Between Santa Fe and Taos lie a number of pueblos, each set on a separate patch of reservation land. Unlike scenic Taos Pueblo, which opens its centuries-old buildings to visitors, most of these are not worth visiting for their ancient architecture—they’re typically a mix of old and new, and some are closed to outsiders all or part of the year.
Do visit on feast days or for other ceremonial dances if you can, though—to confirm schedules and for other general information, contact the individual pueblos, or the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council (505/747-1593).
Directly north of Santa Fe, U.S. 84/285 runs right through the closest pueblos—the overpass bridges are decorated with the original Tewa names.
Tesuque (Te Tesugeh Owingeh, “village of the cottonwood trees”) is marked by Camel Rock, a piece of sandstone on the west side of the highway that has eroded to resemble a creature that looks right at home in this rocky desert. Though this stretch of casinos and tax-free cigarette shops isn’t particularly scenic, don’t be tempted to race through it—the area is a major speed trap.
The old village, established in 1200, is closed to the public some days; call ahead (505/983-2667) if you’re planning to visit, though the only real sight is the new-old church, which was reconstructed after it was destroyed by arson. The new construction uses an interesting new eco-friendly building material called Rastra—a lightweight mix of concrete mixed with recycled styrofoam that takes particularly well to an adobe finish.
Pojoaque manages the Poeh Museum (U.S. 84/285, 505/455-5041, www.poehcenter.com, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9–4 p.m. Sat., free), a striking old-style adobe building that functions as a community arts gallery, with rotating exhibits and some of the finest work for sale, as well as a permanent installation relating the Pojoaque people’s path (poeh) through history. On summer Saturdays, dancers perform in the plaza at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The adjacent restaurant, Ó Eating House (505/455-5065, 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5:30–9 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5:30–10 p.m. Sat., $6), serves well-priced and tasty items such as tortilla soup and fried chicken.
San Ildefonso, best known for the black-on-black pottery of María Martinez and her husband, Julian, is off Highway 502, on the way to Los Alamos. A small visitors center and museum (Hwy. 502, 505/455-3549, 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri., $5/car) shows the pottery-making process, and there are several crafts shops (the latter are usually open on weekends).
Santa Clara (Kha P’o), on Highway 30 south of Española, contains the beautiful Puyé Cliff Dwellings, but they have been closed since the Cerro Grande fire of 2000, with no stated plans to reopen; the pueblo, too, is generally closed to visitors. If you do hear that Puyé has reopened, go—the place is worth seeing.
Immediately north of Española, at the junction of the Rio Chama and the Rio Grande, is Ohkay Owingeh (Strong Village, formerly San Juan), the birthplace of Popé, who led the Pueblo Revolt.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition