The last stop of my epic New Mexico road trip was Taos, a town I have wanted to visit for years as it was a favorite haven of my late professor and mentor, Harald Becker.
When I am visiting a walkable town, accommodations in the heart of things are my top priority. In Taos this meant staying at the Historic Taos Inn, right on the main drag and easy walking distance to all of the shopping and restaurants in the area. The building is full of southwestern character and is home to both a restaurant and a bar featuring live music on a nightly basis. I totally scored on a great rate at this place because I went in April, which is not a busy time. If you can make it around that time I highly recommend it- the weather is beautiful and the area is not flooded with tourists.
I opted to stay in the main building, which had its advantages and drawbacks. On the positive side, I felt extremely secure and had easy access to the hotel amenities. The staff was friendly and they gave me great recommendations for things to do in the area. The walkway outside my door looked down over the bar area and there was a small table there, so I was able to come out in my sweats with a glass of wine and watch the musicians perform, which was a great way to wind down at the end of each day. The downside was that my door and windows might as well have been made of tissue paper for how well they blocked out noise. The music from the bar and the noise from the road outside were pretty loud. Even still, I had a great experience and will definitely stay there again- I’ll just opt for a different building next time.
For my first day I stuck to the town. I walked around the shopping areas and dropped into the tasting rooms for the El Chipara and Black Mesa wineries. Both were excellent and I ended up taking home a few bottles- particularly special was the Chocolate Caliente from Black Mesa, a spicy, chocolatey red dessert wine that is supposedly even better when warm. An absolute must-visit was Chokola, a small bean-to-bar chocolatier offering sipping chocolate, truffles and mousse. The place is really cute and I was seriously in chocolate heaven watching the amazing artisans make everything and getting to taste the fruits of their labor.
The next day I took to the roads to explore. My stops included the Taos Pueblo, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and Earthship Biotecture.
The Taos Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. Archaeologists believe that the current buildings were constructed between 1000 ad 1450AD, making them approximately 1,000 years old! Many of the native people who live there continue in their ancestors’ traditions of intricate beadwork, pottery and other crafts. Some of them operate shops out of their homes, and when you visit the community they will welcome you in to see their products and view the inside of these remarkable structures. Be sure to only enter into homes to which you are invited. While the community is open to visitors, the homes of individual residents are, of course, private. Make sure you get cash, as most of the shops and refreshments don’t accept cards.
One lovely woman I met was selling fry bread, which I’m pretty sure is still clinging to my hips but was super delicious and worth every bite.
On my way to Earthship Biotecture I passed over the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, and I couldn’t resist stopping to take some pictures. The gorge is massive and so deep that I couldn’t actually see the water running at the bottom. The pedestrian walkway allowed me to stand right over the center, which was simultaneously awe-inspiring and terrifying.
After managing to not fall into the gorge, I was on my way again. Earthship Biotecture was only a few miles down the road and it was the place in Taos I was most excited to visit. H and I have long dreamed of building our own net-zero home, and earthships have been a major source of inspiration for us as we have considered our future plans. We even have a friend who interned there for a few months and has always raved about the wonderful community there.
The experience of actually touring a functioning earthship and learning about how the different components work was absolutely fascinating. The builders of these homes have found ways to regulate temperature without using electricity, ways to grow and dehydrate food in the windows using the sunlight, and ways to re-use water for 3 different purposes before finally surrendering it.
The homes themselves are built mostly from recycled material and adobe, which are both easily attainable and extremely affordable. The colorful circles you see on the tan and green buildings above are all glass bottles, and many buildings incorporated dirt-packed aluminum cans that functioned as bricks when building walls. Rainwater collection provides water, and is ingeniously built into the roofs of different structures.
When I was driving back into town I saw Taos Mesa Brewing and pulled off to grab lunch and a pint. The beer there was great and I was really excited to see that a new vintage trailer hotel, El Mystico, was being built right next door! It looks a lot like El Cosmico in Marfa, which is HIGH on my desired trips list. Hopefully El Mystico will be finished the next time I come to Taos so I can give it a try!
I wrapped up my visit to Taos by spending some time in the nearby community of Arroyo Seco, which is home to some lovely art galleries, pottery studios and restaurants. Some friends of ours from college live near there, and I was able to enjoy dinner with one of them at the absolutely amazing Aceq restaurant.
Overall Taos was a delight. I wish I could have spent a few more days there, but with only a 5 hour drive separating us I know I will have many opportunities to return. Hopefully next time I can get in some snowboarding!
I would love to hear about your favorite road trip destinations! What makes them so special?