Legends of the West
There are few states in the great American southwest that can claim a history as rich and diverse as that of New Mexico. Billy the Kid, whose antics in the 1870's and early '80's not only added fuel to the legend of the Wild West, but also catapulted him into the exclusive role of New Mexico's most famous outlaw. Kit Carson - one of America's greatest frontiersman and trailblazer had his home in Taos. Great Native American leaders such as Geronimo, Cochise and Victorio to name but a few fought a valiant struggle against the invasion of the European expansion into their lands before finally surrendering at the end of the 1880's. Today their spirit lives on in the culture and art of the modern Apache, Navajo and Pueblo people.
The Spanish were the first Europeans to explore what is now New Mexico, fresh from their recent conquests in Mexico and driven by embellished reports of cities of gold - the legendary seven cities of Cibola. Instead they found adobe villages that glistened like gold in the crisp light radiating from the spellbinding New Mexico sunsets.
The Spanish soon established trading routes, including the famous Santa Fe Trail, which helped to bring explorers and adventurers to the Land of Enchantment. For almost 200 years Santa Fe was the Spanish capital of a huge area of what is today the United States, and the Spanish influence is still very much in evidence today. Spanish Missions, churches, haciendas, art, culture and food reflect the culture of the early conquistadors.
Our 15 day/14 night self-drive tour operates daily between mid-May and the end of September and attempts to capture the spirit of the Legends of the West and to blend this history into a tour of contrasts, rich with culture, art, stunning scenery, exciting activities and a wonderful climate. We hope that this tour will fire your imagination and encourage you to return to New Mexico again and again
Day 1. Arrive at Albuquerque. There are no non-stop flights from the UK to Albuquerque so you will arrive quite late in the afternoon or evening. Either collect your car on day 1 and drive to your city centre hotel, or take a taxi and collect the car the following morning. Overnight: Best Western Rio Grande (Standard) or Navito Lodge (Superior).
Day 2. Albuquerque. Awake refreshed and ready to explore the many attractions of New Mexico's largest city. Enjoy the shops and galleries of Old Town. Albuquerque sits on part of old Route 66 and there are several sites on the city's Central Avenue remaining from the historic road that took the migrants of the 1920's and 30's from Chicago to Los Angeles. Take the cable car to the top of Sandia Peak and enjoy breathtaking views over the Rio Grande valley and the city. Albuquerque is famous for its annual Hot Air Balloon Fiesta held at the beginning of October, and you should not miss the opportunity to take flight during your stay. With excellent shopping, museums, golf, ballooning, galleries and local attractions, you should enjoy a busy day in Albuquerque. Overnight: Best Western Rio Grande (Standard) or Navito Lodge (Superior).
Day 3. To Santa Fe. (55 miles or 75 miles). Departing from Albuquerque this morning you have a choice of routes. Following Interstate 25 the journey to Santa Fe takes approximately 1 hour. This is fine is you want to spend more time in Santa Fe, but we recommend the slightly longer "Turquoise Trail" - a country route which takes you through the Cibola National Forest, along scenic highway 14 and through old mining towns such as Golden, Madrid and Cerrillos. Many of these small towns where ghost towns until a recent influx of artists, sculptors and seekers of an alternative life-style arrived and rejuvenated the area. Browse in some of the galleries and shops and enjoy lunch en route before arriving in Santa Fe this afternoon. Overnight: Courtyard by Marriott (Standard) or Inn Of The Governors (Superior).
Day 4. Santa Fe. A full day to explore this wonderful town with its rich history and fascinating culture. This city was founded by the Spanish in 1610 - a full decade before the Pilgrim Fathers landed in Massachusetts and it is still the oldest State Capital in the country. Santa Fe's Palace of the Governors was built in 1610 and is the oldest public building in use today in the United States. Today the Palace is a major museum to the history of the city and its major role in the history of the United States. The Palace faces Santa Fe's downtown Plaza and Indian vendors still sell their wares under its historic portal. Santa Fe is indeed a "city of museums", with the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Children's Museum and many more well worth a visit. Galleries abound around the Plaza with famous southwestern artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe well represented. Santa Fe is today a major centre of the performing arts with chamber music, Symphony, Desert Choral and other music festivals held throughout the year. Rafting, golf, horseback riding, excursions to local historical and scenic sites, ballooning and much more await you in Santa Fé. Overnight: Courtyard by Marriott (Standard) or Inn Of The Governors (Superior).
Day 5. Santa Fe. You'll need a second free day to explore the city and the surrounding area. We suggest that you take to the road and explore the local area and the town of Taos. A circular route of approx. 130 miles will take in the town of Chimayo and the lovely Spanish chapel - Santuario de Chimayó. The chapel was built on a legendary site that ancient Native Americans in the area used as a hot springs and believed the earth there bestowed miraculous healing powers. The later Spanish colonists chose the site for a chapel because they believed Santo Niño led them to build there. Today thousands of pilgrims walk to this famous adobe shrine and many claim they were healed by miraculous earth taken from a small hole in the dirt floor. Many people believe in a legend that the hole miraculously replenishes itself. A part of the church contains crutches, canes and other medical aids left there by ailing people who claim they were healed here. Lunch at the lovely Rancho de Chimayó is a must before continuing on your journey through the small towns of Cordova and Vadito, the Santa Fe National Forest, the mountains of northern New Mexico and arriving in Taos. This thriving community is a major ski resort in winter, but in summer it's galleries, shops and museums attract visitors who enjoy the atmosphere of the town. The Kit Carson home, the town plaza, Governor Bent's House and Museum are all within easy walking distance. You should certainly visit the Taos Pueblo, just outside of town, at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains - the highest in New Mexico. Taos was designated a World Heritage Site in 1992 and is credited with spearheading the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 by successfully uniting all the traditionally rivalrous Pueblo people against the Spanish. Its adobe multistoried homes have captivated painters and photographers since the 1920's and today provides a home to some 4,000 Native Americans, most of whom shun the use of electricity and indoor plumbing. The Pueblo is said to be over 1,000 years old and therefore the oldest continually occupied building in North America. The Pueblo is open daily, but closes for ceremonial purposes - the San Gerónimo Feast Day on September 30 being the largest event of the year. Overnight: Courtyard by Marriott (Standard) or Inn Of The Governors (Superior).
Day 6. To Farmington. (approx. 210 miles) Follow scenic highway 84 north this morning, close to the Bandelier National Monument and Puye Cliff Dwelling sites - both well worth a visit. The scenery is wonderful - mountains, lakes and forests punctuated by interesting small towns. At Chama enjoy a ride on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad - an historic narrow-gauge steam loco which runs from Chama to Antonito in southern Colorado. The train operates from mid-May to mid-October. The round trip journey takes approx. 8 hours and you should be at Chama by 09.30 to check in for the 10am departure. If you are not taking the train, then take a stroll around the shops of Chama, and a lunch break before continuing on to Farmington. The Aztec Ruins National Monument just outside of Farmington provides a glimpse into the lives of the ancestors of modern puebloan people. The Chacoan-style pueblo is over 800 years old and features the only fully reconstructed great kiva in the Southwest. Overnight: Best Western Inn at Farmington (Standard & Superior).
Day 7. To Gallup. Approx.120 miles). A leisurely drive today and an opportunity to include some of the area's scenic and historical sites including Red Rock State Park, Bandera Crater and Ice Caves and the Gallup Cultural Center. Gallup is home to some of the southwest's best Native American arts and crafts with over 100 trading posts - if you want to buy native silver and turquoise jewellery, this is the place! Overnight: Best Western Red Rocks Inn (Standard & Superior).
Day 8. To Silver City (approx. 292 miles). Journey west into Arizona before heading south through the Apache National Forest and back into New Mexico to Silver City. Overnight: Econolodge (Standard) or Comfort Inn (Superior).
Day 9. Silver City. Relax and enjoy a day at leisure exploring the attractions of Silver City and the surrounding area. Nestled in the foothills of the Pinos Altos Mountains at an elevation of 6,000 feet, Silver City borders the Continental Divide. Learn about the town's the colourful history dating back to 1870 when silver was discovered in the area. Tales from those early days tell of characters like Billy the Kid - who spent his early years here, Geronimo, Judge Roy Bean, "Dangerous" Dan Tucker, and the Hearst family. Explore the ancient cultures and see collections of distinctive black on white pottery that was developed 1000 years ago by Mimbres Indians inhabiting the Silver City area. Enjoy authentic Mexican food, play 18 holes of golf, explore museums, shops and galleries, or visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings and Gila River Canyon just outside of the town. Overnight: Econolodge (Standard) or Comfort Inn (Superior).
Day 10. To Las Cruces (approx. 111 miles). Named after the cluster or crosses that marked the graves of a group of travellers who were killed by Apaches in 1830, Las Cruces promises a warmer welcome to today's visitors! Overnight: Best Western Mesilla Valley Inn (Standard) or Hotel Encanto (Superior).
Day 11. Las Cruces. Relax and enjoy the attractions of Las Cruces today. Visit the Ft.Selden State Monument - ruins of a 19th-century fort, with self-guided tours and living history demonstrations. Explore Mesquite Street an historic district of shops and galleries; take a drive south to the border with Mexico and visit El Paso and the Mexican town of Cuidad Juarez. Overnight: Best Western Mesilla Valley Inn (Standard) or Hotel Encanto (Superior).
Day 12. To Ruidoso (approx. 115 miles). Another easy drive today as you head northeast to Ruidoso. On the way you pass the White Sands National Monument and we suggest that you stop at the visitors centre and learn more about this fascinating site. Soon after leaving White Sands you cross the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation and arrive in Ruidoso. Enjoy the remainder of the day exploring this historic town. Overnight: Village Lodge & Suites (Standard) or The Inn of the Mountain Gods (Superior).
Day 13. Ruidoso. Nestled in the foothills of the southern-most Rockies, Ruidoso is a bustling village with an interesting history. This is Billy the Kid country. Here the old west is more than just a distant memory, Lincoln County witnessed a fully-fledged war between two opposing merchants in 1878-79 - known as the Lincoln County War, this hard fought conflict brought notoriety to a young gunslinger called Billy the Kid. Today the town of Lincoln - close to Ruidoso - has emerged as a visible reminder of the past with carefully restored and preserved buildings, eleven state monuments including four museums. The museums pay tribute to the Lincoln County War, Mescalero Apache Indians, the Buffalo Soldiers, and of course, Billy the Kid. With ghost towns, golf courses, a casino, shops, galleries, festivals and much more, Ruidoso is sure to offer something for everyone during your short stay here. Overnight: Village Lodge & Suites (Standard) or The Inn of the Mountain Gods (Superior).
Day 14. To Albuquerque (approx.220 miles). The final leg of your tour takes you north from Ruidoso to Albuquerque arriving in time for some last minute shopping and sightseeing. Overnight: Best Western Rio Grande (Standard) or Navito Lodge (Superior).
Day 15. Depart Albuquerque. Return your rental car today and check in for your return overnight flight to the UK.
Just America specialises in tailor-making holidays and we will be pleased to design this or any of our tours to your specifications. We can provide details, prices and make reservations for optional sightseeing excursions mentioned in the itinerary.
Prices available on request from Just America
08448 806 802