A sweet whisper of birds singing in the trees encompasses a valley. A dusty mist settles along the horizon as a golden, orange sun appears. Cacti and desert plants rattle in the wind as the sun makes its debut. The air is dry and fresh, crisply whisking away the coolness of the desert night. Unfolding on the horizon is the center of the universe: the warm New Mexico sun. Your eyes crack open like they’ve been glued together for months. Your eyes respond to the golden, orange light and your whole being – body, mind and spirt – are awakened. Welcome to Taos, New Mexico.
Where is Taos?
Taos is a gem in the southwest U.S.A. Located in the north central part of New Mexico about 70 miles northwest of Santa Fe and rooted in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Taos is famous for its natural desert landscape, insatiable art scene, and indigenous-rooted culture.
Taos was inhabited for thousands of years by the Tiwa peoples. They built an ancient multi-story apartment-like housing dwelling popularly known as the Taos Pueblo (more on that later). Taos is considered sacred land to past and present indigenous peoples as well as newcomers. The Taos desertscape and energetics attracted world famous artists like Alexander Trocchi, Ernest L. Blumenschein, and Mabel Dodge Luhan. All of which made their best work in Taos.
When to Visit Taos
Since Taos is primarily desert-dry, arid land, it comes with desert-like conditions. Meaning, the summer and winter can bring pretty extreme weather. Between June and August, daily temperatures can be as high as the upper 80’s and the lows can be in the lower 50’s. Between December and February, highs can be in the lower 40’s and the lows can be in the teens.
With that said, we know the less extreme seasons are more hospitable in Taos. Spring and Fall are your go-to’s for pleasant 60-70 degree temperatures with low-humidity and great visibility.
Where to Stay in Taos
I can’t speak for every place in Taos (while so many places looked wonderful), I can speak to where I stayed when I was in town. I opted for the Blue Sky Retreat. A peaceful and quiet retreat space located 2 miles from the town center and surrounded by nature. The retreat is decorated with the red pepper hanging ornaments popularly found in the southwest U.S.A. and also maintains a minimalist, serene atmosphere.
Each room is equipped with an indoor fireplace and plenty of complimentary wood. The beds were plush and beautifully adorned with traditional-style bedding. The bathroom has hand painted wall tiles from local artists. The entire building had white walls with a ceiling decked out with huge tree trunks jutting out of the ceilings. The atmosphere is serene, comfortable and pleasant.
What to Do in Taos
One must-see place in Taos is the Taos Pueblo. As previously mentioned, this was the original dwelling of indigenous people who lived in the area for thousands of years before newcomers came. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features traditional adobe-style apartment style dwellings that were the precursors to the modern architecture we see in Taos and much of the southwest today.
There are several museums worth seeing while in Taos. As mentioned before, Taos is a hub for art and culture. Several renowned local artists lived in the area and had their homes converted to museums. Now, several museums showcase the homes of famous artists and the original works they created.
The Blumenschein Home and Museum was built in 1797 and was home to Ernest Bluemschein. He co-founded the Taos Society of Artists and used his more than 40 years in the area to advocate for the development of modern art in the region. In his home, you’ll find his bedroom, kitchen, library, and art studio. There you’ll get a taste of how the artist lived and experience awe at the original artwork still hanging on the walls to this day.
The Harwood Museum of Art is right next door to the Blumenschein Museum and is closer to a traditional art museum. It has collections featuring several mediums of art including paintings, photography, sculptures, religious relics, and more. This museum was built in 1916 and is considered the second oldest museum in New Mexico. It was the New Mexico Art Field school for most of its history but is now home to local artwork dating back one hundred years.
The Taos Art Museum at Fechin House is much like the Blumenschein Museum in that it was the home of the Russian-American artist, Nicolai Fechin. Fechin grew up in Kazan, Russia and emigrated to
the U.S. to pursue art. His father was a master craftsman and that influenced Fechin’s paintings and woodwork. His house is another great spectacle of local Taos artistry. Walk through his bedroom, den, kitchen, and other areas of interest and enjoy the marvelous artwork all along the way.
Much like Santa Fe, Taos has a robust art gallery scene. There's an art gallery on nearly every block in the city center. Jump from studio to studio and see original art made by local artists. You’ll see everything from indigenous handmade pieces to modern art from newcomers. For the art lovers, you’ll be engulfed in the many artistic mediums from oil painting to 100-year-old sculptures. Feast your eyes on the beauty and inspiration that comes from Taos’ art scene.
Don’t forget to souvenir shop in Taos. In the Taos Plaza there are several shops selling handcrafted indigenous artwork, natural stone jewelry, clothing made from natural materials, and sculpted trinkets. Stroll through the plaza and pick up something that catches your eye.
What to Eat in Taos
Coffee and Brunch
There are a handful of coffee and brunch places to explore in Taos. Here are a few of my favorites.
The Manzanita Market
For fresh avocado toasts and oat-milk lattes with pancakes, check out the Manzanita Market. Located in the Taos Plaza, this minimalist, fresh eatery offers whole-food, delicious breakfast and coffee options for a tranquil morning and brunch experience.
World Cup Cafe
For the best get-in-and-get-out espresso, the World Cup Cafe is your go-to. This small coffee shop on the corner isn’t best for the sit-for-four-hours coffee goer. Rather it’s best for the espresso lover who values the Italian-style fast-paced experience of espresso. If you’re in a rush but want your morning kick, grab a quick espresso here and keep going about your day.
For the person who is craving the sit-for-four-hours coffee experience, check out Cici’s Bean. Located in the Taos Plaza, this laid back coffee shop is full of light, plants, and plenty of cozy seats. Sit with a friend, catch up on some work, or simply people watch on the Taos Plaza.
The Coffee Apothecary
This apothecary turned coffee shop offers more than just lattes. Three quarters of this facility is a full-scale apothecary offering tinctures hand-harvested and created by a local medicine woman. Coffee is a component of this place, but not all of it. Grab a cup of coffee, chat with the herbalist, and walk away with a handcrafted concoction made with local Taos herbs.
Lunch and Dinner
For an upscale fine dining experience at a historic restaurant, venture into Doc Martin’s. The ingredients were locally sourced and the flavors were divine. The wine was stupendous. It’s a go-to spot for a fancy dinner out.
For a quick and easy lunch, visit El Conejo. They offer New Mexican-style burritos, Navajo tacos, and even traditional Mexican churros. Be sure to get your burrito Christmas-style, with a mix of green and red salsas, and be swept away by the flavor and richness of New Mexican cuisine.
Taos Mesa Brewery
If New Mexican food isn’t your style, go to the Taos Mesa Brewery. They have a full-service wood-fired pizza kitchen that delivers plant-based and meaty pizzas. They’re also a brewery offering delicious, craft beers. Be sure to get a beer flight to try out all of the different varieties of delicious beer this brewery has to offer.
Taos Ale House
If you’re into burgers instead of burritos, definitely check out the Taos Ale House. Much like the Taos Mesa Brewery, you’ll get a killer beer along with a burger. Whether you’re looking for a vegetarian mushroom patty or an angus beef patty, the Ale House has what you need.
Drinks and Cocktails
If you’re craving a post-dinner party or a relaxing cocktail in a lounge, here are a couple of options.
The Lounge by Rolling Still Distillery
This cocktail bar meets distillery offers fine tonics and cocktails as well as homemade liquors. The ambiance of the Lounge is upscale and elevated with comfortable 1950’s style retro furniture, dim lighting and a casual speakeasy vibe. Not much of a drinker? They’ve got spirit-free options that make even the alcohol avoidant person feel right at home.
The Alley Cantina
For a laid-back, post-dinner party place, visit the Alley Cantina. This Mexican restaurant, turned party place is the spot the locals go to let loose, dance to live music, and relax with friends. I always advocate being one with the locals on this blog, and this is the place to blend in and do as the locals do. Be sure to check their weekly calendar for upcoming live performances.
What is life without chocolate? The answer is not a great life. In Taos, you’re in good place if chocolate is your jam.
This local chocolate maker offers world-famous chocolate goodies that have garnered several international awards. Chokola’s chocolate bars, hot cocoas and truffles are made with organic cocoa beans, formed by hand and deliver a delicious bean to bar experience. It’s a must-see and taste.
Chocolate and Cashmere
In case you’re in a chocolate and warm sweater mood, definitely check out Chocolate and Cashmere. This truffle studio plus retail space offers comforting artisanal chocolate truffles and even more comforting cashmere sweaters. The perfect place to souvenir shop and enjoy a decadent bite of chocolate while you do it.
Explore Taos' Nature
Taos Ski Valley
When in Taos (during the winter months), definitely check out the Taos Ski Valley. This popular winter attraction is one of the biggest ski resorts in the southwest and offerings 110 exciting trails to explore on your skis or snowboard. The resort is located in the Sangre de Cristo mountains and is a short 30-minute drive from the Taos town center. Pack up your skis and snowboard and explore the epic nature at this beautiful resort.
Wild Rivers Recreation Area
If you’re looking to get away and explore the deep canyons that the southwest is known for, visit the Wild Rivers Recreation Area. This scenic area offers a 800-foot deep gorge carved by the Rio Grande River and is simply amazing. The water from the river carved this natural marvel and it's an awe-inspiring place for marvelous nature views, big sky, and fresh air. Around the gorge are a few lookout points to explore and even some hiking trails.
If the dry desert ambiance is starting to get to you, you can find a peaceful oasis with tranquil waters at Williams Lake. Located in the Taos Ski Valley, take a two-mile hike to this waterbody and check out the the waterfall. Tranquil, quiet, and fresh.
There are several easy and more difficult hiking and walking trails in and around Taos. For great views of Taos with an uphill trajectory, visit the Devisadero Peak trail. For an easier scenic route, visit the Rio Grande West Rim Trail. The hiking options are endless.
What Will You Do in Taos?
From art studio hopping to skiing, there’s something for everyone in Taos. You can’t go wrong with a casual hike in nature, a chocolate tasting experience, or a museum tour. This desert-haven is special and shouldn’t be missed. Leave a comment below. What will you do when you visit Taos?