Ancient arrow heads are being sold by members of the Taos Pueblo Native American tribe on the banks of the Rio Grande gorge, New Mexico’s most dramatic beauty spot. The sheer drop is dizzying with the hidden ravine 800 feet deep and slit-narrow as if the desert land has been slashed by a hunting knife. The desert landscape around Taos is mesmerising and the Native American trinkets and jewellery quietly indicate how Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque are still the beating heart of the once very Wild West, or to be precise, the Southwest.
This enthralling natural scenery with the Rocky Mountain snowy peaks glittering on the horizon in the spring sunshine has always been alluring. It attracted DH Lawrence in the 1920s, Hollywood icon Denis Hopper in the 1990s and fashion titan Tom Ford at the start of the 21st century, all choosing to move to this vast and ancient land with its signature pink adobe dwellings everywhere, including ruined ones cut into cliffs more than 700 years ago.
The fifth largest state, New Mexico also has the least dense population with fewer people (2.1 million) over more than five million square miles – a greater number that live in the whole of Manchester. It is also one of the most popular destinations with 35 million visitors a year; a discerning place to find high and low culture, exotic food and adventure – and to experience travelling in the unrivalled variety that is the USA.
Think lavender margaritas, the biggest hot air balloon fiesta at Albuquerque, the international UFO museum in Roswell, or just motor along Route 66 in a Chevrolet as the cacti-strewn sandy-soiled landscape turns orange at dusk. Also think super friendly, welcoming and safe. New Mexico is increasingly a popular destination that offers a perfect combination of traditional downtime relaxation with museums and local galleries and bars – or if your taste is slightly macabre, there is even a once-a-year chance to see the Trinity Atomic Bomb Site, the location of the first nuclear test, detonated by the US government in 1945. Quiet and quaint, enchanting and extraordinary, New Mexico is starkly modern but also steeped in prehistoric times.
A road trip between Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque is…