Taos Pueblo in New Mexico.

7 Breathtaking Towns to Visit in New Mexico

As the fifth largest state by area but 45th by population density, New Mexico is eminently breathtaking. Also, as a showcase of mountains, deserts, natural landmarks, archaeological sites, and heritage buildings, New Mexico is exceedingly beautiful. You can get the best bursts of New Mexico grandeur in the state's small communities that occupy diverse climates. From the alpine north to the riparian center to the semi-arid east to the forested west, behold seven of the most enchanting locales in the Land of Enchantment.

Silver City

Downtown Silver City, New Mexico
Downtown Silver City, New Mexico. Editorial credit: Underawesternsky / Shutterstock.com.

Born from late-19th-century silver mining, Silver City is a sterling preserve of Old West prosperity mixed with fine arts-fueled modernity. Historical gems are housed in the 1881-built H. B. Ailman House turned Silver City Museum. There are exhibits for mining, ranching, pre-colonial life, and Billy the Kid, who began his criminal career in Silver City in 1875. SC's contemporary charm comes courtesy of a dozen-plus galleries, including Cholla Cholla Studio and Light Art Space, as well as Western New Mexico University, which has thousands of fresh-faced students and a museum of southwestern art.

But if Silver City seems like a painting of paradise rather than the real thing, head north to the three-million-acre Gila National Forest, whose fully formed features include the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and the Catwalk Recreation Area.


Taos Pueblo in New Mexico.
Taos Pueblo in New Mexico.

Taos is the final destination on one of the most scenic routes in America. The High Road to Taos takes motorists from Santa Fe to this Sangre de Cristo Mountains town, crossing all types of tantalizing terrain and passing historic Spanish and Puebloan haunts in various villages. These include San Francisco de Asís Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos and Picuris Pueblo in a community of the same name.

Once in Taos, travelers can stop at the Taos Art Museum and Kit Carson Home & Museum or keep going until they hit Taos Pueblo, a centuries-old Indigenous settlement that is still occupied. If they want their breath to be literally taken away, they can continue through the mountains and climb Wheeler Peak, the highest natural point in New Mexico (13,167 feet). Moreover, if the season is right, they can hit the slopes of neighboring Taos Ski Valley.

Santa Rosa

The historic Guadalupe County courthouse in Santa Rosa
The historic Guadalupe County courthouse in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Image credit: Cathy via Wikimedia Commons.

Stuck in semi-arid eastern New Mexico, Santa Rosa might appear like a mirage to weary travelers, especially since it is awash with bright blue streams, lakes, and a watering hole considered one of the state's weirdest wonders. The Blue Hole of Santa Rosa is a spring-fed artesian well in a collapsed cavern roughly 80 feet wide, 80 feet deep, and part of a vast aquatic cave system. But its most remarkable feature is a near-constant 61-degree temperature that makes it the perfect desert refreshment. And so people use the hole for swimming, cliff jumping, snorkeling, and, most notably, diving. Santa Rosa has been dubbed "The Scuba Diving Capital of the Southwest."

Next to the Blue Hole is a purely recreational alternative called Park Lake and a fish-filled pool called Blue Hole Fishing Pond, while just north of town is Santa Rosa Lake State Park, a 500ish-acre park on a much larger reservoir.

Jemez Springs

Jemez Historic Site in Jemez Springs, New Mexico
The Jemez Historic Site in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.

Jemez Springs is another spring-fed NM oasis, but it is in the mountains rather than the desert and has hot rather than cold water. The village boasts Jemez Hot Springs, a hotel and spa serving soaks in ancient, mineral-infused, caldera-heated pools. Before relaxing in the springs, tourists can marvel at their source in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, an 89,000-acre park containing not just the namesake caldera but gorgeous greenery, vibrant wildlife, and, if you look upward, some of the most spectacular skies in America. Jemez Springs also adjoins Jemez Springs Soda Dam, a second scenic source of hot springs, and the Jemez Historic Site, which preserves both Native American and Spanish colonial ruins.


Welcome to Ruidoso sign on the highway to Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Welcome to Ruidoso sign on the highway to Ruidoso, New Mexico.

Situated in the Sierra Blanca mountains, Ruidoso is a resort village with extraordinary vistas and activities. On Sierra Blanca Peak, tourists can hike, bike, and ski via Ski Apache, which also offers zip tours and gondola rides up to 11,500 feet. Both the ski resort and peak are operated by the Mescalero Apache, as is the aptly titled Inn of the Mountain Gods. Down in town (which is still nearly 7,000 feet above sea level), said tourists can refuel at Garcia's Cafe, Rio Grande Grill & Tap Room, and Noisy Water Winery before conquering Pillow's Funtrackers, which has go-karts, mini golf, bumper boats, and a mountain maze. Pillow's also offers gemstone panning. With luck, you can take home topaz, garnet, turquoise, and amethyst.


Landscape in Magdalena, New Mexico
Landscape in Magdalena, New Mexico. Image credit: Peter Potrowl via Wikimedia Commons.

If you strike out in Ruidoso, Magdalena has you covered. This 800ish-person village sits on rich mineral deposits that have been spitting out gems for time immemorial. Many are on display at Bill's Gem and Mineral Shop and Otero's Rock and Saw Shop, while others can be found at the Kelly Ghost Town, which contains the abandoned Kelly Mine and the community that it spawned. The highlight (if no gems emerge) is a 121-foot headframe. But the biggest gem near Magdalena is the Very Large Array, a miles-long outdoor observatory containing 27 82-foot, 230-ton radio telescopes in a Y-shaped array. They have made myriad cosmic discoveries, and you can make your own discoveries walking among the futuristic giants in their remote domain.


Beautiful Downtown Chama, New Mexico.
Beautiful Downtown Chama, New Mexico. Image credit: J. Stephen Conn via Flickr.com.

Chama is probably not what you picture when thinking of New Mexico. It is located about seven miles south of the Colorado border and nearly 8,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains. Thus, instead of the cracked desert with scant vegetation, Chama has a continental climate with plenty of snow and lush pines. From May to October, Chama's surprising scenery, plus namesake Cumbres Pass and Toltec Gorge, can be explored on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.

Starting at the historic Chama Yard, a steam locomotive takes wide-eyed passengers 64 miles to Antonito, Colorado, crossing the border 11 times, reaching 10,015 feet above sea level (the highest section of active narrow-gauge railroad in America), and passing everything from aspen forests to rock formations to high plains to wildflowers to bears. In addition to the railroad, Chama's charm has been captured by numerous movies, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and Hostiles.

New Mexico, AKA The Land of Enchantment, can enchant you with literal and figurative charms. Real gemstones exist in Silver City and Magdalena, while Taos, Santa Rosa, Jemez Springs, Ruidoso, and Chama charm with enormous mountains, scenic roads, ancient pueblos, relaxing hot springs, Spanish colonial haunts, and beautiful blue sinkholes. Let these towns take your breath away on your next trip to New Mexico.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 7 Breathtaking Towns to Visit in New Mexico

More in Places