Southwest trip day 9: Chimayó—Taos—Abiquiú

Today was all about visiting historic churches and buildings in northern New Mexico. In the morning we took the High Road to Taos which crosses the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and winds through a number of small Spanish villages.

Our first stop was in Chimayó whose main attraction is the Santuario, a Catholic church often called the “Lourdes of America” because it attracts scores of faithful who believe in its healing properties. Check out this Wikipedia article for the whole (hi)story.


Santuario de Chimayó


Shrine in the square at the base of the Santuario de Chimayó


Wall detail of Santuario de Chimayó

At the top of a mesa is the even smaller village of Truchas. Its church, Nuestra Señora del Rosario, is very modest but beautiful in its lack of ornamentation. Robert Redford’s 1988 movie The Milagro Beanfield War was filmed in Truchas.

View from Truchas


Nuestra Señora del Rosario in Truchas

Las Trampas comes on the High Road. Its church, San José de Gracia, was built between 1760 and 1776 and is a prime example of adobe architecture. Unfortunately, the church was closed (as was the one in Truchas) but I enjoyed looking at the exterior details, especially the exquisite door.


San José de Gracia in Las Trampas


Door of San José de Gracia


Adobe wall detail

After another 30 miles we finally reached Ranchos de Taos, home of the most famous church in the Southwestern U.S. The San Francisco de Asís Mission Church is breathtaking. It has been photographed and painted by master artists ranging from Ansel Adams and Paul Strand to Georgia O’Keeffe who lived an hour and a half away in the village of Abiquiú (see further down below in this post).

We parked in the dirt lot right off the main highway so the first thing we saw of the church was its back. As beautiful as the front is, I think the back is my favorite aspect because of the unbroken expanses of adobe and the simple geometric lines.


San Francisco de Asís Mission Church—rear


San Francisco de Asís Mission Church—rear


San Francisco de Asís Mission Church—architectural details

Walking around the side, I finally made it to the front of the church. After checking out the inside (no photography allowed) we had a great lunch at a family-owned restaurant right next to the church. The New Mexican food they served was among the best we’ve had to date on this trip.


San Francisco de Asís Mission Church—front


San Francisco de Asís Mission Church—front

Our next stop was the Taos Plaza in the heart of town. It’s much smaller than the Santa Fe Plaza we saw yesterday, but it was also much less busy.

Taos Plaza


Taos Plaza


Taos Plaza


Ristras (chili pepper wreaths) and kiva ladder on top of a building in the Taos Plaza

One of the most anticipated stops on this entire trip came next: Taos Pueblo. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is the oldest continuously inhabited place in the entire country. Some of the multi-storied adobe structuresdate back to the year 1,000.

Here are some photographic impressions of Taos Pueblo:


Church of San Geronimo


Church of San Geronimo


Church of San Geronimo


Church of San Geronimo


Multi-storied adobe buildings


Multi-storied adobe buildings


Wahlea’s Taos Pueblo Gallery


Ladder against adobe wall


Panoramic view of Taos Pueblo

The final stop on today’s itinerary was the village of Abiquiú, about an hour and a half from Taos and less than thirty minutes from Española where we’ve been staying for the last three days. Abiquiú is where American painter Georgia O’Keeffe lived from 1949 until her death at age 98 in 1986. I expected it to have at least some tourism, but the small plaza in front of the beautiful church of Santo Tomás El Apóstol looks much like it probably did 100 years ago. The road and plaza are unpaved, and the houses—some adobe, some more conventional—look forgotten by time. The plaza was quiet and deserted, quite a contrast from Santa Fe and Taos.


Church of Santo Tomás El Apóstol in Abiquiú


Architectural detail
Architectural detail

I knew Georgia O’Keeffe’s house adjoined the plaza but I had a hard time finding it; it’s by far the largest property but it’s well hidden by trees and completely surrounded by a thick 6-foot adobe wall. The best view I could get was from the entrance, which was chained off. Tours can be arranged through the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum but they require advance reservations and are expensive ($35 per person).


Georgia O’Keeffe house in Abiquiú

On our way back to Española, we saw a double rainbow with really vibrant colors. Within minutes we were in the middle of a summer monsoon squall, complete with lightning and thunder. I loved it.


Double rainbow near Abiquiú

The last photo of the day is of the plants I’ve collected so far. The running total is 12. In addition to the plants I mentioned in earlier posts, I also bought three penstemons at Santa Fe Greenhouses yesterday. All of them are desert natives and hard to find at home.


My plant tub

As you can see, the tub is almost full but there might be room for one or two additional plants…





  1. Fantastic double rainbow photo. I hope you haven't peaked too early for your plant tub! Bill

    1. I don't think there'll be too many other opportunities for me to buy plants. But I can always continue to collect rocks :-).

  2. Beautiful Gerhard, so much of the world to see! San Francisco de Asís Mission Church is stunning!

    1. I love how these old mission churches combine Spanish and pueblo architecture. And I'm so glad they have been kept up throughout the centuries.

  3. Yikes...that plant tub is getting full!

    1. The tub sits in the back of the trunk all day. Temperatures in there must exceed 100°F. But the plants seem happy. In fact, that ledebouria is pushing new leaves! I have given it and the penstemons some water but have held off on watering the succulents.

  4. I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed following your trip-I lived in Arizona for a few years back in the 70's and have visited Taos and Santa Fe many times..this area is very special to me.Loved that you posted photos of La Fonda --I have stayed there too.

    1. I'm so glad you're enjoying my posts. We didn't have time to have drinks at La Fonda but it truly is one of the most magnificent buildings in Santa Fe.

  5. Great photos in this post! The two captioned "Architectural detail" most especially.


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