Look, we love our neighbors who are just an hour’s drive to the north. But anyone who’s driven through New Mexico knows firsthand why it’s known as the Land of Enchantment.
We—Taoseños—believe that we won the lottery when it comes to having it all (i.e., location, history, culture, activities, AND beauty) right here in our backyard.
Here are the top 10 reasons why we think the Taos area is unique:
10. EarthshipsWhat’s an earthship? It’s an environmentally friendly, self-sustaining home built of natural and recycled materials. In the early 1970s, architect Michael Reynolds wanted to tackle the twin challenges of growing trash (this was pre-recycling) and lack of affordable housing. He did it by building Taos homes made of discarded steel and tin cans, spawning the Earthship Biotecture movement. Earthships have since gone global but how they evolved can best be seen in the off-grid Greater World Community and its visitor’s center.
9. One-of-a-Kind History & CultureArcheologists say that Taos became a major trade and travel artery some 9,000 years ago, around the same time that wheat and barley were first being cultivated in Mesopotamia. The Pueblo people made Taos home 1,000+ years ago. The Spanish came much later, strengthening their foothold in the Taos valley in the 1600s despite battles with locals. At one point, the Puebloans drove the Spanish out but they returned in force, settling the area through land acquisition and trade with the Pueblo people. (For a look at life in the 1800s, visit the massive, fortified, adobe Martinez Hacienda built in 1804.) It wasn’t until 1850 that New Mexico became a U.S. territory. At that point, Anglo and other cultures made inroads here. There’s nothing like taking a guided historic tour to learn more about this war-torn history and how Taos eventually became a cultural melting pot.
8. An Arts ColonyIt began with a broken wagon wheel. In 1898, young artists Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips became enthralled with Taos when their wagon could go no further. They spread the word to their peers, drawing them here, ultimately forming the Taos Society of Artists in 1915. Soon thereafter, intellectuals and writers including D.H. Lawrence and others began to flock to Taos creating an artist’s colony that today draws creatives from all parts of the globe. Visit the Taos Art Museum and the Harwood Museum for works from the original Taos Six, native Puebloans, nearby Navajo, and others. Drop into any of our hundreds of galleries for art of a newer vintage. And don’t forget to check out Taos Ski Valley’s The Blake hotel for its extraordinary art collection that includes works by Georgia O’Keeffe.
7. A UNESCO World Heritage Site
6. Protected Flora & FaunaMore than 1/3 of New Mexico’s land is protected. That includes national forests such as the Carson National Forest in which the scenic mountain ski village of Taos Ski Valley is nestled, pueblo lands, historic monuments such as the Rio Grande Del Norte Monument, and more. This makes for a giant playground, whether hiking, biking, snow sports, or simply exploring or picnicking alongside scenic high-alpine lakes such as Williams Lake.
5. Room to BreatheThe town of Taos has some 6,000 permanent residents while Taos County has fewer than 33,000 (U.S. Census) spread over 1.411 million acres. Taos Ski Valley has about 152 permanent residents. That translates into lots of elbow room for locals and visitors alike to pursue their heart's desires—often in complete and energy-replenishing solitude—whether it’s fly fishing high-alpine streams and hidden lakes, climbing New Mexico’s tallest peaks (including Wheeler Peak), horseback and/or llama trekking, touring, and much more… even if it’s just breathing in the crystalline mountain air and Zen that comes with it.
4. The RiftLocals call this awe-inspiring canyon carved by the fast-moving Rio Grande “The Rift” but it’s officially The Rio Grande Rift of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. This newly minted national monument is a hotspot for rafting, kayaking and fishing adventures down low and miles of hiking and biking trails up top. The west rim offers stunning views of red and orange sunsets that wash the Southern Rockies (where Taos Ski Valley is situated) in various shades of pink giving them their Sangre de Cristo name. The sunset views—plus those of steep canyon walls—are a must-see from either the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge or the less vertigo-inducing but still scenic west rim rest area.
3. VolcanoesAs the largest volcanic field in the Rio Grande Rift Valley, Taos Plateau is an amateur geologist’s dream. The field contains vents and associated lava flows anywhere from 1.8 million to 4 million years old with a few 22 million-year-old vents. If you went back 22 million years, you’d find yourself in a time when India was colliding with Eurasia, creating the Himalaya Mountains. At 13,159’, Wheeler Peak (New Mexico’s highest, which you can hike via the scenic Williams Lake Trail) is dwarfed by Mt. Everest (elev. 29,029’). Unlike Everest, you can summit Wheeler and surrounding peaks in a single day without supplemental oxygen and still make it to The Bavarian Restaurant to sip a German beer on tap—or enjoy a well-curated wine—while gorging on spaetzel, bratwurst, goulash or other kinds of German specialties before heading downhill for a well-earned massage and soak at one of Taos Ski Valley’s spas.
2. Illuminated ViewsIf you’ve been here, you know. If not, visit our Taos Ski Valley Instagram feed or our Facebook page. Or picture with your mind’s eye a wide, rolling plateau of high desert dotted by mesas, volcanic vents, sagebrush, and piñon, torn in two by the thundering Rio Grande, ringed by soaring mountains, illuminated by the almost ever-present high-altitude sun (280+ sunlit days a year), topped by a bluebird sky… with not a single skyscraper on the horizon. These expansive views take you back to another age as they take your breath away. They also offer great photo and plein-air painting opportunities, whatever the time of day, season, or occasion. And then there’s the unique quality of New Mexico’s light which has inspired and puzzled so many; is it the wind whipping the high-desert sand into the air that gives the light its crystalline quality or something more otherworldly? We don’t know. But to see it is to be awed by it.
1. Unique CuisineWe’re foodies. And since our taste buds rule the day, food and beverage rank first on our list! But you might think Earthships—or views, etc.—should be number one; two thumbs up for whatever order works best for you! That said, what can’t be denied is that spicy, hearty Spanish/Mexican fare took on a life of its own here in New Mexico. You can find tasty traditional New Mexican dishes alongside innovative culinary adventures where chefs meld local ingredients and flavors with international seasonings to create something completely new. What’s extraordinary is that all in the same day you can indulge in some traditional fry bread at the Taos Pueblo to start the day, followed by a Hatch-green chile smothered…well…anything (from burgers to burritos, accompanied by a crispy sopapilla drenched in local honey) plus one of the town’s best margaritas at The Historic Taos Inn, followed by some Nouveau Mexican (with a hint of Vietnamese or some other exotic flavors for a new twist) at one of Taos County’s many fine-dining establishments for dinner.
If any of this strikes a chord with you, please check out some sample itineraries for a single or multi-day visit to Taos and nearby or fill out a trip inquiry form.
Either way, bienvenidos/welcome!