Albuquerque to Taos: New Mexico Mountain High

Day 1: Albuquerque

Start out by strolling through the shops of Old Town Plaza, then visit the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Also be sure to check out the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, and try to make your way over to the Albuquerque Biological Park, which contains the aquarium, zoo, and botanic park. For lunch, try the atmospheric Church Street Café in Old Town.

Later in the afternoon, you'll need a car to head east a couple of miles along Central to reach the University of New Mexico's main campus and the nearby Nob Hill District. Start with a stroll around the UNM campus with its many historic adobe buildings; if you have time, pop inside either the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology or the University Art Museum. When you're finished here, walk east along Central into Nob Hill and check out the dozens of offbeat shops. If it's summer, meaning that you still have some time before the sun sets, it's worth detouring from Old Town to Far Northeast Heights (a 15-minute drive), where you can take the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway 2.7 miles up to Sandia Peak for spectacular sunset views of the city. Either way, plan to have dinner back in Nob Hill, perhaps at Zinc or Zacatecas. If you're still up for more fun, check out one of the neighborhood's lively lounges; head back Downtown for a bit of late-night barhopping.

Days 2 and 3: Santa Fe

On Day 2, head to Santa Fe early in the morning by driving up the scenic Turquoise Trail; once you arrive in town, explore the adobe charms of the Downtown central Plaza. Visit the Palace of the Governors and check out the adjacent New Mexico History Museum. At the nearby Museum of Indian Arts and Culture you can see works by Southwestern artists, and a short drive away at the Museum of International Folk Art you can see how different cultures in New Mexico and elsewhere in the world have expressed themselves artistically. Give yourself time to stroll the narrow, adobe-lined streets of this charming Downtown, and treat yourself to some authentic New Mexican cuisine in the evening, perhaps with a meal at The Shed or Cafe Pasqual’s.

On your second day in town, plan to walk a bit. Head east from the Plaza up to Canyon Road and peruse the galleries. Have lunch at one of the restaurants midway uphill, such as the Teahouse or El Farol. If you're up for some exercise, hike the foothills—there are trails within beginning at the Randall Davey Audubon Center and also from the free parking area (off Cerro Gordo Road) leading into the Dale Ball Trail Network, both a short drive from the Plaza. You might want to try one of Santa Fe's truly stellar, upscale restaurants your final night in town, either La Boca or the French bistro Bouche.

Day 4: Abiquiú

From Santa Fe, drive north up U.S. 285/84 through Española, and then take U.S. 84 from Española up to Abiquiú, the fabled community where Georgia O'Keeffe lived and painted for much of the final five decades of her life. On your way up, make the detour toward Los Alamos and spend the morning visiting Bandelier National Monument. In Abiquiú, plan to tour Georgia O'Keeffe's home (open mid-March–late November).

Days 5 and 6: Taos

Begin by strolling around Taos Plaza, taking in the galleries and crafts shops. Head south two blocks to visit the Harwood Museum. Then walk north on Paseo del Pueblo to the Taos Art Museum and Fechin House. In the afternoon, drive out to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Return the way you came to see the Millicent Rogers Museum on your way back to town. In the evening, stop in at the Adobe Bar at the Taos Inn and plan for dinner at Love Apple or Antonio’s. On the second day, drive out to Taos Pueblo in the morning and tour the ancient village while the day is fresh. Return to town and go to the Blumenschein Home and Museum, lunching afterward at the Dragonfly Café. After lunch drive out to La Hacienda de los Martinez for a look at early life in Taos and then to Ranchos de Taos to see the San Francisco de Asís Church.

Day 7: The High Road

On your final day, drive back down toward Albuquerque and Santa Fe via the famed High Road, which twists through a series of tiny, historic villages—including Peñasco, Truchas, and Chimayó. In the latter village, be sure to stop by El Santuario de Chimayó. Have lunch at Rancho de Chimayó, and do a little shopping at Ortega's Weaving Shop. From here, it's a 30-minute drive to Santa Fe.

Santa Fe Sights

It's best to explore Santa Fe one neighborhood at a time and arrange your activities within each. If you've got more than two days, be sure to explore the northern Rio Grande Valley. For the best tour, combine your adventures in Santa Fe with some from the Side Trips section, which highlights several trips within a 30- to 90-minute drive of town.

Plan on spending a full day wandering around Santa Fe Plaza, strolling down narrow lanes, under portals, and across ancient cobbled streets. Sip coffee on the Plaza, take in a museum or two (or three) and marvel at the cathedral. The New Mexico History Museum and Palace of the Governors are great places to start to gain a sense of the history and cultures that influence this area. Take one of the docent-led tours offered by the museums. Almost without exception the docents are engaging and passionate about their subjects. You gain invaluable insight into the collections and their context by taking these free tours. Inquire at the front desk of the museums for more information.

A few miles south of the Plaza on Museum Hill, you'll find four world-class museums, all quite different and all highly relevant to the culture of Santa Fe and northern New Mexico, plus the brand-new Santa Fe Botanical Garden. Start at the intimate gem, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, where you'll gain a real sense of the Spanish empire's influence on the world beyond Spain. The Museum of International Folk Art is thoroughly engaging for both young and old. If you have the stamina to keep going, have a tasty lunch at the Museum Hill Café and then visit the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture before moving on to the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. There is a path linking all these museums together, and the walk is easy. The museum shops are all outstanding—if you're a shopper, you could easily spend an entire day in the shops alone.

A short walk from any of the Downtown lodgings, Canyon Road should definitely be explored on foot. Take any of the side streets and stroll among historical homes and ancient acequias (irrigation ditches). If you really enjoy walking, keep going up the road past Cristo Rey Church, where the street gets even narrower and is lined with residential compounds. At the top is the Randall Davey Audubon Center, where bird-watching abounds.

Another enjoyable day can be spent exploring the hip Railyard District, which is bursting with energy and development from lively Railyard Park and the various businesses surrounding it, most of them having opened in the past few years. The Santuario de Guadalupe is a great place to start. Head south from there and enjoy shops, cafés, art galleries, the farmers' market, and Railyard Park. The venerable SITE Santa Fe is also here, with its cutting-edge modern art installations.

There are more galleries and shops among Downtown Santa Fe, Canyon Road, and the Railyard District than can be handled in one day—or even a few days. If you've got the time, or if you don't want to spend hours in multiple museums, take a look at our shopping recommendations and go from there.