Learn more about New Mexico, United States

Known as the Land of Enchantment, the state of New Mexico in the southwest United States lives up to its nickname. Home to 23 Native tribes, this is an ideal place to learn about Native American culture, art and music while enjoying the food and natural beauty of the American Southwest.

ShanDien Sonwai LaRance shows you how you can learn about their culture and their ancestral homeland of New Mexico, USA.

My name is ShanDien Sonwai LaRance and I am a Native American hoop dancer from the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo of the eight northern pueblos of New Mexico. My tribal affiliations are Hopi, Tewa, Navajo and Assiniboine.

I am very proud of the indigenous land my ancestors and I come from and I love sharing my culture through performance art. At one point in my career I toured with Cirque du Soleil; Today I spend my time teaching the next generation of Indigenous youth Hoop Dance.


Why you should learn about New Mexico, USA

What I love most about my native New Mexico is the desert landscapes and the influence of both indigenous and Spanish cultures. I also love the fresh air, open skies and sunsets.

Dubbed the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico is sure to enchant you with its unique cuisine, unforgettable sunsets, and the incredible art and history of its indigenous peoples. For me, this is the place to experience what I like to call “true American culture.”

For an ideal day in New Mexico, I would start in ornate, historic Santa Fe. At 2134 m above sea level, it is the highest state capital in the USA. In addition to its great museums, its location makes it the perfect base for outdoor adventures like mountain biking and hiking.

Culture: Bandelier National Monument and Pueblos

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Explore caves and look for petroglyphs in Bandelier National Monument. © Jack Pearce/Lonely Planet

An important part of our culture is our connection to the earth and this country, and Bandelier National Monument represents a powerful piece of that history. Here you’ll see caves and alcoves that were home to Pueblo ancestors until the mid-1600s.

Take the High Road between Santa Fe and Taos to visit pueblos that still exist today. The winding route offers a scenic tour of stunning scenery, passing many adobe houses and towns with art studios and other artists’ works for sale. North of Taos you will find Taos Pueblo, a 1000 year old Pueblo village and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In Chimayó you can stop at El Santuario de Chimayó. It has been a Roman Catholic church since 1813 – but it has long been a place for those seeking spiritual and physical healing, and the church was built over a patch of earth said to have miraculous healing properties. The Pueblo people have been coming here for a long time: generations of pilgrims have come to a small pit inside the church to sing the ‘terra bendita‘ (holy filth) on their sufferings. In return, they leave rosaries, photos and other tokens of their gratitude.

Another healing site to check out is the natural hot springs of Ojo Caliente – one of the oldest known spas in the country at more than 140 years. It is believed that the Pueblo people also came to these sacred springs to heal themselves. Today the resort has 11 unique mineral pools. Check out the meditative soda pool or mud bath experience to soothe your weary body and soul.

Art: Immerse yourself in Santa Fe’s galleries and museums

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Works by Teri Greeves in the Here, Now and Always exhibition at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. © Jack Pearce/Lonely Planet

Stroll downtown’s galleries and shops to see the local art scene, one of the top things to do in Santa Fe. In the same place where Puebloans have sold their crafts for generations, Indigenous artists now sell souvenirs to visitors. Here you can find everything from handmade jewelry to traditionally woven rugs and clay pots.

Pause to rest your feet with a leisurely lunch. Try new Mexican cuisine at Del Charro. After lunch, learn about indigenous art from ancient to present at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture and the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. Both institutions offer incredible opportunities to learn the stories of Pueblo peoples through the work of Indigenous artists.

One of the hottest tickets in town is the immersive, truly hands-on art space Meow Wolf. You will take your art experience to another dimension in this eclectic space, where you are encouraged to touch, open, and even crawl through the installation to fully appreciate its many multi-sensory surprises.

Tip: Grab breakfast or a lunchtime snack at Chocolate Maven Bakery & Cafe, a popular local eatery that serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch. I love coming here for the delicious cakes and the handwork Cookies You have for dessert.

Land: Ghost Ranch and hot air balloon rides

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Experience New Mexico from above on a hot air balloon ride. © Jack Pearce/Lonely Planet

To truly connect with the country’s beauty, take a day trip from Santa Fe to the 21,000-acre open space Ghost Ranch in Abiquiú.

The painter Georgia O’Keeffe had a home and studio here, and the surrounding desert was often the subject of her paintings. This stunning landscape has also been the backdrop for major Hollywood films such as city ​​dwellers and Wyatt Earp.

There’s plenty to do here, from horseback riding to hiking the eight trails. Prefer to be inside? Stroll through the two museums, the Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology and the Georgia O’Keeffe Home. You can also buy tickets for other tours and activities in the area, so it’s worth planning your visit in advance.

Once you’ve connected to New Mexico from the ground, be sure to enjoy a bird’s eye view as well. New Mexico is known for its tradition of hot air ballooning, and one of the best ways to appreciate the state’s beauty is from the air. The annual Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, held each October, is a world-renowned tradition and just celebrated its 50th anniversary. While this is an unmissable way to see hundreds of beautifully decorated balloons take to the skies, you can hot air balloon anywhere in the state for most of the year (weather permitting).