Acoma Pueblo

On a recent trip to New Mexico to finalize a plan for the last couple of days of an upcoming tour, my tour partner and I visited the historic Acoma Pueblo to see if we could add a stop here to our Route 66 tour.

Acoma is one of the nineteen Native American pueblos in New Mexico that is 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 at the time were $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. However, 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 an 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.

Returning to the Sky City Cultural Center offers a more adventurous option than riding the bus. The guide will offer an 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.

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