Taos

Taos (pronounced "touse", rhymes with "house" or "mouse") is a prominent town in North Central New Mexico, about a two hour drive north of Santa Fe. While much more laid-back than Santa Fe, Taos has become a popular travel destination in its own right, noted for its art colony, its New Age community, excellent skiing, and Taos Pueblo, a photogenic American Indian community that is open to visitors under controlled conditions.

Understand

San Francisco de Asis Church, Ranchos de Taos

The town of Taos itself is one of several places with "Taos" in their name, all part of the region and contributors to its attractiveness but differing in just what the attractions are. Ranchos de Taos is a small village south of Taos proper that is notable for a spectacularly scenic and much-photographed church. Taos Pueblo is just north of town, and is an ancient American Indian community (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) in a particularly beautiful setting. Taos Ski Valley, also known as Twining, is about 20 miles (30 km) north of town in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Finally, the Taos Box is a section of the nearby Rio Grande known for its superb whitewater. Before setting out for an attraction, know exactly which Taos you're visiting; there are attractions outside Taos proper in Ranchos de Taos, Taos Pueblo and Taos Ski Valley, all of which are covered below with those for the town.

History

It's not clear exactly when the first humans arrived in the Taos area, but samples taken from the main structure of Taos Pueblo found it to likely have been built somewhere between 1000 and 1450 A.D., which would make it one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the Americas. Situated in a tributary valley of the Rio Grande, Taos marked the northernmost extent of the Pueblo Indians. It would also mark the northernmost extent of Spanish settlement in the Southwest following the arrival of Spanish conquistadors and missionaries in the 17th century. Of all the pueblos, Taos may have been the most resistant to the brutal treatment they received from the Spanish, leading the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 and keeping up armed resistance to the Spanish long afterwards. Over time, the Spanish eventually began to fight alongside the Pueblo Indians against other tribes in the region, which led to the creation of the Spanish village of Taos in the 1790s.

The early 1800s saw the arrival of many mountain men and fur trappers in the area, many of them Americans who had arrived in New Mexico via the Santa Fe Trail. The transition to American rule was marked by violence in Taos; following the U.S. takeover of New Mexico in 1846, a group of Hispanics and Taos Indians led a revolt against the American government, killing the newly-appointed U.S. Governor, Charles Bent. The U.S. military responded in force, laying siege to Taos Pueblo and crushing the revolt, burning down the pueblo church in the process. The years that followed saw a significant cooling down in relations between natives and American settlers.

Taos came to widespread attention in the early 1900s, when a group of prominent artists, lured by the region's scenery and culture, formed the Taos art colony and promoted the town within artist and writing circles. Their work typically focused on the landscape and the culture of Taos Pueblo and the Hispanic farming villages in the area. Modern artists and photographers would follow in the decades to come, as would Hippies and New Age practitioners, laying the groundwork for the thriving art scene that persists to this day and serves as arguably the town's main draw.

Get in

By plane

No commercial airlines serve Taos. However, it has had intermittent service by commuter lines flying from Albuquerque in the past. The Albuquerque Sunport, three hours' driving time distant, is the nearest airport with extensive commercial air service.

By car

Taos' position on the west slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains restricts road access somewhat, as there are few passes through the mountains and the ones that exist may be closed in the winter due to snow. Coming from Denver and other points north, there are two options: either follow Interstate Highway 25 to Raton and then US Highway 64 over Palo Flechado Pass and into Taos, or follow Colorado state road 159 south to the New Mexico border, at which point it becomes New Mexico state road 552 and continues to Taos.

There are also two routes into Taos from Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The most direct route follows US Highway 285 through Pojoaque to Española, then New Mexico state road 68 along the banks of the Rio Grande to Taos. There are a number of scenic viewpoints on this road; it's worth stopping to see if river runners are on the Rio, particularly during high water (spring) at which time this stretch of river is one of the finest whitewater experiences in the continental United States. The slower and higher, but even more scenic, "High Road to Taos" diverges at Pojoaque and first follows New Mexico 503 to Chimayo, then New Mexico 76 and New Mexico 75 to Peñasco, and then New Mexico 518 to outlying Ranchos de Taos and finally Taos itself. This is a beautiful drive in the spring and summer; the Sangre de Cristos are snow-capped until June or so, while later in the summer, the thunderstorms that build over the mountains provide a different kind of elemental beauty.

By bus

Faust Transportation (575-758-3410) provides local taxi, regional and airport shuttle, and charter bus service to the North Central NM area. Its airport shuttle is no longer operating. Twin Hearts Express Shuttle Co. (575-751-1201) also provides shuttle services to and from the Taos area. The NCRTD provides weekday commuter bus service that links Taos to the surrounding communities of the region, as well as a weekend service, the Taos Express, to Española and Santa Fe.

Get around

With little traffic Taos is easy to drive around in, seeing as there is really only one main road stretching from the beginning of town to the end. the downtown area is great for walking, with many restaurants, shops, and galleries to visit. Taos Trolley Tours runs bus tours that reach most of the main attractions. The trolley-style bus won't move any more quickly through traffic than your car will, but using it will at least save you some aggravation behind the wheel, and reduce the congestion slightly for the other drivers. Call +1 575 751-0366 for details; usually closed during the winter.

For those without a car, it's relatively easy to hitchhike in and around town. For nearby northern towns, such as Arroyo Seco, Valdez, and Arroyo Hondo, walk north toward the gas station where Paseo del Pueblo (US-64) forms a fork with highway to the Taos Pueblo. Other established hitchhiking spots are at the Junction of US-64 North (Airport/Manby Spring), State Highway 522 (Arroyo Hondo/Stagecoach Spring), and State Highway 240 (Arroyo Seco), and north on Highway 240 at Old Blinking Light.

Taos also has an official form of public transportation, and that's the Chile Line shuttle service, +1 866 206-0754, which operates a free, fixed-route service on weekdays with designated stops along the main street of town (Paseo del Pueblo) up to the pueblo and a shuttle service from many of the hotels in Taos to the Taos Ski Valley.

See

Downtown Taos

Taos Plaza

The historic district at the center of town, this is where you'll find the majority of traveler attractions in Taos.   Taos Plaza, the historic center of town, is a shady town square surrounded by adobe architecture about half a block west of the intersection of Paseo del Pueblo and Kit Carson Road, which gets clogged with tourists in the summer months. The buildings surrounding the Plaza hold many of the town's finest restaurants and hotels, as well as a number of houses that belonged to founders of the art colony or other significant personages which have since been turned into museums and galleries.

Taos Art Museum at the Fechin House

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo

A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the Americas, Taos is the northernmost of the New Mexico Pueblos and the most iconic, with two large adobe structures that are around 1,000 years old. A large plaza sits between the two structures, with a small creek running through the middle. While most inhabitants of the pueblo live in modern housing on the outskirts of the reservation, there are still a sizable number who live in the historic village and keep the traditional ways alive.

Guided tours take visitors around a portion of the village, including into the San Geronimo Chapel and past the ruins of the old church, both on the grounds of the village, with the guide explaining some of the history and culture of the village. For anyone interested in learning about Native American culture, the tour is a very rewarding experience. Handmade wares are available from some curio shops run by local artisans in the village, with moccasins, boots, drums, mica-flecked pottery and silver jewelry being specialties.

Note that photography and sketching is strictly regulated, with a separate fee required. Don't photograph residents without permission, and don't enter doors or homes that are not clearly marked as businesses. The pueblo also operates a small casino near the entrance to the historic village, which is mainly notable for being entirely non-smoking.

Outlying attractions

On the grounds of Hacienda Martinez

Do

Outdoor recreation

Scenery above Taos Ski Valley
Most trips on the Rio Grande take a full day, with some outfitters offering overnight outings that extend beyond the Taos Box. Pickup/dropoff, gear selection, etc., all vary according to the outfitter and trip; contact the outfitter directly to make arrangements. Reservations are a "must" for most trips.

Events

Learn

The "Taos Hum"

Taos is a well-known center for "spiritual" activities of various kinds, some of them relating to the curious and possibly mythical phenomenon of the Taos Hum. Many visitors claim to be able to hear a persistent, low rumbling or buzzing sound not attributable to the traffic of town or other obvious sources. Possible explanations have been posed ranging from the pedestrian (static discharges in the mountains, power lines that are heard but not seen) to the outlandish (secret government facilities nearby, some manner of UFO nexus). Sober-sided skeptics insist that there isn't really a Hum at all and that its perception results from visitors from noisier lands being unused to the general solitude and silence of the rural area. If you want to try to hear the Hum, get out of the downtown area, which is too congested to hear a "hum" of anything but traffic, and spend some time in the forest, particularly early in the morning or at night if you're equipped for it.

Buy

Eat

A tip: Many restaurants in Taos double as art galleries/outlets. You won't find any of the really good stuff there (unless it's art gallery first, restaurant second), but the prices on the workaday material are competitive with the galleries, and you'll have both a more interesting dining experience and an opportunity to browse or even buy the art without feeling guilty about not going for the big-ticket items. In the following, "Budget" restaurants have entrees up to about $10 (exclusive of drinks, desserts and tips), "Mid-range" between $10 and $25, and "Splurge" greater than $25. There are many more restaurants in Taos than shown here, some of them quite good; add your favorite.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Many of the better restaurants in Taos decline to give "closing" hours for dinner, opting instead to stop serving when they feel like it. Practically speaking, "closing" usually works out to something like 9PM M-Th, 9:30 or 10 on Fridays and Saturdays. If you're anticipating a late dinner, it's good to call for information and make reservations.

Drink

Sleep

There are many hotels and B&Bs in this area, owing to the thriving tourist trade, and many of them are quite good yet not on this list; if you've stayed at a notable one, please add it, with comments.

Budget

Budget lodging in Taos can be a somewhat dicey proposition, and some hotels previously listed in this article are currently getting extremely negative reviews. If you're really on a budget, one of the national chains may be the way to go, at the expense of "local color."

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

There is free Internet access at some sites around town, but most (supplied by laplaza.org) are nominally for town residents. Public wireless access for travelers is reported to exist at Taos Municipal Airport. Most major hotels offer wide-band services.

The Town of Taos has cellular service, and was recently added to the list of Verizon 4G LTE support. There are no street pay phones available in Taos.

Stay safe

The areas of and near Taos of most interest to the traveler generally have little crime, although the potential for petty theft from unlocked cars always exists, particularly in remote areas (e.g. at trail heads in the national forest). The main concerns are weather and road hazards. Winters can be harsh, particularly at higher elevations, and the wise motorist uses snow tires and has chains or 4 wheel drive available from November through March. Keeping warm clothing and an emergency kit in the car during this time is a good idea. Heavy snow creates hazards for outdoor recreation as well; use extreme caution in the mountains, as avalanche conditions are frequent. During the summer a different hazard appears: lightning. The Sangre de Cristos generate thunderstorms that produce frequent cloud-to-ground strikes. If you go hiking in the high country during summer, make sure you're off the high summits by 1PM at the latest, and keep an eye out for earlier-than-normal electrical activity.

Another contributor to safety concerns on the roadways is the unfortunate but undeniable fact that northern New Mexico has severe problems with drunk driving. Taos has less problems itself with this than some nearby areas, but vigilance on the highways is still a good idea, particularly after dark and on the highways into and outside the town.

Another safety hazard along the road to Taos are rock slides that may leave large rocks in the roadway capable of damaging the undercarriage of your vehicle. Take curves with caution and be prepared to slow to avoid hazards. In the Taos area, the danger of rock slides exists primarily on New Mexico state road 68 between Espanola and Taos.

Cope

If you're planning on visiting Taos in the winter be prepared for very cold temperatures. Temperatures generally fall between 30-40 degrees in the winter, and 70-85 degrees in the summer.

Go next

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
Routes through Taos

Farmington Rio Grande del Norte N.M.  W  E  Angel Fire Raton
Española Rio Grande del Norte N.M.  SW  NE  END
END  N  S  Mora Las Vegas


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, January 08, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.