Visit Taos Pueblo, an adobe-walled village about 70 miles northeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Pueblo of Taos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
See multi-storied adobe houses believed to date back close to 1000 years. They’ve been continuously occupied and maintained by traditional methods since then.
Meet the people of this vibrant community of about 150 people, living without electricity, running water or indoor plumbing as their ancestors have for centuries.
Table of Contents
Visiting Taos Pueblo – Self-guided Walking Tour
When visiting Taos Pueblo, walking the grounds of this UNESCO World Heritage Site on your own is allowed. Be respectful and follow the local rules. This is the home of a very private group of people. There are restricted areas indicated by signs and barricades as shown on the map provided with admission. Restricted areas include homes which are not open retail shops, the Old Church/Cemetery, kivas and any other signed areas. Do not climb on any structure including ladders.
Walking Tour Route
Follow this short route to tour the pueblo.
At the entrance to the adobe-walled village, turn left and walk toward the church ruins and cemetery.
This is all that remains of a church which was destroyed in the 1847 Taos Revolt. The original structure was built in 1619 by forced labour. It was partially destroyed in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt and later rebuilt. Visitors are not allowed within the cemetery boundary fences.
Walk the alleys through the adobe structure to the east of the church. If an alley is barricaded, choose another. Just watch the other tourists. Enter the central, open area of the community, with the Red Willow Creek running through it. To the left and right notice the 2 large adobe structures.
North House – Hlaauma and South House – Hlaukkwima
The houses are like apartment buildings with each “apartment” being owned by a family and passed from one generation to the next. Families have lived in the pueblo continuously for over 1,000 years. The main parts of the houses are thought to have been constructed between 1000 and 1450CE. The diligent maintenance of the adobe architecture has ensured the stability and longevity of these structures. The families who choose to live in Halaauma and Hlaukkwima do so without electricity, running water or indoor plumbing, according to their beliefs.
Explore the shops in North and South Houses, crossing Red Willow Creek at the designated spots.
Red Willow Creek
The creek is the direct and sole source of water for the community. All water for cooking, washing and personal hygiene is carried by pail from the creek to each home.
At the west end of the central area is a church.
Taos Pueblo Church – San Geronimo Catholic Church
The San Geronimo Church, built in 1850, is used for Sunday mass, weddings, and other religious ceremonies. Catholicism was forced on the people of the Taos Pueblo in 1540 with the arrival of the Spanish. It is currently the most practised organized religion in the community.
As you wander the village, watch for beehive-shaped adobe structures in front of many homes. They are called hornos.
These adobe-mud ovens, shaped like beehives, were introduced by the Spanish and perfected by the Pueblo people. A wood fire is lit inside the horno. The resulting ashes and embers are removed and the heat retained by the adobe bricking allows items to be cooked quickly and in large batches. The pueblo’s hornos are used to bake bread available for purchase in some of the shops. Other baked goods, vegetables and meats can also be cooked in hornos.
To gain a better understanding of the working of the pueblo and meet a member of the community, we do recommend taking the guided tour.
Taos Pueblo Walking Tours – Guided
These guided tours by members of the Taos community are about 30 minutes long, departing from the churchyard regularly. Visitors are taken on a walking tour of the village and gain insight into its history and traditions. Questions are welcomed about the buildings in the pueblo, their government and general history.
The Taos Pueblo Tribe and their Traditions
The people of Taos Pueblo claim an aboriginal presence in the Taos Valley since time immemorial. Their history is oral, sacred and guarded vigorously by them. Their community shows similarities to settlement sites of ancestral Pueblo people that are found in nearby Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde, however their specific connection is not known.
Taos Puebloans continue to practice their own tribal religion. They do not share these details with people outside of their own community. Our guide mentioned that their religious beliefs and Catholicism are compatible and co-exist.
Many tribe members have modern homes, on reservation land outside the walled village, but members return to the village for social and cultural celebrations. The reservation adjoining the pueblo is approximately 95,000 acres.
Taos Pueblo History
Ancestral Pueblo people
Archaeologists believe that Ancestral Puebloans are descended from groups of hunter/gatherers who arrived in the area of the current Southwestern US, over 10,000 years ago. The groups varied but did share customs and traits such as farming, weaving and pottery making. The architecture and pottery reflects diversity over time and from place to place. Archaeology has shown that in the period between 1100 CE and 1300 CE, groups of Ancestral Puebloans were moving from the 4 corners area of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico to more southern areas of New Mexico and Arizona including the pueblos along the Rio Grande River.
The term pueblo was given by the Spanish to describe the villages they found upon entering the area, beginning in the 1500’s CE. The villages were a collection of buildings, often multi-storied, made of adobe, stone and local materials. Later the term pueblo was used to refer to the people within the villages as well.
The Spanish tried to implement their rules, customs and religion. In 1680 the Pueblo peoples rebelled against this imposition, driving the Spanish back to the current Mexico border and beyond. By 1700 the Spanish had managed to return. Through the next century, relations between the Spanish and the Taos people settled down as they faced a common enemy in the Ute and Comanche tribes. Gradually Spanish religious customs and agricultural practices became part of the Taos community.
Mexican Independence and New Mexico Statehood
In 1821, Mexico achieved independence from Spain and the area of the current state of New Mexico became a province of Mexico. Mexico began trading with the United States and American settlers began arriving in the area shortly after. The Mexican-American War erupted in 1846 with the capital of Santa Fe captured by the US.
The 1847 Taos Revolt by native and Hispanic forces, who were both against becoming part of the United States, resulted in the killing of the territorial governor. The US Cavalry was called in to suppress the revolt. The cavalry pushed the locals back to the Pueblo’s San Geronimo Church (the old one) then bombed it. It was destroyed and more than 100 Hispanic and native people were killed. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in 1848, ceded New Mexico to the United States. New Mexico became the 47th US State in 1912.
Taos Pueblo Tribal Government
The pueblo is self-governing. The governing body consists of three parts: Governor, Warchief and Tribal Council. The Governor and Warchief are appointed annually. The Tribal Council members serve for their lifetime and must have worked on the staff of the Governor or the Warchief. The pueblo is also subject to state and federal laws as those apply to reservations.
Sidetrip – San Francisco De Asis Church (in Taos)
With additional time in the area, visit the San Francisco De Asis Church. The church is located about 4 miles south of Taos on the south side of New Mexico Road 68. The church was constructed between 1772 and 1816 as the mission church at Ranchos de Taos. It continues to be a place of worship and an integral part of the community. This adobe church is a beautiful example of Spanish colonial architecture and is popular with photographers. It is a National Historic Landmark.
Visiting Taos Pueblo – Know Before You Go
Taos Pueblo Hours – When to visit
Taos Pueblo is open to the public Thursday through Monday except when required to close for community events and religious ceremonies. Guided tours begin at 9:00 am and depart approximately every 20 minutes. Visiting is allowed on Feast Days when special rules apply. See the Taos Pueblo website for full hours, closure dates and Feast Days.
How long does it take to tour Taos Pueblo?
Allow 1 to 2 hours for a visit, adding more time if you have a large interest in arts and crafts.
Parking and Admission Fee
Free parking is available outside of the walled pueblo. You will be directed to a lot where you may park. An admission fee applies and is paid at the admissions building, outside the adobe walls. Check the website for the current fee.
There are shops within the pueblo where a variety of traditional and contemporary art and craft work as well as food are available for purchase. These shops are part of homes and are clearly marked with signs. Only homes with signs noting them as open for business can be entered.
Artists from Taos Pueblo also sell arts and crafts at the Visitor Center in nearby Taos (1201 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur) Tuesdays to Fridays.
The only public restrooms are behind the admissions building.
Visitors’ pets are allowed but must be leashed, kept away from the creek running through the village and picked up after. There are resident animals that wander freely.
Interested in more Itineraries? Sign up here.