Mountainair, New Mexico is really on the map for two reasons – the Sunflower Festival, which is an annual event in late August, and the Salinas Pueblo National Monument. The monument is unique in that it actually consists of three different ruins sites in addition to the Visitor’s Center, which is located downtown.
Ross and I had originally hoped to visit all the sites in one day. That’s absolutely possible, but we’d recommend you begin very early (think 8 or 9 am) and pack a lunch (all sites have nice picnic areas). We got a later start, so we managed 3 of the 4 locations in a day before the heat got to us.
On a subsequent afternoon, I visited the remaining location.
These ruins are really quite incredible. Do consider paying a couple of dollars for a visitor’s guide – otherwise it’s free to visit. The descriptions of the different rooms will really mean more with the guide and enhance your understanding of the history.
All sites have restrooms and a visitor’s center (though that has limited hours), and theoretically they all have water as well, but at least one wasn’t operational when I was there, so be sure to pack your own water just in case. The sites are quite spread out, so you will probably need water for each site.
The Visitor’s Center is very well done, with a great introductory video (less than twenty minutes I believe) as well as a beautiful exhibit with an overview of the three sites and a great gift shop. We highly recommend you start your visit here. There’s also a market with a deli and a restaurant downtown if you need a bite to eat, and it’s a beautiful little area with great galleries.
There is a long, flat and beautiful (and hot!) walking trail around the cathedral and other ruins here. There are some more modern ruins in the mix too, from the late 19th century I believe.
Here is where the Inquisition was stationed in the area – yikes, I know! The ruins are most intact here and the acoustics are amazing. There’s also a nice flat walking trail and what looked like a wonderful, though buggy, hiking trail for further exploration.
This site seemed to be the center of commerce in the area. It’s an absolutely gorgeous walk, and I was really overcome with visions of what it used to be. The location is amazing, and it was once a three story village sometimes hosting thousands including their visitors! This was the only location without a full-time clergy on site.
I hope this inspires you to visit as well! It’s only about 90 minutes from Albuquerque, depending on which site you’re going to. Well worth a day of adventuring, and if you’d rather take your time, Turner Inn has very affordable and nice motel rooms with a kitchen or kitchenette of some sort. We can also recommend all the local food, but especially the restaurant in Willard if it’s open – outstanding, affordable and so knowledgeable about gluten-free, even offering a dedicated fryer.
Thanks for reading! Have you ever visited ruins before?