Historic Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas, New Mexico. Image credit Underawesternsky via Shutterstock.com

New Mexico's 9 Most Underrated Towns to Visit in 2024

One should not mistake the state of New Mexico for the country of Mexico. However, both of these places derive their names from an Aztec war god named Mexitli, and New Mexico is a fitting location for war as some of the most underrated towns there have contributed to numerous conflicts. Los Alamos, for example, is the birthplace of the atomic bomb. The small town of Chimayo once served as a pilgrimage for war veterans when they needed peace after years of war. And the other underrated towns in New Mexico have seen battles between famous outlaws, Native American war parties, and the US military between the Mexican military.

Every story is rooted in conflicts, so in 2024, explore the many stories that New Mexico’s most underrated towns have to tell.

Silver City

Silver City, New Mexico, US.
Silver City, New Mexico, US. Image credit Underawesternsky via Shutterstock.com

Silver City, located in the foothills of the Pinos Altos Mountains, is a glimmering magnet that has attracted numerous individuals throughout history. Among these travelers were Billy the Kid, Geronimo, Judge Roy Bean, “Dangerous” Dan Tucker, and more. The town is notably a gateway to the 3.3-million-acre Gila National Forest far to the north, where outdoor adventurers can brave trails and treks for idyllic secrets. Other attractions neighboring Silver City include the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, where the ancient stone dwellings of the Mogollon people can be admired.

The Central Mining District—which include Santa Clara, Fort Bayard, and Hurley—is a geographical memento of Silver City’s mining heritage, and one of the oldest mining areas in the Americas. Lastly, in the Mimbres Valley of the Chihuahuan Desert, travelers can be awed by the unique igneous rock formations of the City of Rocks State Park. Have a golden experience in Silver City, especially in fine establishments like Serenity House, Palace Hotel, or LuLu Hotel Silver City.


Historic adobe San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Taos, New Mexico.
Historic adobe San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Taos, New Mexico. Image credit Vineyard Perspective via Shutterstock

You might not think that New Mexico is a state people go to experience winter, but the town of Taos will surprise you through the Taos Ski Valley, a world-class ski and snowboarding resort in the high-altitude Sangre de Cristo Mountains or in an area called the Enchanted Circle. Outside of the merry snow, visitors flock to Taos to observe many of the monumental and historic landmarks that enliven the town’s cultural heritage.

The San Francisco de Asis Church, for example, is an adobe masterpiece that photographers will certainly enjoy. With an elevation of 650 feet above the Rio Grande, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is the fifth highest bridge in the US. The most prominent landmark in town is the Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that preserves the 1,000 years of history of the ancient peoples that called the land home. Consider staying in this town that is only 70 miles from Santa Fe, and spend your nights at the Historic Taos Inn, the Old Taos Guesthouse, or El Pueblo Lodge.

Las Vegas

Aerial View of the College Town of Las Vegas, New Mexico in Winter
Overlooking Las Vegas, New Mexico.

The Las Vegas in New Mexico is quite dissimilar to Sin City in Nevada. Devoid of the neon-shouting chaos and gambling, the town of Las Vegas—or simply Vegas—is a remarkable place where “landmarks, legends and lore” come to life. Only about 77 miles from Taos, the town prospered through the establishments of the Santa Fe Trail and the Santa Fe Railway.

The Rough Rider Memorial Collection tells of how Vegas was the home of 21 of the Rough Riders recruited by President Theodore Roosevelt to serve in the Spanish-American War in the area. Fort Union, similarly, is another military landmark that was once a headquarters for General Stephen Kearny. When it comes to accommodations, the Historic Plaza Hotel, the Castaneda Hotel, and Historic El Fidel Hotel are a few lodgings worthy of your presence.


Downtown Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Downtown Ruidoso, New Mexico.

Set in the Sierra Blanca Mountain Range, the village of Ruidoso is a three-hour getaway from Albuquerque. Similar to Taos, many throng to Ruidoso for the Ski Apache resort, where winter-based adventures and activities challenge you through intense terrain. The nearby Lincoln National Forest is a paradise for nature lovers, and the whole Mescalero Reservation is a protected area of mountains and forests that the Apache calls home.

Just outside of town in Alto, the Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts is dedicated to showcasing the region’s artistic and cultural identity. In addition, the nearby Lincoln Historic Site boasts 19th-century adobe architecture like a church and a museum. Do not miss out on the All-American Festival in September or summer horse races at the Ruidoso Downs Race Track, and occupy your moments at the Sitzmark Chalet Inn, Hotel Ruidoso, or Elevate Hotel.

Truth or Consequences

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico: A well-known city for its Hot Springs.
Downtown street in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Image credit Cheri Alguire via Shutterstock.com

What will it be? Truth or Consequences? Fortunately, in the New Mexico town quizzically called Truth or Consequences, you can have both. Originally called Hot Springs, the town changed its name thanks to Ralph Edwards, host of a famous quiz show called "Truth or Consequences."

Truth be told, the town is a destination for wellness tourism as it is sandwiched between Elephant Butte Lake and Caballo Lake, as well as neighboring a few therapeutic hot springs. And as a consequence of its quirky popularity, the town is the site of the world’s first commercial spaceport called Spaceport America. If you need a few days sampling the oddities and unique charms of Truth or Consequences, then book rooms at the Rocket Inn or Sierra Grande Lodge & Spa.

Los Alamos

Morning view of the Ashley Pond Park at Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Morning view of the Ashley Pond Park at Los Alamos, New Mexico.

When it comes to being underrated, this town had to be secretive enough that scientists in World War II could work on a superweapon to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Los Alamos, located about 33 miles from Santa Fe, is the location where the first atomic bomb was conceived and tested.  The nucleus of this clandestine operation can be reviewed at the Bradbury Science Museum and the historic Los Alamos National Laboratory, where Robert J. Oppenheimer and his compatriots completed the Manhattan Project.

Aside from landmarks of nuclear proportions, Los Alamos is surrounded by dynamic natural landscapes like the Santa Fe National Forest to the north, the Valles Caldera National Preserve to the west, and the Bandelier National Monument to the south. One can find a few pre-Columbian artifacts and petroglyphs in the Bandelier National Monument, or enjoy the diverse ecosystems in the volcanic crater of Valles Caldera National Preserve. Either way, you should stay a while at the Canyon Inn.


Aztec Ruins National Monument.
Aztec Ruins National Monument.

Near the border south of Colorado, the humble village of Aztec combines diverse American cultures and ethnicities in an unorthodox blend. The town earned its name from the Aztec Ruins National Monument, a collection of 11th-century Puebloan structures believed to have been constructed by the Aztecs. However, it was later confirmed that it was the Anasazi that built the ancient settlement. Another stunning ruin is the Great House in the Chaco Canyon, a 900-year-old edifice made of 400 masonry rooms and housing North America’s largest constructed great kiva—a circular, underground chamber for spiritual ceremonies.

Aztec is mainly visited for the myriad of biking and hiking trails snaking the area, as best seen in the Animas River Walk, the Alien Run, the Navajo Lake State Park, and more. Strangely enough, Aztec celebrates an annual Highland Games and Celtic Music festival in the first weekend of October, bringing Irish and Scottish traditions to a predominantly Native American landscape.


El Santuario de Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico.
El Santuario de Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico.

Chimayo, halfway between Los Alamos and Taos, has been a place of worship long before the Spanish established a lasting Catholic community in 1813. Since the 12th century, the Tewa Native Americans traversed vast badlands to absorb the healing spirits from an area they called Tsi-Mayoh. Now, it is about 300,000 Catholic pilgrims who migrate to the hills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, seeking the same spiritual remedies from the hill renamed to El Santuario de Chimayo.

Many claim that Chimayo is "no doubt the most important Catholic pilgrimage center in the United States.” An adobe church combining Spanish and Native American decorations now stands on the hill, beckoning pilgrims with the healing soil the town is famous for. Nearby, the Shrine of Santa Nino de Atocha was the place where US soldiers who survived the Bataan Death March in the Philippines thanked God for deliverance. If you need a place to soak in spiritual health, then let Casa Escondida Bed & Breakfast soothe your soul.


Downtown Deming in New Mexico
Downtown Deming in New Mexico. Image credit Traveller70 via Shutterstock

About 35 miles from the US-Mexico border, the town of Deming is a site of adventure and thrills. Named after Mary Ann Deming Crocker, wife of Charles Crocker who established the Southern Pacific Railroad, Deming welcomes visitors with geological and mineral riches at the Rockhound State Park. The Pancho Villa State Park, on the other hand, commemorates the hostile raid of General Francisco “Pancho” Villa’s soldiers, the first and last armed invasion on the US during the 1900s.

The world-class Deming Luna Mimbres Museum illustrates the history and cultures of the Mimbre Native Americans who resided along the Mimbres River long before Spanish settlers arrived. Close at hand, the Florida Mountains Wilderness Study Area entertains outdoor enthusiasts to New Mexico’s wildlife. Give yourself a much-needed rest at the Best Western Deming Southwest Inn.

People often journey to New Mexico to see more famous towns like Roswell in the Chihuahuan Desert, or the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, or perhaps see a few iconic scenes from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. But it is a more appreciable experience if you visit places that few have spoiled, and New Mexico’s most underrated small towns are attractions you will certainly appreciate the most in "the land of enchantment." Dive into the many stories and conflicts that transformed New Mexico into the Wild West land that travelers will enjoy.

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