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A not so frequently visited area of New Mexico is the west central region of the state.  Treat yourself to some lesser travelled byways that will not disappoint! If you are starting from Albuquerque, head west on I-40.  Along portions of I-40, you can exit the interstate and drive along the frontage road which is the path of historic Route 66.  A must see stop is Acoma: The Sky City.  Acoma Pueblo is built atop a 367-foot sandstone bluff.  Since 1150 AD,  Acoma Pueblo has earned the reputation as the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America.  Native guides will take you around their ancient community and tell you about the history of their people.  You can also visit the  Haak’u Museum of Acoma culture. NOTE: Video cameras are NOT allowed at Acoma Pueblo. You must comply with all photography restrictions while touring the pueblo. For lunch, experience a taste of Acoma culture at the Y'aak’a Café, located within the Sky City Cultural Center. Y'aak’a means "corn" in Keres, the language of Acoma.  Corn was farmed by the Acomans for centuries and has sustained the Acoma people for hundreds of years and is intertwined with religious ceremonies and art.  The Y'aak’a Café offers a diverse menu of Acoma traditional foods as well as contemporary American dishes. From man’s work to nature’s majesty, your next stop could be the Bandera Volcano and Ice Caves.  Bandera volcano is 800 ft. in depth and rose up in volcanic fury some 10,000 years ago. It is one of the most easily accessible and most recent volcanoes in the country.  If you are a decent hiker, you can hike both to the rim of Bandera crater and down to the natural ice caves that have formed in an ancient lava tube nearby. The ice caves temperature naturally never rises above 31 F.  If someone in your party cannot hike at all, they can rest at the nice gift center and cafe on site. Another fabulous place to visit in west, central New Mexico is the Malpais National Monument where pitch black lava flows form unworldly rock formations everywhere you look.  The primeval black basalt terrain of El Malpais was created by volcanic forces over the past million years. Molten lava spread out over the high desert from dozens of eruptions to create cinder cones, shield volcanoes, collapses, trenches, caves, and other eerie formations. This stark landscape preserves one of the best continuous geologic records of volcanism on the planet.  The lava fields are bounded by immense sandstone bluffs that have weathered into other worldly formations, including the huge natural arch at La Ventana Another facinating historical site in this region is El Morro National Monument. The main feature of this National Monument is a great sandstone promontory with a pool of water at its base. As a shaded oasis in the western U.S. desert, this site has seen many centuries of travelers. The remains of a mesa top pueblo are atop the promontory where between about 1275 to 1350 AD, up to 1500 people lived in this 875 room pueblo. The Spaniard explorers called it El Morro (The Headland). The Zuni Indians call it "A'ts"ina" (Places of writings on the rock). Anglo-Americans called it Inscription Rock. Travelers left signatures, names, dates, and stories of their treks. While some of the inscriptions are fading, there are still many that can be seen today, some dating to the 17th century. Some petroglyphs and carvings were made by the Anasazi centuries before the Europeans started making their mark. In 1906, U.S. federal law prohibited further carvings. As you return to Albuquerque, you can relax and enjoy a delicious buffet dinner at the Sky City Casino, owned by the Acoma people, with time enough to enjoy a few games of chance before the long ride home.  

For Your Comfort

Please bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a light jacket, and dress in layers.  Outside temperatures can vary widely with season, time of day, and elevation. Be sure to bring a lot of water and juice with you.  It is very easy to become dehydrated in the dry, desert heat.
Western New Mexico