When you think about visiting ancient dwellings in the Southwest, you might think about the abandoned cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park or Canyon de Chelly. But if you want to see centuries old homes that are still being lived in today, visit the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. The multi-storied adobe buildings here have been continuously inhabited for over 1,000 years. Docent-led or self-guided tours of the Pueblo are available to the public most days of the year, but long closures occur in the winter and for special religious activities, so call ahead or check their website before visiting.
The two main structures within the Pueblo— Hlauuma (north house) and Hlaukwima (south house)— were most likely constructed between 1000 and 1450 A.D. The buildings are actually many individual homes, built side-by-side and in layers, with common walls but no connecting doorways. The Pueblo is made entirely of adobe — earth mixed with water and straw, then either poured into forms or made into sun-dried bricks. Bread is still baked in traditional outdoor hornos (earthen ovens). Electricity and running water are not permitted inside the Pueblo, but you’ll see cars and propane tanks, and many tribal members also run small gift shops and galleries. The Red Willow People of the Taos Pueblo have a detailed oral history, but most of it is not divulged to the public due to religious privacy. Ancient religious rites are still very much practiced here today, but must not be in conflict with St. Jerome Church, a prominent feature in the village.
Considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States, the Taos Pueblo is the only Native American community to bear both the World Heritage Site and National Historic Landmark designations. All visitors are welcomed but are expected to follow area signage and respect the privacy of the 150 full time residents.
IF YOU GO:
120 Veterans Highway
Taos, New Mexico 87571
$16 per person plus $6 camera fee per person; seniors and college students $14; children 10 and under are free. Photography rules apply; inquire at tourism office or visit website for details.
Open 8 am to 4:30 pm Monday – Saturday and 8:30 am- 4:30 pm Sunday. Winter hours are shorter and unexpected closures occur for religious activities and deaths in the community. Pueblo closes for about 10 weeks in the late winter to early spring.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com