Albuquerque to Santa Fe in 14 days
Awesome New Mexico – from Newcastle Upon Tyne and other UK Airports
New Mexico’s contrasts are as big as your dreams. Gaze at rugged, raw and rocky landscapes, immerse yourself in forests, engage with it’s fascinating ‘wild-west’ history, and be dazzled by displays of gleaming peppers, garish flowers and wildly coloured ceramics. Using September flights from Newcastle Upon Tyne to Albuquerque, via London Heathrow and Dallas, flying with British Airways, expect to pay around £750 per adult for your flight in Economy Class.
New Mexico – Your way: New Mexico’s temperatures can soar in the Summer, but are more bearable in the Autumn for those more used to colder climates. Hotels and roads are generally a little quieter then too. There are no direct flights between the UK and Albuquerque or any of the other major New Mexico cities at the time of writing, paving the way for a stopover en-route. The Flight between Dallas and Albuquerque is a little over an hour, but driving there is around 650 miles, so unless you plan to take in places like Amarillo en route, where there are fields of Texan oil wells to drive through for many miles from Dallas to keep you company, better change flights in somewhere like Dallas.
Need to know: UK citizens do not currently need a visa for entry to the USA. However, a valid ESTA certificate is required, apply direct and pay on line via https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/. The ESTA, covering stays of up to 90 days per visit, is valid for 2 years and currently costs $14 per person. Sadly Covid-19 currently renders leisure travel to the USA impossible but hopefully we can return one day soon.
Travel advice: Check https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/usa for the latest advice on travelling safely in the USA. Ensure your travel insurance is adequate as it is well-known that medical care in the USA is expensive.
Money: Credit cards are widely accepted. Tipping is expected, between 15% & 18% is usual. Although Stirling is currently not strong against the US Dollar, fuel at least is dramatically cheaper than in the UK. Eating and drinking costs very much depends on your taste and budget, Mexican restaurants with quite splendid margaritas are generally good value. It’s generally a good idea to stop off at a supermarket before your first journey, stocking up on bottled water, snacks etc. that you can just keep in your rental car rather than unload at each of your stopping places.
Getting around: You might want to rest in & explore Albuquerque before continuing your journey. We stayed for 3 nights, before renting our car from Hertz: https://www.hertz.com/rentacar/location/unitedstates/newmexico/albuquerque/abqt11 – location ref F93645591B8, 3400 University Southeast, and Albuquerque, NM US 87106-3247 for around £350 for 12 days. Be sure to take your Driving License as your car will not be released to you without it. Perhaps you might need a newer rental car model than this:
Be amazed at the number of aged and rusting vehicles you will see as you veer from the trodden path. Do take scenic drives, well-marked on typical USA maps, each one more breath-taking than the last, and always plenty of places to stop and enjoy nature’s splendour. Driving on the main interstate roads is obviously busier and there are fewer opportunities to stop when you want.
Useful to know : free State road maps are available from tourist information centres
Know: ID checks in New Mexico can be regular, e.g. by the police department when driving near to the Mexican border, and in some bars, even though it was pretty obvious we were over 21! Sometimes ID is required when paying for goods with a credit card too.
Itinerary: The following suggested 14 day itinerary involves roughly 1090 miles excluding day trips made from the stops on the way. It can easily be lengthened, e.g. to chill out more in the amazing natural spa pools at Ojo Caliente, or shortened by skipping Santa Fe (this would be such a missed opportunity as this is a truly beautiful and relaxing city) and driving straight back to Albuquerque at the end.
Days 1 – 3: Arrival in Albuquerque
Haunted New Mexico
Stay in Albuquerque: The Hotel Parq Central https://www.hotelparqcentral.com/ on 806 Central Avenue South East, Albuquerque (New Mexico), NM 87102 – they have a free shuttle from the airport which operates from 7.30am – 10 30pm, when you arrive at the airport call them on 505-242-0040 and they will come and pick you up. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the airport. The hotel throws in a shuttle to the downtown area on request too. This historic and very individual hotel began life as a Memorial Hospital in 1926 – look out for the ghostly presences of former patients! Many sightings and ghostly appearances have been reported over the years, both during its time as a hospital and following its establishment as a hotel. Spirits of the earthly kind may be found in the roof-top Apothecary bar, look out for the daily happy hour specials between 3pm and 6pm! Happily the only spirits we found took the form of delicious cocktails. The hotel provides free Wi-Fi and breakfast, and clean and comfortable rooms. Cost: Expect to pay around $556 for 3 nights including taxes (roughly £426, equating to £142 a night). This includes a leisurely breakfast, available until noon if you so wish.
Albuquerque is quite walker-friendly although you can easily take a local bus into the Old Town Area, full of quirky shops, interesting food options, and many galleries and museums are in easy reach.
See: quirky gallery displays,artisan crafts, paintings, jewellery etc. at Weems Gallery: http://www.weemsgallery.com/ on North East Montgomery Boulevard.
Don’t miss Old Town Albuquerque, with individual shops, delicious food and bars. The many interesting museums and galleries include a Rattlesnake Museum, a Museum dedicated to balloons – or maybe take a tram up into the mountains to see it all from above/take a hike: http://www.sandiapeak.com/. Go to: https://www.visitalbuquerque.org/things-to-do/ to help you decide on what you want to include during your stay.
Day 4 & 5 – Cloudcroft
Collect your rental car, and drive 221 miles to Cloudcroft. Head South on the 25, then East on the 380. We stayed at The Lodge at Cloudcroft, 601 Corona Place, Cloudcroft, NM 88317: http://www.thelodgeresort.com/ – this is a historic hotel dating back to 1899 – approx. £130 a night including breakfast.
Judy Garland and Clark Gable were here
The aptly named Cloudcroft Lodge, high in the clouds, has an interesting history. Judy Garland and Clark Gable stayed here in 1940, etching their names in the tower walls. Judy would only have been 18 then, I would like to visualise her being happy here. Wonder if her and Clark played petanque in the grounds, before sitting by the open fire outside in the evenings.
Haunted: Dine in Rebecca’s restaurant, named after a former Chambermaid, who went missing in the woods after reportedly being found by her lover to having another liaison – rumour has it that she still lingers around the Lodge, although all we saw were photographs and paintings of her with astonishingly beautiful red hair. The hotel was built in 1899 to provide a health mountain air resort for travellers in a rapidly developing industrial age.
The view from Cloudcroft of the surrounding forests and landscape is a sight for sore eyes.
The Mexican Canyon Railway Trestle Bridge built in 1900, located close to the Lodge, is well worth a jaunt – marvel at this feat of engineering, hard to comprehend that such a flimsy looking structure once transported timber.
The Roswell Incident 1947
A couple of hours drive away is Roswell, visit the dedicated museum and feed your imagination. There are many signed affidavits from people who claimed to have seen these creatures back in the 1940’s. The life size models of the craft apparently used seem flimsy, but make your own decision once you review the evidence, some of it is pretty convincing! https://www.roswellufomuseum.com/
Day 6: Socorro
Drive 145 miles to Socorro – go West and North on the 54 then East on the 380 Or take a detour on the Billy the Kid scenic Byway, see where Billy was held (and of course escaped) in Lincoln City, and the museum: http://nmhistoricsites.org/lincoln
We were warned that Socorro Bed and Breakfast had little kerb appeal, but this is a very traditional casita style property, built in the early 1800s. It is very clean and ideally located for strolling to eateries in the evenings. http://socorrobandb.qwestoffice.net/ 114 West Baca St. • Socorro, NM 87801 • (575) 838-2619 costs roughly $130 a night.
Before you leave Socorro take a trip to the White Sands National Monument – so white that it resembles snow drifts, there are several drives through the park, but do keep to the boarded areas when you make your photo stops:
Days 7 & 8: Gallup
Drive 192 miles to Gallup. Go North on the 25 then West on the 40. Go into the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge on the way, https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Sevilleta/
You may see one of these guys: (see my video too)
Before you arrive at Gallup, stop off at Pie Town, yes they really do sell nothing but pies, there are two cafes opposite one another, the pies are amazing, with endless coffee too!
2 Nights at the Hampton Inn – Gallup1460 W Maloney Avenue, Gallup, round about £90 a night including breakfast. : https://hamptoninn3.hilton.com/en/hotels/new-mexico/hampton-inn-gallup-west-GUPHHHX/index.html
A good day trip option from Gallup is to drive 70 miles South on the I40 to The Ice Caves, 25 miles South West of Grants https://www.icecaves.com/
Day 9: Chama
Drive 224 miles to Chama, Head North on the 491 then East on the 64
Chama is home to the Cumbres and Toltec historic railway, take a steam train https://cumbrestoltec.com/ and amble through mountains and creeks. We stayed at the Parlor Car Bed and Breakfast, 311 Terrace Ave, Chama, New Mexico 87520 – located opposite the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, cost $160 per night including breakfast and conversation in this quaint Victorian house: https://www.nmbba.org/listings/parlorcarbandb-chama-new-mexico.html
Days 10 & 11 : Red River
Drive on to Red River, heading South and East on the 64 (123 miles). We stayed 2 nights at the Best Western Rivers Edge, 301 West River Street, Red River, costs roughly £125 a night including a basic breakfast: https://www.bestwestern.com/en
This is a great place for hiking, we went hiking on the Pioneer Creek Trail, see details: https://redriver.org/uploads/documents/Hiking_2013(1).pdf
Day 12: Oje Caliente
The drive to Ojo Caliente is 123 miles on the 522 south. Stayed at the Hotel and Spa Ojo Caliente, 50 Los Banos Drive, Ojo Caliente, NM 87549 USA Phone: 505-583-2233 https://ojocaliente.ojospa.com/accommodations/
Cost – $200 a night excluding breakfast. The soaking pools are amazing, natural minerals, including iron (feels wonderful on your skin), arsenic (actually heavenly), soda and mud. The atmosphere is serene and guests must whisper to one another to maintain the harmony. Dinner was a harmonious experience too, not cheap by any means but about the best food of our road trip thus far.
There are no photographs to show of the mineral waters because we respect the privacy of other visitors. A range of spa treatments is available here, one night is not enough really to enjoy everything on offer.
Day 13: Santa Fe
Drive to Santa Fe, 50 miles, via US Hwy 285 S and US-84 E/US Hwy 285 S.
We stayed at the Hotel Santa Fe and Spa, 1501 Paseo De Peralta, Santa Fe, NM, 87501 Property information: +1 505 982-1200, cost around £186 per night excluding breakfast. This is a very interesting hotel, owned by the American Indians, a thought-provoking message is left on your bed each morning from the Indian Chief. Santa Fe is full of beautiful shops, selling exquisite turquoise jewellery, expensive but highly desirable western boots, and astonishingly garish flowers.
Day 14: Drive back to Albuquerque
Drive back to Albuquerque at your leisure, drop rental car off at the airport. 66 miles South on the I25.
More Information: https://www.newmexico.org/