Taos, New Mexico, Offers Travelers its History and Beauty on a Shoestring with Self-Guided Tours

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Budget conscious visitors can go it alone in their search for the authentic New web site, http://www.taossacredplaces.com makes it easy to lace up your boots and get out into the landscape

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Taos Pueblo; photo by Gak Stonn

Taos, New Mexico, Offers Travelers its History and Beauty on a Shoestring with Self-Guided Tours

At 7,000 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico, Taos is a multi-cultural enclave that has been welcoming visitors for more than a thousand years.

This year, for travelers on a budget, but still desiring memorable trip experiences, the Town of Taos has put together self-guided tours that get to the heart of its land, its light and its legends. http://www.taossacredplaces.com/tours.

Ancient Taos Pueblo, designated a UNESCO Living World Heritage Site, whc.unesco.org/en/list/492 is the only such “living” cultural destination in the continental U.S., and the longest, continuously inhabited community in North America. Its four-story mud brick structures, at the foot of Taos Mountain astride the river that runs from Blue Lake, are the epicenter of the region, the focus of all life here be it cultural, social, or spiritual.

In the 16th century, Spanish explorers were drawn to the Taos Valley to farm, herd sheep, and establish the area for the King of Spain and his Catholic Church. Anglo settlers began arriving en masse in the middle of the 19th century with the likes of Kit Carson and a retinue of “mountain men,” who came seeking their fortunes to trap beaver and mine for gold. The yearly “Rendezvous” sprang up, which brought together all the varied interests to carouse and barter, further extending Taos’ reputation as an important trading center. Today the Martinez Hacienda is one of the last remaining “great houses” from the Spanish Colonial era, taosmuseums.org/view/hacienda-martinez.

Then in 1898, when artists Bert Phillips and Ernest Blumenschein were headed to Mexico for a season of painting, a mishap befell their wagon and they were forced to lay over in Taos. Entranced by the natural beauty of the land and its people, they stayed on. taosmuseums.org/view/blumenschein-home

Word soon spread to art communities around the world of this painter’s paradise with its unmatched scenery, “painter’s light,” and colorful population. As if drawn by a magnet, some of America’s best artists, many of them European-trained, began arriving to set up shop, and in 1915, The Taos Society of Artists was formed. http://www.nljansen.com/kitty/bibliographic_guide.htm

In the 1920s, with the arrival of New York scion Mabel Dodge, Taos further gained a reputation as a creative refuge for artists, writers and members of the international intelligentsia. In 1923, Georgia O’Keeffe slept her first New Mexico night in Taos, and with her entry came a parade of luminaries including D.H. Lawrence, Carl Jung, Willa Cather, Ansell Adams and countless others, all seeking that elusive sense of personal and artistic freedom, and a respite from the strictures of established society. http://www.mabeldodgeluhan.com

After World War II, New York exiles in the vanguard of the modern art movement headed west and were next to discover Taos. Big city contemporaries of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, Beatrice Mandelam (1912-1998), Louis Ribak, (1902-1979), and Agnes Martin (1912-2004), made up the core of what would become known as the Taos Moderns and another movement was born. During this epoch, even Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity came through during their travels that became legend in Kerouac’s novel “On the Road.”

In 1969, Dennis Hopper roared into town on a motorcycle while making “Easy Rider,” and for the next 40 years called Taos home before his death in 2010. Many of his LA artist friends also made the trek and refused to leave, adding chapters to the town’s burgeoning legend: Dean Stockwell, Larry Bell and Ken Price among them. (Price will have a major retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the fall of 2012 before it travels to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas in 2013 and the Metropolitan Museum of Art later that year.)

Novelist John Nichols also arrived around this time. Author of “The Sterile Cuckoo,” “The Milagro Beanfield War” and others, he continues to live and work in Taos and is an active member of the community. Southwest favorite, painter R.C. Gorman (1931 - 2005), made Taos his home for more than 30 years and is still represented in a gallery here on Historic Ledoux Street.

With the advent of the environmental movement, visionaries in Taos took the lead in “green” design and building practices with the development of the revolutionary “earthships,” structures that are built from recycled materials, often producing and storing their own energy, and sustainable in most every way. earthship.com/communities/the-greater-world-earthship-community

Today the region is becoming known as an eco-tourism destination with wilderness trekking opportunities, wild river rafting on the Rio Grande, hot-air ballooning, world-class hot springs and sustainably operated resorts. This year’s grand sweepstakes for travelers is a week-long EcoTour.

Taos art museums are also expanding into the realm of “world class” with the recent expansion of the University of New Mexico’s Harwood Museum of Art. The $6.3 million addition has added new galleries, curatorial space, and a 130-seat state-of-the-art auditorium to the state’s second-oldest museum (1924). http://www.harwoodmuseum.org

Just a dot on the map, and after 1,000 years still wild and free, Taos’ mystique flourishes, prompting spiritual quests, fostering alternative lifestyles, and expanding creative horizons.

To help the visitor access this land, light and these legends, Taos has developed self-guided tours that depend less on an outlay of cash and more on a sense of personal adventure.

Self Guided Tours & Itineraries

  •     Self-Guided Tours
  •     Full Day Self-Guided Tour of Taos
  •     Half Day Self-Guided Tour of Taos
  •     Customizing Resources

Paid Tours

Media Contact: Andrew Flack, Buzz, Inc. flack(at)buzzinc(dot)net; 303-960-3773

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