Native American Pueblos
The ancestral Pueblos of the American Southwest left us an extraordinary archaeological legacy in their magnificent dwellings, cliff palaces, towers, shrines, and petroglyph panels.
Once the hubs of an expansive civilisation, these sites were already abandoned when the Navajo peoples moved in after 1300, and so they simply described them as the ‘ancient ones’ or Anasazi, and left the deserted ruins well alone. Their civilisation continues today in the Native American Pueblos of New Mexico and Arizona, stretching across the so-called ‘Four Corner States’. Our tour of these pueblos includes exclusive special access affording us real insight.
- Visit the largest archaeological preserve in the USA, Mesa Verde
- See Albuquerque and Santa Fe - Pueblo-Spanish in style, authentic cities of New Mexico
- Enjoy a scenic boat ride down the deep canyons of the San Juan River
- Journey to Chaco Canyon, capital of the vast region around the ‘Four Corners’ of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona
- The New World
- Rock Art
On our first day, we fly to Albuquerque from London. On arrival in the evening, we make our way to our hotel and after check-in, we meet as a group for our first dinner together.
In the morning, we drive out from Albuquerque to visit the Petroglyph National Monument. Stretching 17 miles along Albuquerque, New Mexico’s West Mesa protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America. Featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago, these images are a valuable record of cultural expression and hold profound spiritual significance for contemporary Native Americans and for the descendants of the early Spanish settlers. In the afternoon there is free time to relax at our hotel, or to explore Albuquerque’s “Old Town” and museums. Founded in 1707, the Old Town is the city’s cultural centre with most of the architecture being adobe in the Pueblo-Spanish style reflecting the first settlers. Despite centuries of change, the Old Town retains its charm and is pleasant to walk around and spend time in.
Today, we visit the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology in Albuquerque, part of the University of New Mexico campus. The museum houses and displays artefacts from Ancestral Puebloan cultures from over 11,000 years of history. After lunch, we visit Acoma Pueblo with a Pueblo Indian guide. A federally recognised Indian Tribe, Acoma Pueblo has a land base over 430,000 acres. The 250 dwellings atop Acomas 75 metre tall sandstone mesa are the ceremonial and spiritual home for 4,800 tribal members, one of the oldest continually inhabited communities in the United States of America.
For our next day of adventure, we drive out to the remote Chaco Canyon — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — to visit the monumental ruins of 1,000-year-old Pueblo Bonito, the largest great house surviving from Chaco culture, and the other great houses of Chetro Ketl and Casa Rinconada. Chaco was a regional centre — some say, capital — for a vast region around the “Four Corners” of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. Later on, we continue to the “wild west” town of Durango, which is our base for the next two days. The surrounding landscape of Durango is diverse and often dramatic, spanning from the red sandstone bluffs of the Animas River Valley to the jagged peaks of the San Juan Mountains, a few of which rise to heights of over 4,000 metres. To the west lie arid desert lands, and to the north, lies the southern border of the vast two million acre San Juan National Forest.
Today we drive to Chimney Rock, one of Chaco’s far-flung ‘outlier’ great houses, perched on a knife-edge ridge, 360 metres about the Piedra River. This archaeological site and the nearby towering “chimney rock” are key landmarks for some Native American communities. It covers seven square miles and preserves 200 buildings, some of which have been excavated for viewing and exploration: a Great Kiva, a Pit House, a Multi-Family Dwelling and a Chacon-style Great House Pueblo. Later on, we drive to, then walk among Aztec Ruins (also an UNESCO World Heritage Site): the remains of a 900-year-old Ancestral Puebloan structure with 400 masonry rooms, which rose when Chaco fell, replacing Chaco as the regional centre.
We visit Mesa Verde today, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its famous cliff dwellings. For over 700 years, Ancestral Puebloans lived high up in structures they built here. The park protects nearly 5,000 known archaeological sites which are some of the most notable and best-preserved in the United States. We visit Cliff Palace, other sites, and also spend time in the Park’s Chaplin Mesa Archaeological Museum. The museum displays dioramas illustrating Ancestral Puebloan life. There are also many exhibits of prehistoric artefacts, a chronology of Ancestral Puebloan culture as well as other items related to the park. Later, we drive onto the town of Cortez in Colorado.
We drive out to Crow Canyon, where we have special access to the laboratories of the research centre. Located on a site of 170 acres, it is best described as a ‘living classroom’ and the mission of the centre is to empower present and future generations by making the human past accessible, and relevant through archaeological research, experimental education and knowledge. One of the highlights of our tour, here we can also talk to the archaeologists and visit excavations if they are taking place. After lunch at the centre, we drive on to the town of Bluff, Utah, stopping en route at Hovenweep, which is a complex of 6 prehistoric towers, constructed in the 13th century.
This morning we have a very special scenic boat ride down the deep canyons of the San Juan River to admire the magnificent views, ancient petroglyphs and appreciate the waterway that was the lifeblood of the region for the prehistoric people. After a picnic lunch, we continue our drive onto the incredible Monument Valley, whose scenery is world-famous for featuring in many western films. This northeast corner of Arizona is an incredible red-sand desert region — vast, wild and sun-baked — characterised by its sandstone buttes, which reach over 1,000 feet!
We drive to Canyon de Chelly and have a relaxing morning. After lunch, we have a special tour in off-road vehicles to explore the Canyon de Chelly’s cliff dwellings and prehistoric rock art. Pueblo people lived in the spectacular canyons here for over 5,000 years, and today, it is the home of many Navajo Indian families who raise livestock, farm the land in the canyons and still live in their traditional ‘hogans’.
We drive across the Navajo Reservation and past Mount Taylor — sacred to several tribes — to Santa Fe, with plenty of rest stops and points of interest. Arriving in the early afternoon, there is some free time to relax, or choose to explore Santa Fe’s plaza and art galleries.
Today we visit the beautiful town of Santa Fe, New Mexico’s colonial (and current) capital. The oldest and highest capital city of the US, it was founded as a Spanish colony in 1610 and is renowned for its Pueblo-style architecture. Although relatively small in size, it is bursting with history, arts and culture. In the morning we visit the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (Laboratory of Anthropology). The museum’s collections include 80,000 archaeological, ethnographic, fine art objects and more than 10 million artefacts from almost 12,000 carefully excavated archaeological sites across New Mexico. As part of the Laboratory of Anthropology, the museum interprets the history and contemporary life of the Pueblo, Navajo, Apache and other indigenous cultures of the Southwest. The afternoon is free to either further explore Santa Fe, or rest back at our hotel.
We have a very special morning visiting the petroglyphs of Mesa Prieta. The volcanic rocks here served as the perfect canvas for rock art drawings as well as other archaeological features including shrines, water control system and gardens. This site’s remote location means it is little-frequented by tourists. In the afternoon, we tour the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Taos Pueblo, with a guide from the Pueblo. Taos has iconic terraced, multi-storied houses around a central plaza and has been continually inhabited for many centuries. This evening we enjoy a farewell dinner and share the highlights of our tour.
On our final day, we return to Albuquerque for our return flight to London, arriving back the following morning.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - Most meals included
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
For full information about Passport validity and Visa requirements as well as Health and Vaccination information please click here.