New Mexico is truly one of a kind, a land where ancient cultures, technology and traditions live harmoniously, and Acoma Pueblo is a perfect example.
When visiting Albuquerque, make sure to plan a day trip to Acoma Pueblo. Recently voted as the best Native American experience by USA Today 10 Best, a trip to the pueblo won’t disappoint.
Acoma is also known as Sky City, and rightfully so. The pueblo is perched atop a 367-foot mesa, offering gorgeous views of the surrounding valley and the sandstone rock formations nearby. You’ll be amazed at just how far you can see from the top. The Sky City Cultural Center and Haak’u Museum, located near the base of the mesa, are the perfect start to your trip. The cultural center is also where you’ll purchase your tour tickets, which include your photography permit. You’ll see examples of the famed Acoma pottery, art from Native American artists and more. You can also grab a bite at the Y’aak’a Cafe and a bottle of water or memento at the Gaitsi Gift Shop.
The tour of the pueblo itself lasts about an hour and a half and begins with a bus ride to the top of the mesa. A local guide will lead you on foot, winding through the homes and other buildings, all while explaining the history of the pueblo and its people. While touring the ancient city, you’ll see the San Esteban del Rey Catholic mission and the sacred cemetery. Due to the sacred nature of the space, photography is not allowed within the church or cemetery walls.
Though the scenery and the traditional building styles of the pueblo are breathtaking, the people you’ll meet will be what you remember the most. Locals will come out to greet you. Many have handmade art set up outside their homes, and some might even have fresh bread and other food for sale. Everyone you’ll encounter during the tour will take time to say hello. The potters will give you the story behind their intricate designs and will usually tell you a bit about the 13 remaining clans and to which clan their families belong.
At the end of the tour, you have two options. You can either take the shuttle back down the mesa, or the more adventurous can follow the path the Acoma people have been walking for centuries and climb down the original stairs from the top. You’ll see a small path and rock steps. While descending, you’ll use the same hand holds the Acoma people have been using for hundreds of years.
Acoma Pueblo allows visitors to truly take a step into the past and experience history.
• Bring Cash! You’ll fall in love with the gorgeous pottery and can purchase it from any of the artisans on your tour. If you’re lucky, you might also be able to buy some fry bread or a homemade pie!
• Get the photo permit. You’re going to want to take photos. It’s too beautiful to pass up.
• Wear comfortable walking shoes. Much of the ground is uneven or rocky on the tour. Come prepared.
• Take the ancient steps back down. Walking in the same spot the ancient Acoma once walked is an experience you’ll never forget.
• On your way back to town, stop and visit Guadalupe Vineyards. Their tasting room is at the base of Mount Taylor near the small village of San Fidel and their estate grapes grow around the property.
Acoma is located about an hour west of Albuquerque off of Interstate 40. After you exit the freeway you’ll drive about 30 minutes, past homes and community buildings, into the pueblo itself.
Tours are available March 1- October 31
First tour begins at 9:30 a.m., and tours run every hour on the half hour. The final full tour is at 3:30 p.m. Tours take about an hour and a half.
Pricing for veterans, students and families are all available. A camera pass must be purchased with your ticket should you want to take photos while on the tour.
The pueblo is also open for many feast days and events.