If you want to know what life was like in the Southwest for those who came before us, New Mexico is a gold mine. The Land of Enchantment is filled with ruins, some in surprisingly good condition, others more ravaged by time. Each of these 10 places provide valuable glimpses into the past.
1. Chaco Culture National Historic Park, near Nageezi
If you only visit one ruins in New Mexico, choose this one. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is vast in scale. In its heyday, Chaco consisted of 600 rooms, standing four stories high, and the site boasted 40 kivas. Right up until the 19th century, the structures at Chaco were the biggest in North America.
Between 1100-1300 A.D., Chaco Canyon was not only a center for trade in the Four Corners region, but for the entire Southwest and some of Mexico as well.
Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl and the enormous kiva at Casa Rinconada (pictured) are definite highlights.
2. Salmon Ruins and Heritage Park
Salmon ruins was built in the 11th century by people who migrated from Chaco. More than 250 rooms made up this often overlooked village.
3. Aztec Ruins National Monument, near Bloomfield
This compact collection of ruins is well-preserved - only the kiva is reconstructed. You can actually walk through the buildings here, some of which still have roofs. Back in the day, Aztec was a 500-room pueblo that was three stories high. (It had nothing to do with the Aztecs - it was home to Ancestral Puebloans.)
4. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, near Silver City
Nomadic tribes sought shelter in these caves tucked within the Gila Wilderness for years before they were converted into cliff dwellings. The Mogollon People lived here for a relatively short time (between roughly 1280 A.D.-1300 A.D.). The ruins are in good enough condition that you can imagine what life used to be like here.
5. Bandelier National Monument, near Los Alamos
Another interesting set of cliff dwellings are located at the other end of New Mexico, near Los Alamos.
The Ancestral Puebloans called this chasm home from the 12th century to midway though the 16th century. In addition to cliff dwellings, this monument includes the Tyuonyi ruins (the circular remains pictured) and the Long House Ruin. Not that many people know about the Tsankawi Ruins, which are detached from the main section of Bandelier but are also worth exploring.
6. Abó Ruins Salinas National Monument, Mountainair
Abó is one of three ruins that make up the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. The earliest structures at Abó date back to the 12th century and were part of a pueblo.
In the early 17th century, Franciscan missionaries arrived, hoping to convert the Pueblo people to Christianity. Native women and children were actually the ones to construct the church on this site.
7. Gran Quivira, near Mountainair
Sometimes called Las Humanas, Gran Quivira is another of the Salinas Missions. It stands out from the others because of the pale stone used in its construction.
There is another entire village buried under this 500-year-old pueblo that predates it by 250 years!
8. Quarai Ruins, near Mountainair
The last of the Salinas Missions is notable for its grand church, Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Curac.
9. The Jemez National Historic Landmark, Jemez Springs
This site consists of a 500-year-old village with a reconstructed kiva, along with the San José de los Jemez church. Fray Alonso de Luga had this church built in the 1620s after coming to the U.S. with Juan de Oñate.
10. Pecos National Historic Park, Pecos
Pecos National Historic Park crams a lot of history into one location. Want to learn about the Pecos pueblo and the missions? How about visiting a Civil War battle site or seeing where the Santa Fe Trail passed through? This underrated park takes you back to a variety of intriguing times in U.S. history.
Which of these places have you visited? Have you explored any other ruins in New Mexico?