A dozen miles east of Grants and 50 miles west of Albuquerque, one of the Southwest’s most intriguing sites, Acoma Pueblo, stands atop a 357-foot-high sandstone mesa. Long known as “Sky City,” Acoma is one of the very oldest communities in North America, inhabited since ad 1150. The views out across the plains are unforgettable, especially the Enchanted Mesa on the horizon to the northeast.
Few people live on the mesa today, though the many adobe houses are used by Pueblo craftspeople, who live down below but come up to the mesa-top to sell their pottery to tourists. To visit, stop at the visitors center at the base of the mesa, and join a guided tour (daily; $10; 505/469-1052). Tours begin with a bus ride to the mesa-top and end with a visit to San Esteban del Rey Mission, the largest Spanish colonial church in the state. Built in 1629, the church features a roof constructed of huge timbers that were carried from the top of Mt. Taylor on the backs of neophyte Indians—a distance of more than 30 miles.
Acoma Pueblo is 15 miles south of I-40, from exit 96 (eastbound) or exit 108 (westbound). Between these two exits, another stretch of old Route 66 survives, passing crumbling tourist courts and service stations across the Laguna and Acoma Indian Reservations.