New Mexico should be high on your travel list when looking for some of the ultimate American Southwest itineraries. Of course, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and El Paso are great places to explore Nevada, Arizona, and Texas, respectively, and make for several fantastic American Southwest road trips itineraries. But if you are interested in learning about Native American heritage, then New Mexico is the place to go.

Nevada, Arizona, and Texas, each of these states have plenty of remarkable historical monuments and stunning scenery. But we loved our time in New Mexico and visited the southern state twice. We can only recommend it as part of any US travel plan. We first visited over Christmas and New Year and then returned over an extended Memorial Weekend in May. Different seasons, different feels, but I loved them both.

New Mexico Itinerary 5 Days from Albuquerque

Given the size of the country and of the state, we suggest a minimum of 5 days to explore the various archaeological sites, learn about the ancestral Pueblo culture and traditions, and admire the fantastic landscape. Consider 7 to 10 days as the extra days would be ideal for a few more side trips without rushing.

See below our suggested 5-day New Mexico itinerary from Albuquerque, a 550-mile New Mexico road trip that will give you a taste of an authentic American Southwest experience.

Since this is mainly a New Mexico trip, we centered the itinerary as a road trip from Albuquerque. You will love these New Mexico road trip attractions.

Day 1: Albuquerque – Acoma Pueblo

Land in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city,  and leave immediately for Acoma Pueblo. The Native American pueblo seats on a mesa top with panoramic views of the whole area. Acoma Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States and features impressive adobe brick houses and wooden ladders leading to religious kiva caves. For those looking to follow the steps of ancient Native Americans, literally take the old rock steps that make for a challenging short hike, giving an insight into how ancient pueblos were traveling.

Road Trip to New Mexico Itinerary // View from Acoma Pueblo

View from Acoma Pueblo

Day 2: Chaco Canyon Ruins

The dirt road to the Chaco Canyon ruins can be long and dusty but worth it! The central 10 to 12th-century cultural center of Ancestral Puebloans, Chaco Canyon is also one of the most extensive ruins in the US. Take your time to explore the several ruins, hike over to the plateau overlooking the ruins for sweeping views of the complex, as you try to imagine how ancient Pueblo lived.

Now wonder Chaco Canyon has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Road Trip to New Mexico Itinerary // Chaco Canyon Complex

Chaco Canyon Complex

Day 3: Taos

Drive to Taos, where historic adobe buildings await, and visit the fascinating multistory adobe Taos Pueblo complex. In addition to the historical importance of Taos, the Southern Rocky Mountains surrounding the city make for a great outdoor destination. So go hiking in the summer months, and put on your skis come winter.

Road Trip to New Mexico Itinerary // Taos surrounded by Southern Rocky Mountains

Taos surrounded by Southern Rocky Mountains

Day 4: Bandelier National Monument

Visit Bandelier National Monument, where ancestral Pueblo lived in cliff dwellings, some carved over multiple stories. Wildlife is also present throughout the park, including some black bears and mountain lions in the more remote areas.

Road Trip to New Mexico Itinerary // Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument

Day 5: Santa Fe

Spend the fifth day in Santa Fe, New Mexico’s capital. Take in the Pueblo architecture, and learn about the 17th-century Spanish colony with historical buildings such as the view of the Palace of the Governors. End your trip heading back to Albuquerque

7 Day Mexico Road Trip Itinerary

Optional Day 2: Arizona Canyon de Chelly 

If you can spare 7 days, add a visit to Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument as a new second day after Acoma Pueblo. Canyon de Chelly is interesting because the land is nowadays Navajo tribal land but features cliff dwellings where Pueblos lived prior.

Optional Day 3: Colorado Mesa Verde 

Then travel to Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park for a new Day 3, taking in what makes Mesa Verde famous – some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings from Ancestral Puebloan.

Road Trip to New Mexico Itinerary // Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings

Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings

These two days easily turn the 5-day itinerary into a 7-day road trip.

Best Time to Visit New Mexico

Spring and Fall are the best time to travel to Mexico, though Spring can still see some snow in the higher elevation. Winter can be wet with freezing winds and temperatures. Summer months are usually lovely but might be crowded.

US Road Trip Itineraries

The US is such a massive country that the road trip opportunities are endless. Here are some of the few we took and can suggest in order to explore some of the best American landscapes and history.

New Mexico Travel Tips

  • As is the case in the US, distances are long, so don’t pack too much and plan for potential long driving days.
  • Though New Mexico is an arid region in the Southern US States, it is also one with some of the highest elevations, with several locations over 2,000 feet high. Indeed, New Mexico is the fourth highest state, and its highest point seats at 13,167 ft (4,013 ) at the top of Wheeler Peak.
  • Due to these higher elevations, the weather can be freezing in the winter months, with snowfalls not an unusual occurrence. Bring warm clothes, especially rain and wind gear then to stay warm.
  • Be respectful when visiting the Ancestral Pueblos monuments, as they are held sacred by Native Americans. Additionally, be mindful of preserving National Parks and Monuments in general. “Leave no trace behind” should be a constant motto.


Have you been to New Mexico? What was your experience on your New Mexico travel? Any other tip you want to share for a New Mexico road trip? We would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment in the Comment section!

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