Acoma Pueblo: Sky City
A dozen miles east of Grants and 50 miles west of Albuquerque, one of the Southwest’s most intriguing sites, Acoma Pueblo, stands atop a 350-foot-high sandstone mesa. Long known as “Sky City,” Acoma is one of the very oldest communities in North America, inhabited since AD 1150. The views out across the plains are unforgettable, especially toward Enchanted Mesa on the horizon to the northeast.
Few people live on the mesa today, though the many adobe houses are used by Pueblo craftspeople, who live down below but come up to the mesa-top to sell their pottery and other crafts to tourists. To visit this amazing place, you have to join a guided tour (800/747-0181, daily Mar.-Nov., Fri.-Sun. in winter, $23), which begins with a bus ride to the mesa-top and ends with a visit to San Esteban del Rey Mission, the largest Spanish colonial church in the state. Built in 1629, the church features a roof constructed of huge timbers that were carried from the top of Mt. Taylor on the backs of neophyte Indians—a distance of more than 30 miles.
Acoma Pueblo is 15 miles south of I-40, from exit 108 (westbound) or exit 96 (eastbound). Start your visit by appreciating the artifacts displayed in the beautiful Haak’u Museum, at the base of the mesa, where tours of the ancient Sky City begin. The Acoma tribe also operates the money-spinning Sky City Casino and Hotel (888/759-2489, $99 and up), sited well away from the historic core of the pueblo, right off I-40 exit 102.