By Heather Kasvinsky
What is Taos Pueblo?
Taos Pueblo (or Pueblo de Taos) is an ancient pueblo located in northern New Mexico belonging to a Native American tribe of Puebloan people. It’s an example of a traditional type of architecture from the pre-Hispanic period of the Americas, known for its iconic reddish-brown adobe constructions. The Pueblo is made up of several multi-story houses built side by side and in layers, with common walls but no connecting doorways.
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In this community, many modern amenities are deliberately omitted to preserve the Pueblo’s traditional character and way of life. The people of Taos Pueblo have a strong sense of community, with their culture, language, and traditions passed down through generations. They engage in age-old practices such as farming and arts and crafts, which include pottery and silverwork. The Pueblo is not only a home to these indigenous people but also a place of spiritual significance, with ceremonies and rituals playing a vital role in community life.
Why is Taos Pueblo a UNESCO World Heritage site?
Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage site because it’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the U.S., dating back over a thousand years. The Pueblo people have maintained their traditional lifestyle and architecture, making it a living example of cultural resilience and historical continuity.
UNESCO states: “This Pueblo Indian settlement … exemplifies the living culture of a group of present-day Pueblo Indian people at Taos Pueblo. As one of a series of settlements established in the late 13th and early 14th centuries in the valleys of the Rio Grande and its tributaries that have survived to the present day, Taos Pueblo represents a significant stage in the history of urban, community and cultural life and development in this region.”
What can you expect on a visit to Taos Pueblo?
You’ll arrive to the Pueblo and park just outside the community where you have a view of the cemetery and the remains of the old San Geronimo Church.
From there, you’ll enter the community and can get set up with your tour, if you’ve chosen to take one. Walking through the Pueblo, you’ll see the iconic multi-storied adobe buildings that have stood for centuries. These structures, with their earthy tones and organic forms, blend seamlessly into the landscape. It’s spectacular. I felt as though I was stepping into a living museum.
The Pueblo people, warm and welcoming, continue their ancestral practices and have beautiful items and food for sale. You will likely see them engaged in traditional crafts, like pottery or beadwork. Take the time to step into one of the small cafes for a cozy refreshment. I recommend the fry bread and a delicious herbal tea!
One of the most fascinating aspects of Taos Pueblo is its self-sufficiency. The Red Willow Creek, a critical water source, meanders through the community, and you’ll likely see the ingenious irrigation systems used for their agriculture.
I loved how immersive the cultural experience of visiting the Pueblo is. You’re not just observing because you have an opportunity to learn, to connect, and ask questions of the people!
Is Taos Pueblo worth visiting?
Absolutely, Taos Pueblo is worth visiting! It’s an experience that connects you with centuries of history and a vibrant living culture. The Pueblo is a remarkable place where history and tradition are still very much alive.
Setting aside an hour or two for a visit is worth it, especially if you are going to be in the city of Taos anyway. You’ll get a unique glimpse into the enduring traditions and homes of the Puebloan people, making it a memorable part of your trip. Plus, the opportunity to browse and purchase authentic, handcrafted art directly from the artisans is wonderful. You’ll even find beautiful paintings, homemade soaps, and candles, in addition to the pottery and jewelry.
What sorts of travelers would like Taos Pueblo?
Travelers who appreciate cultural heritage, history, and unique architecture would find Taos Pueblo particularly captivating. It’s a great place for those who love to delve into indigenous cultures and learn about traditional ways of life firsthand.
Art enthusiasts and collectors would be thrilled by the opportunity to see and buy authentic Puebloan crafts. We visited with our children who were 9 and 13 at the time and they thoroughly enjoyed the educational tour, checking out the handmade jewelry, and they especially enjoyed eating the fry bread!
Tips for visiting Taos Pueblo
To truly appreciate Taos Pueblo, it’s highly recommended to book a 30-minute guided tour. The local tour guides are not only proud but also enthusiastic about sharing their rich culture and history. Our tour greatly enhanced our experience and provided a deeper understanding of this unique community. Don’t forget to tip your friendly guide as a way to show appreciation for their hospitality!
You can’t stay the night in Taos Pueblo, but there are plenty of accommodations in Taos city, only a ten-minute drive away. Use the map below to compare accommodations:
When planning your visit, be mindful of the weather in Taos, which can be quite variable. Dressing in layers helps you adjust to changing temperatures throughout the day. Also, ensure you have sunscreen and a hat to protect against the strong sun.
Respect for local customs and photography restrictions are crucial, as Taos Pueblo is a living community. Always ask for community members’ permission before taking photos, as there are specific restrictions, such as no photography inside the community church. This respect for their norms and privacy is deeply appreciated by the residents.
Lastly, comfortable and sturdy walking shoes are essential. You’ll likely do quite a bit of walking, often on uneven ground, and having the right footwear will make your exploration of Taos Pueblo much more enjoyable.
Where is Taos Pueblo?
Taos Pueblo is located at 120 Veterans Highway, Taos, New Mexico. It’s near the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, just a bit northeast of downtown Taos.
- From Santa Fe, New Mexico: It’s about a 1.5-hour drive. You’ll take US-84 W and US-285 N, then switch to NM-68 N, which leads you straight to Taos.
- From Albuquerque, New Mexico: The drive takes around 2.5 hours. You’d take I-25 N and then US-285 N to NM-68 N, which takes you to Taos.
There’s parking available at Taos Pueblo, and while some areas offer free parking, others might charge a fee.
Driving is the easiest way to explore the southwest US. Compare rental car prices here.
By public transportation:
From Santa Fe, you can take the NM Rail Runner Express to connect with the North Central Regional Transit District’s Blue Bus. This journey can take upwards of 3 hours, depending on the connections. The bus service has stops in the town of Taos, and from there, Taos Pueblo is a short taxi or ride-share trip away. Keep in mind that public transportation schedules can vary, so it’s good to check the latest timetables.
For more information about Taos Pueblo, its opening hours and admission fees, see its official website.
Text and photos provided by Heather Kasvinsky of This Noshtalgic Life, where she shares her flair for transforming simple ingredients into extraordinary backcountry meals. Heather adventures and explores new places with her family from their home in Central Vermont and enjoy trips to their summer cabin in McCarthy, Alaska where they explore for a month at a time.
Have you been to Taos Pueblo? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!