Taos is only a small town in New Mexico, with a population of 5,971 in 2018. In terms of things to do, it may not stand up to the likes of Albuquerque or Santa Fe, or even some of the cities in neighbouring Texas, like Austin or Houston (according to The Traveling Asian, there are plenty of exciting things to do in Houston, Texas). But nevertheless, little old Taos is a place that inspires and captivates the hearts of all who visit.
Discovered by nomadic tribes thousands of years ago and believed to be the fabled City of Gold by the Conquistador Hernando de Alvarado, Taos has since been a magnet for artists, writers and free thinkers who have been drawn to spend time both working and living here. Among them, Ansel Adams, D.H Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, Willa Cather and Georgia O’Keefe,
This tradition continued with the late Dennis Hopper, Julia Roberts,Brittany Howard, Agnes Martin and Larry Bell to name but a few of our famous residents past and present. Here in Taos, many of these talented people have created their best works. It is also a town known for Taos Pueblo, fantastic skiing, too many art galleries to count, historic sites, great museums, excellent restaurants, and year-round festivals!
If you are planning a visit soon, perhaps for one of the great music festivals we have lined up this season, here are five of the best things to do in Taos during the summertime!
When visiting Taos Pueblo, remember that you are not visiting a museum, but people’s homes. For more than 2000 years, Taos Pueblo is the only Native American living community that is designated as both a National Historic Landmark and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Most of the existing buildings were probably built sometime between 1000 and 1450 A.D. When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in Taos Valley in 1540, they thought they had discovered the City of Gold, due to the sunlight playing off the micaceous walls of the buildings. Hlaukwima (south house) and Hlauuma (north house) are believed to be around the same age.
Taos Pueblo consists of five stories of individual homes that are built side-by-side and stacked on top of each other with common walls. Several feet thick, the walls are made from earth mixed with water and straw to maintain a cool interior in summer and hold heat in winter. About 150 people live in the Pueblo village today. Since tradition demands no electricity and no running water in the village, most families come to the old pueblo for the ceremonies and live in more modern homes on their Tribal land. Next year Taos Pueblo will celebrate 50 years since getting back Blue Lake and its surrounding areas back from the Federal Government under Richard Nixon. An unprecedented achievement in Indian Country at the time.
When it was built 300 years ago, Taos Plaza was and remains, the heart of Taos. Located in the center of the Taos Historic District, the plaza is surrounded by shops, galleries, and the historic Hotel La Fonda where D.H. Lawrence’s erotic paintings are housed. Lovely old trees shade the plaza, where you can relax on a bench with an ice cream and people watch. For newcomers, this is a great place to start exploring.
There is always something going on in the plaza, and from May to October you can enjoy the Taos Plaza Live concerts on Thursday evenings along with our great Farmer’s Market held in the square every Saturday from early morning till 1pm.
As you stroll from the Plaza through the Taos Historic District, you’ll notice an interesting mix of vernacular; where Spanish Colonial houses stand next to houses built in Territorial, Pueblo Revival, and Mission Revival styles. Two alleys lead from the plaza to the John Dunn Shops and Bent Street for the best shopping in town!
La Hacienda de los Martinez
If your stroll through the Historic District whetted your appetite for more, and you would like to experience one of the great New Mexican homes from the Spanish Colonial Era, head directly to La Hacienda de los Martinez. The former home of the Martinez family, where Padre Martinez (you saw his statue on the plaza), grew up, was built in 1804 and was a significant location in the Spanish Empire due to the Camino Real trade routes.
The beautifully restored house now has twenty-one rooms on show that span two courtyards, and visitors can tour this unusual and unique museum with its mix of original and authentic reproduction furnishings will take you back to the early days of this settlement. Here you can still get a feel for the old Santa Fe Trail routes that once brought Traders, trappers and fortune seekers to this frontier town. The museum has a new show up this summer, celebrating the Colcha tradition of weaving and embroidery in the New World. Definitely worth seeing!
.Los Rios River Runners
With over 40 years in business aqui en Taos, Los Rios River Runners offer rafting and camping trips on the Rio Grande River. More adventurous folks can take white water rafting trips over rapids (and this year we have rapids!) Or you can choose to camp in the wilderness in the stunning Rio Chama Canyon. White water rafting is an amazing activity for the adventurous person, so white water rafting bay area could be great for those who would love that!
The guides are the best around and also offer visitors Feast and Float Trips, which include rafting and dining opportunities for those looking to enjoy a calmer rafting experience. Although with the way the river looks this year – high water everywhere – those might be few and far between! However, there are shorter half day tours as well as less intense choices for families with children. The trips also offer the chance to enjoy the local scenery and learn more about the flora and fauna of Taos.
The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
If hiking is more your jam, the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is made up of volcanic structures, deep valleys, and gorges, bisected by the Rio Grande River. The monument features volcanic cones, the highest of which is Ute Mountain standing at over 10,000 feet, and the area is filled with local wildlife, including Big Horned Sheep, elk, deer as well as the occasional bear or bob cat. Mountain lion sightings are fewer but not far between! Rattle snakes are a reality in summer, so do carry a big stick! And use it, not to strike the snake, but to warn him of your approach.
Visitors can explore the area by hiking or mountain biking and if you want to stay longer then you can also camp in the area. Besides offering an opportunity for wildlife sightings, the monument also offers rafting and fishing on the river.
For much more information and more ideas about what to do in Taos, please visit the site linked below.
Featured photograph by Geraint Smith
All other images stock files, including the Ansel Adams photograph of Taos Pueblo