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New Mexico PHOTOTRAVEL GUIDE

New Mexico Quick Information

This page contains essential information on planning a road trip to New Mexico. We have gathered a number of our experiences that we share here. We have prepared detailed articles with plenty of valuable hints and tips from the places we visited in New Mexico. On this page, you will also find links to them.

New Mexico (in Spanish: Nuevo México; in Navajo: Yootó Hahoodzo) is a state in the Southwestern region of the United States. It is one of the Mountain States and shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and Arizona (read our article about Visiting Shiprock & Four Corners Monument).

The capital is Santa Fe, which was founded in 1610 as the capital of Nuevo México. The largest city is Albuquerque.
Inhabited by Native Americans for many thousands of years before European exploration, it was colonized by the Spanish in 1598 as part of the Imperial Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain.

In 1563, it was named Nuevo México after the Aztec Valley of Mexico by Spanish settlers, more than 250 years before the establishment and naming of the present-day country of Mexico. So, the present-day state of New Mexico was not named after the country today known as Mexico. After Mexican independence in 1821, New Mexico became a Mexican territory with considerable autonomy. After the Mexican–American War in 1848, the United States annexed New Mexico as the U.S. New Mexico Territory. It was admitted to the Union as the 47th state on January 6, 1912.

With an estimated population of 2 096 829 in 2019, New Mexico is the 36th largest state by population. With a total area of 121 590 sq mi (314 900 km2), it is the fifth-largest and sixth-least densely populated of the 50 states.

Due to history, New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanic and Latino Americans, and the second-highest percentage of Native Americans as a population proportion after Alaska. Furthermore, New Mexico is home to part of the Navajo Nation, 19 federally recognized Pueblo communities of Puebloan peoples (as famous Taos Pueblo), and three different federally recognized Apache tribes. So, you will find here a fantastic mix of history, culture, art, and food.

Whether you are a tourist, photographer, nature-lover, adventurer, or just looking for an amazing experience, New Mexico is the right place for you.

You will find excellent ski resorts and deserts. The New Mexican landscape ranges from vast, rose-colored deserts to snow-capped peaks. Wilderness, forests and rivers, as the Rio Grande, which is the fourth-longest river in the United States. Ancient pueblos and modern cities. Wild animals and migration sites for wild birds. In part Best Things To Do, we described the most exciting places in New Mexico worth your visit. As a result, in this article, we show must-see in New Mexico and hidden places in New Mexico as well. We hope it inspires you and helps you decide where to go for your next getaway, U.S.

new mexico photography guide

Trip Planning

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT NEW MEXICO?

New Mexico’s climate is generally semiarid to arid. Its territory is mostly covered by mountains, high plains, and deserts. In eastern New Mexico is the Great Plains, similar to the east Colorado high plains. The two states share similar terrain, both having plains, mountains, basins, mesas, and deserts. New Mexico’s statewide average precipitation is 13.9 inches (350 mm) a year. The average annual temperatures can range from 64 °F (18 °C) in the southeast to below 40 °F (4 °C) in the northern mountains. However, during the summer, daytime temperatures often exceed 100 °F (38 °C) at elevations below 5 000 feet (1 500 m).
During wintertime, from November to March, nighttime temperature lows below 32 °F (0 °C), and it’s a lot of snow.

Temperature differences in the mountains and the desert between day and night are vast. So, expect extremes temperature differences all year and always prepare for hot days, cold nights. Furthermore, check the weather condition before you go and during your visit as well. Pack yourself properly for your trip. Check our day hike essentials.

So, when is the best time to visit New Mexico? It depends on your needs. If you want to ski, come between December and February. If you are interested in hiking and sightseeing, autumn and spring are the best. However, during the summer, there are many exciting festivals & events (we write about them in detail in our Santa Fe article).

TRANSPORTATION TO NEW MEXICO

BY AIR

The most convenient airport is Albuquerque International Sunport. Hovever, the Santa Fe Municipal Airport offers daily direct flights from Denver, Dallas, or Phoenix. Check the best flight options on skyscanner.com.

BY CAR

At the Sunport in Albuquerque, you can choose from several car rental agencies. You can compare conditions, prices and book your car on TripAdvisor. However, our favorite rental is Alamo, we’ve been using it for years, and we can recommend it. In Santa Fe you can find some car rental agencies right at the airport, too. If you’re planning a trip between December and March, it’s good to have winter tires and 4×4 drive.

Winter in New Mexico

WHERE TO STAY IN NEW MEXICO?

LODGING IN NEW MEXICO

We have prepared a separate complete travel guide about each of the places in New Mexico, which we visited. In each of these guides, you will find our suggestions for the best and the most interesting accommodation. As with each state, you can have different accommodation options with various prices and facilities. You will find spa, small hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, mountain lodges, cabins, private rentals, campgrounds.

HOTELS IN NEW MEXICO

You have a vast selection of hotels in New Mexico. We think the most exciting cities to stay are Santa Fe, Taos, Farmington, Socorro & Albuquerque. The best way to find a hotel at a reasonable price and best quality is to check the offers on booking.com and our favourite hotels.com.

If you are looking for accommodation in Santa Fe, here you will find our recommendations.

CAMPGROUNDS & PUBLIC LANDS IN NEW MEXICO

In case you are traveling with RV or another type like van, you should know that New Mexico is friendly for boondocking, because of BLM. You can stay overnight on public lands. But check regulations and maps on the BLM website.

However, if you need hookups or dumps, water and shower, the campgrounds and RV parks are also popular in this state. Prices are reasonable. But this type of traveling is increasingly popular, so book your campsite in advance.

Our favorite campgrounds in New Mexico are:

Rancheros de Santa Fe Campground which is quiet, wooded camping only minutes from Old Town Santa Fe with 99 spaces available. 53 are full hookups. It offers also tent sites. You can book it online here.

Moore’s RV Park & Campground in Bloomfield. It is a clean, quiet, and well-maintained park with great amenities and very friendly staff. It is also pet friendly. So, book it advance on their website.

White’s City Carlsbad Caverns RV Park, which is open year-round and offers full hookups, water, restrooms, showers, laundry.

Sunset

NEW MEXICO MAP

It is great to have a map of New Mexico to plan your visit properly. We can recommend our favorites maps of New Mexico.

We like this New Mexico Road & Recreation Atlas. It provides public land maps and categories listings of attractions, including parks and monuments, boating and fishing access points, campgrounds, RV parks, forest and wildfire areas, and much more.

If you are looking topografic map DeLorme New Mexico Atlas & Gazetteer is the best one. It is a large-format paper map with elevation contours, major highways, and roads, dirt roads, trails, points of interest, landmarks, state and national parks, campgrounds, boat launches, golf courses, historic sites, hunting zones, canoe trips, scenic drive recommendations and more. We love all these series.

Taos New Mexico Travel Guide

PACKING LIST FOR NEW MEXICO

Temperature amplitudes in New Mexico is very large. You can sweat and, in a moment, shivering with cold. The weather can change drastically in a few minutes. You have mountains; you have deserts, so regardless of the season in which you visit, you must be prepared for rapid weather changes. Always check the weather warnings before going on the trail.

Below you will find our recommendations.

  • Hiking boots or shoes with good traction. In our opinion hiking boots with excellent traction are essential in New Mexico, because it is rocky and deserted terrain. There are rattlesnakes, spiders, and scorpions, so protect your foot and ankle with high shoes. Our favorite boots are Mammut’s. Here are women and men boots we use. We also like Keen, which we use for less challenging terrain.
  • Trekking poles. In our opinion, hiking poles are also very useful in this rough terrain.
  • First aid kit. Don’t forget the First Aid Kit for your trip. We always have a First Aid Kit in case of an accident. We like this set because it is compact, light, waterproof, and contains everything necessary. So, it is perfect for an adventure.
Hiking BootsUltra strong & light Hiking PolesStrong HeadlampWater Reservoir
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  • GPS.  Some hikes in New Mexico, like the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness might be challenging even for experienced hikers. So, take a good Handheld GPS or watch with you. A mobile phone may not be enough. There is often no coverage on the best hikes in New Mexico. Furthermore, the battery can discharge quickly. If you want some Apps with maps for your smartphone, use the All Trails Pro app. But, download maps before you start your hike.
  • Maps. Printed maps are a thing of the past? Not for us. Few times during our travels around the world technic let us down, most often our smartphones. Therefore, for hiking in difficult and demanding terrain, we always take a maps or deteiled printed guides with us.
  • Water and snacks. Always take more water than you need just in case. Get yourself hydrated the day before the hike. Here is our favorite water reservoir, so you can reduce your plastic waste. Watch your body while hiking. Even experienced hikers have weaker days. If you start to feel dizzy, disoriented, nauseated, take a rest. Drink water and eat a salty and high-proteins snack and rest as long as you feel better. If you are cold, put on extra layers and eat. If you are hot, drink more water and rest.
First Aid Kit for HikingSun HatOutdoor Watch with GPSHandheld GPS
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  • Headlamp. Darkness may surprise you. We always take headlamps with us. It helped us find the trail a few times. Our favorite model is this one.
  • Jacket & Hiking pants. In our opinion even during summer you should pack warm. Long hiking pants are necessary for your safety, because they protect protects your legs against abrasions or bites. These are our favorite models: women’s and men’s, which we use. Even in summer, take a long-sleeved jacket or hoodie with you. Here are our favorite models: women’s and men’s.
  • Hat & Sunscreen. Protect your body by the sun, by wearing a hat sunscreen.
  • Just in case. No matter if the trail is short or long, easy or demanding, you always have to be prepared for the hike. Accidents happen, or the weather can change dramatically in a few minutes. That’s why we pack carefully, even for shorts and leisure walks. Always carry some type of emergency shelter to protect you from wind and rain in case you get stranded or injured on the trail. Take an Emergency sleeping bag, which serves as your emergency blanket, survival shelter, and emergency bivy sack – all-in-one. It is a great solution just in case you have to spend the night in the desert or mountains. It’s happening in remote areas of New Mexico.
  • We add to ours backpack raincoat or windstoppergloves, a beanie, just in case of weather breakdown. Temperature differences in the desert or mountains are vast, so even in summer, take warm clothes. Furthermore, we have Pocket Knife with Multitool, which is ideal for outdoor activities like camping and hiking. It’s essential for gear repair, food preparation, first aid.
Beef JerkyEmergency Sleeping BagHiking BackpackProtein Bars
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New Mexico

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel Insurance is the basis of the journey. No matter if you are going on an organized luxury vacation or a road trip, remember about insurance. It’s crucial to travel safely. We always use World Nomads. You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from over 130 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.

Wildlife New Mexico

NEW MEXICO PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

New Mexico is a photographer’s paradise. Wildlife, bird migration, landscapes, mountains, deserts, amazing ancient architecture, and finally, art, the buzz of markets and towns and their inhabitants. Everyone who loves photographs will find something for himself.

So how to prepare for photographing New Mexico? In each of our articles presented below, we share photography hints and tips.
If you are interested in bird and wildlife photography, check our tips from the Bosque Del Apache Festival of The Cranes.
If you are interested in caves photography, landscape photography, check our Carlsbad Caverns Photography Tips, when we present which gear we use.

However, if you need more photographic inspiration, we can recommend two excellent books about photographing New Mexico.

Photographing the Southwest is our favorite. Volume 3 is about photographing Colorado & New Mexico. We love all this series. It is providing you with detailed descriptions of the most exciting and beautiful natural places to go. On top of that, they offered excellent photography advice and detailed information on how to get to each location, including information on how difficult it would be, such as dirt roads. All books from this series are brilliant and very informative. You can buy it here.

The Photographer’s Guide to New Mexico is also great book. The book is organized very well and easy to use. You will find excellent photographs that inspire you. Each site is described, usually with some historical information. It also offers helpful hints: the best time of day and angle from which to photograph the site, best season of the year to visit, specific directions on how to get to the site. The author is a local who knows terrific spots in New Mexico. You can buy it here.

New Mexico Travel Guide

BEST THINGS TO DO IN NEW MEXICO

Below are our favorite places in New Mexico. Places that delighted us, to which we want to return. For each of them, we have a detailed article that will help you prepare for your dream adventure.

Visit Santa Fe

America’s oldest capital city, Santa Fe, is the only one to have fascinated travelers for more than 400 years. Santa Fe has achieved world-class status as a fascinating getaway destination. It offers incredible art & architecture, delicious food, museums, fantastic opera. Furthermore, you will find here entertainment, leisure spas, and Rocky Mountain recreation. In the area, you will find the best hikes in New Mexico & outdoor adventures. Santa Fe is a perfect place for the summer holidays or skis in winter. We fell in love with Santa Fe! That’s why we prepared 3 Days Santa Fe Itinerary for you. We tell you what to do in Santa Fe, where to eat in Santa Fe, and where to stay in Santa Fe, including hotels and Santa Fe RV Parks. So, check our detailed article about Santa Fe.

New Mexico Travel Guide

Visit Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo in New Mexico is one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in North America. The multi-storied buildings have been dwelled for over 1000 years. Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. It is an extremely picturesque place that is worth adding to the itinerary around New Mexico. In our separate article, we will share with you our impressions of the Taos Pueblo Tour. The best way to visit the Taos Pueblo is to combine it with a tour of the charming town of Taos. A few hours of the guided tour will provide you with vast knowledge and impressions. You’ll see pearls of architecture. Moreover, you’ll learn about local traditions, cuisines, art, and culture. You can book a Taos Pueblo Tour here.

Taos Pueblo

Best Hikes in New Mexico

If you prefer active outdoor recreation, New Mexico is for you. It offers incredible hiking trails of varying difficulty: deserts, mountains, ancient cities. Below are just a few of our best hikes in New Mexico. For each of these hikes, we prepared detailed articles with hiking tips and maps. If you need more inspiration, we highly recommend three books where you will find plenty of hiking trails.

50 Hikes in Northern New Mexico offers more than 50 spectacular and sublime walks, hikes, and backpacking adventures accessing the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo Mountains, contorted volcanic formations, and striated canyons. You can buy it here.

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles including hikes around Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Mount Taylor, and San Lorenzo Canyon. You will find here scenic overlooks, wildlife hot spots, and historical settings. Each hike description features key information on length, hiking time, difficulty, configuration, scenery, traffic, trail surface, and accessibility. Check it here.

Hiking New Mexico offers more than 90 of the New Mexico best hikes, mile-by-mile directional cues and detailed directions to the trailheads, and information on distance and difficulty for each trail. It leads you through New Mexico’s mountains, deserts, caves, and canyons. We like it. Buy it here.

Hiking The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area 

Bisti Badlands

Hiking the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area has been for us the most challenging hike in New Mexico so far. And for sure it is one of the best hikes in New Mexico. Bisti Badlands is a fascinating place in the remote area of northern New Mexico, which looks like the Alien landscape. Walking through the Bisti Badlands Wilderness is like entering an alien, prehistoric world of desolate desert and bizarre rock formations. But, there are no marked trails, it is difficult to find it. So, we have prepared complete Hiking The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Guide for you. You will learn how to get there, where to stay, how to prepare for exploring this remote and challenging area. So, check it, please.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Hike

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Hike

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Hike is also one of the best hikes in New Mexico. It’s not to long, moderate trail. It is located in Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. It is a land of spectacular and bizarre rock shapes in the southwestern foothills of New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains, near Cochiti Pueblo. This hike gives you a chance to see the unique geologic formation known as Tent Rocks. It’s an excellent idea for a day trip from Albuquerque or Santa Fe. It’s only about 3-mile one-way moderate loop trail through a slot canyon with hoodoos, and striated rock formations seem cones or teepees. So, in our article, we give you all details to help prepare for this fantastic experience, which is Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Hike.

Hiking in Bandelier National Monument

Hiking in Bandelier National Monument

Hiking in Bandelier National Monument is a fantastic adventure and a perfect idea for a trip. If you are looking for the best hikes in New Mexico state, you can find exciting trails in the Bandelier National Monument, located near Los Alamos and Santa Fe. Moreover, you will see during your hike the ancient cave dwellings on rock cliffs and masonry pueblos. People lived there for more than 11 000 years. In our article, we share experience and tips from hiking in Bandelier National Monument.

Take a Balloon Ride in Albuquerque

If you decide to visit Albuquerque the best thing to do is taking a balloon trip. You can buy Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Ride at Sunrise or Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Ride at Sunset. Both are breathtaking adventures. Views are stunning. Sunrise flight you can book here. Sunset ride buy here.

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Admire  Sandhill Cranes in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

New Mexico offers incredible wildlife. For us, one of the most beautiful experiences was observing Sandhill Cranes & Snow Geese in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro. Bosque del Apache is the winter home of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, Rosses Geese, ducks, and other waterfowl. This wildlife refuge in New Mexico is one of the preeminent sites in the US for photographing migratory birds. In addition to Sandhill Cranes, and Snow Geese is also a home for dozens of Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Avocets, the occasional Pelican, and many other birds. It’s easy to see Coyotes and Mule Deer, as well. The place is a real feast and an outdoor paradise for photographers and wildlife lovers. You can check our photos and detailed tips how to preper to visit this place in our article Bosque Del Apache Festival of The Cranes.

However, if you prefer organized trips and you have little time, you can book a guided tour from Albuquerque to the Bosque del Apache. It’s a great option because driving south from Albuquerque; you will follow the Camino Real, the historical King’s road of the Conquistadors. You will follow the Rio Grande River passing by the villages of Los Lunas, the Isleta Pueblo, Belen. Each community is part of a rich history of Native American and Spanish Culture. You can book it here.

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Bosque del Apache Festival of the Cranes New Mexico Travel Guide

Visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a phenomenal underground world. A unique place in the world. Fairy-tale shapes are stimulating your imaginations in this darkness and wet caves. 119 caves with huge rooms covered in spectacular rock formations: stalactites, stalagmites, columns, curtains, straws. Thousands of bats. So, we prepared detailed Carlsbad Caverns National Park Itinerary to help you plan your trip to this hidden gem of New Mexico. You will find in our guide the best things to do in Carlsbad Caverns, where to stay when to go, and finally Carlsbad Caverns photography tips. Check it, please!

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Find Aliens in Roswell

Do you remember the Roswell – an American science fiction drama television series, named after the city of Roswell in New Mexico? After returning to her hometown of Roswell, the daughter of immigrants discovers her teenage crush is an Alien. The Roswell UFO incident was named after the town, though the crash site of the alleged UFO was some 75 miles (121 km) from Roswell and closer to Corona. The local Roswell Army Air Field handled the investigation and debris recovery. Roswell’s tourism industry is based on aerospace engineering and ufology museums and businesses. So, it’s worth stopping for a while in this incredible city, especially if you travel with kids, or you are a fan of Aliens. More information about Roswell you will find in our article.

The Day After RoswellThe Outsider UFOs Over New MexicoRoswell: The Ultimate Cold Case: Eyewitness Testimony
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Roswell New Mexico Travel Guide

Take a Tour

If you like organized trips, we recommend looking through the offers on getyourguide.com, and viator.com, which is the tripadvisor.com company.
In our opinion, viator.com has the best, the most exciting offers. These trips also enjoy great reviews from satisfied customers.

You will find offers of Classes & Workshops, Food & Drink Tours, Outdoor Activities, Sightseeing Tours, and much more.

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Pueblo New Mexico Travel Guide

GET INSPIRED

Above all we carefully prepare for each of our trips. Reading books is one of the most important ways. We read novels related to a given place, documentary books, guidebooks & maps, of course. As photographers, we love photo albums, too. They help us find inspirations. We know that almost everything can be found on the Internet. But we love books. Besides, after returning from the trip,, guides or maps remind us about the places we visited. We also watch movies and listen to music connected with the region we are going to visit.

Below are some of our favorites suggestions for New Mexico books & music to get you inspired.

Favourites Guide Books about New Mexico:

Moon New Mexico Offbeat New MexicoExplorer's Guide New MexicoLonely Planet Southwest USA
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Our selection of maps and hiking trails in New Mexico:

New Mexico Road & Recreation AtlasDeLorme New Mexico50 Hikes in Northern New MexicoA Guide to the State's Greatest Hiking Adventures
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Our History Books selection from New Mexico:

New Mexico: A HistoryHidden History of Spanish New MexicoDiné: A History of the NavajosPueblos, Spaniards, and the Kingdom of New Mexico
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Photographer’s Guide to New Mexico:

Photographing the SouthwestThe Photographer's Guide to New MexicoNew Mexico: Portrait of a StateLandscape Dreams A New Mexico Portrait
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Music of New Mexico:

Native American TraditionsNative American Flute & DrumsRelaxing Native American Flute MusicSpanish and Mexican Folk Music of New Mexico
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