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The Legendary Light of Taos

Two beautiful routes take you to the fascinating town of Taos, NM, in which artists, aging hippies, farmers and entrepreneurs intermingle in a setting of high-desert splendor, where the Spanish and Native American cultures both exert a strong presence. The main highway, which follows the Rio Grande, takes about an hour to an hour and a half; the High Road, a two-and-a-half hour drive, winds through traditional Spanish villages where artisans ply their centuries-old trades of weaving and woodcarving, and Spanish Colonial churches provide a focal point for village life. The High Road route is spectacular in either direction, but especially following it from Taos south to Santa Fe.

Nambe Pueblo and Nambe Falls: Nambe is a 700-year-old pueblo nestled in a valley at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo range. A short hike takes you to Nambe Falls, a dramatic cascade streaming through the rock face. A nearby recreational site offers fishing and non-motor boating in Nambe Lake. For directions and information call 505-455-2036 or 455-2304. Another good stop is the Nambe Trading Post, tucked along an almost hidden side street behind the village church, where you’ll find quality textiles, pottery, jewelry and carvings. (Along the High Road)

Chimayo: This charming village, filled with adobe homes and apple orchards, is famous for its Spanish-style weavings and its nineteenth-century church, the Santuario de Chimayo, where miraculous healings are documented by the faithful who regularly seek out its holy dirt to rub on their ailments. Be sure to visit Ortega’s Weaving Shop (www.ortegasweaving.com), where seven generations of weavers have produced high-quality textiles, and the attractive Centinela Traditional Arts (www.chimayoweavers.com), whose owners have exhibited their traditional and contemporary weavings in museums like the Smithsonian. A good stop for lunch or dinner is the Rancho de Chimayo, a graceful former hacienda known for its authentic New Mexican food and its signature apple margaritas. (Along the High Road)

Las Trampas: This mountain village’s Spanish-Colonial adobe church, San Jose de Gracia, built between 1760 and 1776,was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970. It’s worth a visit to see its distinctive architecture and interior religious paintings. If the doors aren’t open, ask at the store across the street for access; the caretaker can tell you some intriguing stories about the building’s origins and its role in sheltering Spanish settlers from attacks by Apaches. (Along the High Road)

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