Central New Mexico

Central New Mexico is the region of the state containing Albuquerque and vicinity. Unusually for a United States city of significant size, Albuquerque has almost no true "suburbs" that have grown along with and after, rather than independent of, the city; about the only one of consequence is Rio Rancho. Several Native American pueblos also call this region home, some of them of interest to the traveler. Attractions in Albuquerque are covered in that city's guide; this page deals with attractions of the extended region. Santa Fe, the state capital, is generally considered part of the North Central New Mexico region.


Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Mountainair

Other destinations

Scenery at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument


Map of Central New Mexico

A New Mexican who hears "central New Mexico" automatically thinks "Albuquerque," but there is more to the region than just its largest city. Broadly, central New Mexico is bounded on the:


English, but if you happen to be a speaker of Tewa or Keresan, you'll have opportunities to practice at the American Indian pueblos of the region. (Of course, if you're a speaker of those languages, chances are you're a member of one of the pueblos already!) There are many native speakers of Spanish, although the fraction is lower than in some other parts of the state. With several universities in the region with international faculties and student bodies, speakers of other major languages can be found to help the traveler who is not fluent in English or Spanish.

As in the north central region, it's recommended that, if you see a place name apparently of Spanish origin, you try to pronounce it as Spanish. "Anglicized" pronunciation of Spanish words (and, particularly, surnames) may be normal in some parts of the United States, but it's not here. It runs a real risk of antagonizing the person you're talking to, who may speak Spanish at home as his/her ancestors have for 400 years, and may consider failure to make an attempt at Spanish pronunciation discourteous. Pronunciation tips in the Spanish phrasebook are useful here; the most common things to watch for are words with "ñ" (e.g. the popular Garduño's restaurant chain), double "l" (e.g. the very common Gallegos surname), and double "r" (e.g. Rio Arriba County, which incidentally is a particularly good place in which to have your Spanish pronunciations in shape).

Get in

By plane

The state's only major airport, the Albuquerque International Sunport (three-letter code ABQ), is serviced by most major United States carriers. The airport is not a hub or focus city status for any airline. The largest carrier in terms of flights is Southwest Airlines. With the exception of some regional flights in Santa Fe, Roswell, Farmington, Silver City, and Hobbs, the Sunport is virtually the only way to fly in and out of New Mexico. Another airport in Albuquerque is the Double Eagle II airport, which serves general aviation aircraft.

By train

Albuquerque is served by two rail services. Amtrak's Southwest Chief makes a daily stop in each direction, going on to Los Angeles and Chicago. This station is a layover stop, allowing for passengers to disembark and smoke, buy gifts from local artisans, and stretch their legs. For those closer to the central part of New Mexico, the New Mexico Rail Runner Express provides commuter rail service between Belen and Santa Fe. Service is aligned more for commuters, and less for tourists and travelers.

By car

Albuquerque is built at the intersection of Interstate highways 25 and 40, the latter generally following the route of historic Route 66. Most of the smaller towns of the region are either along one of the Interstates or on one of the lesser highways reached from them.

Get around

The Rail Runner Express climbing the hill to Santa Fe

There are no unusual driving problems in most of this area under normal conditions; the mountains are not high enough, nor the arid valleys low and hot enough, for significant weather-related driving hazards. (Partial exception for I-25 north to Santa Fe, which gains considerable elevation and can be closed for hours at a time at "La Bajada Hill" north of Cochiti Pueblo due to snow and ice.) One minor warning: Albuquerque doesn't get much snow, and consequently, its residents aren't used to snowy roads. When the occasional snowstorm does blow through, driving conditions in town can range from mildly crazy to downright alarming, more because of the behavior of the motorists than due to objective road hazard.

Public transportation in this area is generally limited to Albuquerque. However, a commuter railroad, the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, links the train/bus depot in Downtown Albuquerque to Santa Fe as well as to some of the smaller communities along the Rio Grande: Belen, Los Lunas, and Bernalillo. It runs with limited service daily, with additional service for some special events. Fares are based on how far you ride, and a day pass will usually be in the range of $5–10. Tickets can be purchased online or from ticket agents on the train.


Stay safe

Albuquerque poses the usual urban safety issues, with the areas around the southwestern part of town having relatively high crime rates. Most crime in these areas involves property rather than violence, and is of less concern to the visitor than to residents. Violent crime is generally not an unusual problem in the rural areas of the region. As in too much of New Mexico, however, drunk driving is widespread, and motorists, cyclists and pedestrians on the roads should be alert, particularly at night.

The environmental safety issues of the area are also fairly conventional: in the mountains, watch the weather and check for signs of altitude sickness (although it's less of an issue than in the higher mountains to the north), while in the lowlands, carry plenty of water when hiking. Water in the few springs and streams should be considered not potable. Sun screen is always a good idea when outdoors here.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, March 05, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.