Sandia Mountains, Alburquerque
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Sandia Mountains, Alburquerque

© / Tarrae

Albuquerque travel guide

Rich in history and natural beauty, successively home to native American farmers, Spanish colonists and Yankee pioneers, Albuquerque represents the USA at its most culturally diverse. The setting is magnificent; New Mexico’s largest city spreads across the broad high-desert valley of the mighty Rio Grande, surrounded by majestic mountains and glowing mesas. To cap it all, a twenty-mile stretch of Route 66 itself, America’s fabled “Mother Road”, cuts from east to west right through the centre, peppered with vintage diners, motels and gas stations.

At an elevation of 1,615m (5,300ft), Albuquerque is one of the highest metropolitan areas in North America. It’s also at the heart of a technological corridor that kickstarted into life during World War II, and remains home to labs dedicated to researching nuclear weapons. It’s a lab of a different kind that’s helping with the city’s tourism resurgence, though - the meth lab. As the location for much of the television series Breaking Bad, it’s been attracting to fans to take location tours, enjoy blue meth sweets and Breaking Bad bath salts, and even dine at Los Pollos Hermanos (actually a burger bar called Twisters).

Albuquerque’s broad ethnic mix, as reflected in the city’s architecture, artwork, festivals and food, is certain to pique your interest. This is the centre of Southwestern culture and some 22 Native American tribes, each with its own language, customs, and traditional way of life, and including Pueblo, Navajo and Apache peoples, call the surrounding region home.

To get a bird’s-eye view of Albuquerque’s truly spectacular scenery, take a tram to the top of the 3,050m (10,000ft) Sandia Mountains. This desert wonderland offers reliable sunshine throughout the year, so there are plenty of outdoor activities on offer like biking, hiking and hot air ballooning. You can also make excursions to see ancient cliff dwellings or petroglyphs, while the Hispanic heritage is still vibrantly celebrated in numerous local villages.

When it comes to leisure, nightlife options range from casinos and brewpubs to wine bars and restaurants. This is also a leading arts centre, boasting some great museums and galleries, plus a packed calendar of events.

Food-lovers are sure to be wowed by the diverse gastronomy. Many popular dishes are Mexican-influenced, and include green chilli made into a spicy sauce that’s ladled over enchiladas, burritos and stuffed sopaipillas (fried pastries).

You can wash them down with something unexpected. Spanish missionaries planted vineyards here 150 years before they appeared in California, and the local wines are just another example of a city that never fails to surprise and delight first-time visitors.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.