out. The gypsum tumbles and breaks into tiny particles where it finally lands in dune field in the national park.
Come hike through the dunes, or better yet, come slide down them!
Dune sledding is the recreation of this park and you would be remiss if you visited without trying it.
Buy a sand sled or sand board at the visitor’s center and have the time of your life. My family and I have been here three times and always say that it is our favorite activity to do in New Mexico.
Trinity Atomic Bomb Site
On July 16, 1945 the world was changed forever when an atomic bomb was detonated at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
At 5:30 a.m. that morning the plutonium implosion device released 18.6 kilotons of power, instantaneously vaporizing the tower in which it was hoisted and turning the sand into green glass.
Days later on August 6, 1945 , an atomic bomb the equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT would be dropped on Hiroshima, Japan killing and injuring hundreds of thousands of people. When Japan refused to surrender, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan killing an addition 40,000 people. Japan then surrendered, which would end World War II.
If you visit, you will see the depression that the bomb made and remnants of the green glass. You can tour the scientist’s and technician’s homes and the observations point where scientists watched the explosion.
Although only open twice a year, it is worth planning and making the trek out to Trinity Bombing Site.
The site is important to witness so that we can remember the power that human beings have to end entire societies when they effectively harness math and science. It can be used for evil or for good, but it is up to us which it will be.
Four Corners Monument
How would you like to be in four states at once? The Four Corners Monument lets you do just that.
Put one hand in Utah and the other in Colorado. Then put one foot in Arizona and the other in New Mexico. It’s thrilling to be in a spot where you can cross the border four times while standing still.
Grab a selfie with your family or friends and embrace this epic photo opp.
When my family and I went there, my daughter thought she would be cute and do a backbend with each hand and foot in each state. Be creative and have fun, but prepare to wait in a line. Everyone wants their shot!
Chaco Culture National Historic Park
The Pueblo people dominated the New Mexican region for over 2,000 years. The Chaco Culture Historic Park highlights the sophistication and complexity that these ancient people were capable of.
Grand public and ceremonial buildings still stand today and depict how people lived worked and played in the southwest between 850 and 1250. Thousands of people saw this area as a hub for political gatherings and religious ceremonies and would congregate to celebrate, to pray and to gather.
Today you can come and tour the park’s six major sites located along 9-mile, Canyon Loop Drive. There are also many opportunities for backcountry hiking that will take you to ancient roads and petroglyphs. The outlook from this area is also outstanding and gives you sweeping widespread views of the valley below. This is just another one of the many amazing places to visit in New Mexico.
New Mexico is as beautiful as it is enchanting. There really is no other place like it.