From the late 13th century, the Ancient Pueblo People settled in New Mexico’s fertile Rio Grande Valley. Today their descendants make up the 19 Pueblo Indian tribes. Eight of these Pueblo villages are a short drive from Santa Fe, off the main road to Taos.
Visiting the Pueblos is an enjoyable way to learn about Native American culture and traditions. Some offer tours with local guides who describe village life and tribal history. Others have cultural centers, museums and small buffalo herds.
Many Pueblo artists produce Indian arts and crafts, particularly pottery and jewelry, weaving and textiles, in traditional or contemporary styles. Look for signs in the villages inviting visitors into artists’ homes or workshops.
Pueblo feast days are sometimes open to the public. These are colorful events, with Native dances and ceremonies, but visitors should remember that they are not shows or entertainment, but spiritual gatherings to express religious belief.
Photography and sketching are sometimes prohibited. Each community has its own rules, so check locally for advice on which events and areas are open to visitors. As for etiquette, a good rule of thumb is to behave as respectfully as you would when visiting someone’s home – because, in fact, you are.
New Mexico’s eight Northern Pueblos include:
Off State Road 68 north of Taos
The region’s most picturesque pueblo has been occupied continuously for about 1,000 years, making it one of the oldest villages in the country. Its communal, multistory adobe houses are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Guides give informative tours, pointing out adobe ovens and racks for drying corn and chile. There are several craft shops and galleries. Admission and camera fees apply. The pueblo is closed to visitors for several weeks from late winter to early spring.
San Ildefonso Pueblo
Off State Road 502 south of Española
The ancestors of the San Ildefonso community once lived in the atmospheric cliff dwellings of Bandelier National Monument nearby. The pueblo was home to potter Maria Martinez who, with her husband Julian, created the famous black-on-black style of pottery in the 1920s, which was based on ancient designs.
Visit the San Ildefonso Museum, the Maria Poveka Martinez Museum and several shops on a self-guided tour from the Visitor Center.
Santa Clara Pueblo
State Road 30, west of Española
The second largest of the Northern Pueblos, Santa Clara is known for its distinctive polished black and red pottery, which is formed from coils of local clay and decorated with nature symbols. Further west are the Puye Cliff Dwellings, the ancestral home of today’s community.
San Juan Pueblo
State Road 74, north of Española
San Juan Pueblo is now officially known by its traditional name, Oke Owingeh, which means “Place of the Strong People.” The Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Visitors Center has a museum, and hosts the popular Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Artists and Craftsmen Show each July.
The pueblo is known for its incised redware pottery, weaving and painting. Visitors can watch artists at work at the Oke Owingeh Arts & Crafts Co-Operative.
Off US 285/84, north of Santa Fe
The popular Tesuque Pueblo Flea Market, near the Santa Fe Opera, is open on weekends from February through December.
Off State Road 503
This small pueblo has a beautiful location encompassing a lake and waterfalls in the Nambe Falls Recreation Area.
On US 285/84
The Poeh Cultural Center and Museum focuses on traditional arts, history and archeological exhibits.
Off State Road 75
There is a museum and guided tours of archeological sites and San Lorenzo de Picuris Mission Church.