On a recent trip to New Mexico to finalize a plan for the last couple of days of an upcoming tour, me and the owner of Southern Utah Scenic Tours visited the historic Acoma Pueblo to see how it might fit with our plan.
Acoma is a Native American pueblo located approximately 60 miles west of Albuquerque. Three villages make up the Pueblo: Sky City, Acomita, and Mcartys. We visited Sky City, which is regarded as the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States with less than 50 tribal members that live year-round in adobe homes. Around 3,000 additional tribal members live in the nearby villages of Acomita, McCarty’s and Anzac.
To visit the pueblo, which is perched high atop of a mesa, you must take a guided tour. Tickets can be obtained at the Sky City Cultural Center where the tours begin by bus. Once you arrive at Sky City a local Acoma guide will take you on a foot tour of the village. Tickets are $25 for adults and $17 for children. Some discounts are available for students and military. It is advisable for visitors to call ahead to confirm tour dates, 800-747-0181. Photography of the Pueblo and surrounding land is restricted. Camera permits can be purchased at the Sky City Cultural Center. While photography is permissible by permit, video recordings, drawings, and sketching are prohibited.
Sky City is a step back in time. The streets reminded me of old town sections of Sicily and Mexican villages I’ve visited. There is no electricity, running water, or sewage disposal. Water is hauled up the mesa and stored. Local residents set up stands along the roads with their handmade jewelry, pottery and more. This is a excellent opportunity to buy authentic Native American products and meet the artisans who produce it.
In the village there are 300 two- and three-story adobe buildings with exterior ladders that are used to access the upper levels where residents live. Access to the mesa is by a road blasted into the rock face during the 1950s. The main feature on the mesa is the San Estévan del Rey Mission built between 1629 and 1641.
Upon your return to the Sky City Cultural Center, the guide will give you the option of descending a steep, hand-cut staircase carved into the sandstone and walking the remaining short distance to the center, which is what we did. If you visit around lunchtime I recommend eating at The Yaak’a Restaurant that serves native Acoman and New Mexican fare.