Albuquerque - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Albuquerque


New Mexico's largest city has been described as having one foot in the past, one in the present, and its eyes firmly set on the future. This certainly sums up this multi-cultural city, spread across the desert plains beside the Rio Grande, known for its high-tech research facilities, sentimentally proud of its historic Old Town, and offering a mix of museums, galleries, spicy restaurants and great shopping centres to satisfy the appetite of every kind of visitor. Albuquerque has an ultra-relaxed attitude, with shorts and t-shirts the unofficial uniform and locals cracking jokes about living in a 'dusty hick town'. But the city's numerous attractions are on-hand to prove them wrong.

Albuquerque was born back in 1706 when a group of Spanish colonists decided that the point on the Rio Grande where the river made a sweeping curve, backed by the wooded slopes of the nearby Sandia Mountains, would be a useful place to start a settlement. Water for irrigation and wood for building was plentiful, and the local Indian pueblos were available for trading. The new town, at first just a cluster of mud houses around a small adobe church, was named for Spain's 10th Duke of Albuquerque. Today the original church, San Felipe de Neri, stands enshrined in the centre of the historic heart of the city, the hub of various special holidays and feast days, drawing visitors and locals alike.

One of the most splendid sights Albuquerque has to offer happens only once a year - each October the International Balloon Fiesta has all eyes focussed on New Mexico's blue skies as hundreds of hot air balloons sail past. Every day of the year, though, the city offers up its attractions such as the zoo, aquarium, museums and vineyards for enjoyment, as well as an array of activities like skiing, golfing, mountain biking, hiking or simply dancing the night away. If all else fails, you can always eat - mild or with chilli, there is nothing to beat New Mexican cuisine to really add spice to life.

Information & Facts


The weather in Albuquerque is generally dry, hot and sunny all year, although temperature variations between winter and summer are extreme. During the summer months Albuquerque is extremely hot, the mercury rising to well over 90ºF (32ºC) most days, particularly during June and July. By contrast winters are cold and daytime temperatures can plummet to below freezing during December and January.

Getting Around

A bus network operates around the city, but is not comprehensive enough to link the major tourist sights, and buses stop running at 9pm. The sprawling city is difficult to get around without a car, and the simple layout makes driving easy, as long as rush hour is avoided. Most agencies require drivers to be at least 21 years of age. Metered taxis are also available and can easily be hired from outside main transport terminals and major hotels. Albuquerque also has an extensive bike route system.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

The Albuquerque Museum, on the edge of the city's Old Town, explores New Mexico's past using the largest collection of Spanish colonial artefacts in the United States. Exhibits like Spanish armour and swords mingle with a recreated 18th-century adobe house compound. The museum also pays homage to the Vaqueros, the original cowboys who rode the range in New Mexico in the 16th century. There are also hands-on experiences to try like spinning wool, and a theatre where films about the city are shown regularly. The museum provides a walking tour of the Old Town area departing at 11am each day except Monday during spring, summer and fall.

Albuquerque's Rattlesnake Museum is an exciting and educational experience. Billed as an animal conservation museum the establishment is dedicated to displaying how rattlesnakes influence our lives. Exhibits include artefacts, memorabilia and the largest collection of live rattlesnakes in the world. The snakes, gathered from North, Central and South America, are kept in specially recreated habitats.

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is designed to give an introduction to New Mexico's rich Native American cultural heritage and the 19 individual pueblo communities of the State. The centre is situated on 12th Street, about a mile northeast of the Old Town in Albuquerque, and is a recreation of Pueblo Bonito, a ruined Indian village in the Chaco Culture National Historic Park dating from the 9th century. The centre also features a museum displaying early photographs, artefacts and artworks. A restaurant serves traditional fare and traditional dances are performed by different tribal groups. Those interested in seeing the real thing can make an excursion to Pueblo Acoma, 60 miles (96km) west of Albuquerque, the oldest inhabited village in the United States, situated on a 367-foot (112m) high sandstone rock.

The exciting Museum of Natural History takes visitors on a time trip through 12 billion years, from the formation of the universe up to the present day. From the earth's beginnings exhibits, displays and recreated scenes take you through an erupting volcano, an ice-age cave, an aquarium, the dinosaur age and a fossil centre, giant-screen theatre, planetarium and a naturalist centre, to name just a few of the educational entertainments offered.

One of Albuquerque's most enjoyable recreational attractions is the 17-mile-long (27km) stretch of escarpment of the West Mesa, entered from Unser Boulevard, that is a treasure-trove of more than 25,000 prehistoric and historic rock carvings or petroglyphs, some dating as far back as 2,000 years. Maps and information regarding the geology and history of the area are available from the Las Imágenes Visitor Center. Hikers can follow various trails to explore the Boca Negra Canyon, or join rangers on scheduled walks during the summer months. Picnic areas, drinking water and restroom facilities are provided.

The town of Roswell in south-east New Mexico has become the focus of UFO and alien hunters from all over the world every since the 'Roswell Incident' in 1947, when an alien craft purportedly crashed near the town leaving surviving extra-terrestrials. Conspiracy theorists believe government authorities deliberately covered up the crash. The incident, as well as a large collection of UFO-related material, is highlighted at the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Main Street, Roswell. The museum also features a worldwide UFO sighting map and a comprehensive library. Roswell itself is just as UFO-crazy, and you can eat at UFO-themed cafes, and buy just about anything you can think of with an alien on it.

The perfect awe-inspiring overview of Albuquerque can be had from nearly one mile (2km) above the city on top of Sandia Crest, the windy mountaintop where the view is said to extend for over 1,000 miles (1,609km). Simply follow Tramway Boulevard for a few miles north of the city to board the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway, the world's longest continuous jigback passenger tramway, which makes the ascent from the desert foothills to the summit in about 20 minutes. In winter skiers make use of the more than 30 trails descending from the mountain crest, while in summer hikers and mountain bikers take the tramway up and enjoy nature on their way down. Pleasure seekers simply ride to the top to enjoy the view, which is particularly spectacular at sunset, and enjoy a meal at the High Finance Restaurant with its picture windows.

Travellers who abandon the highway and opt for the scenic byways will be rewarded with The Turquoise Trail state-designated scenic and historic route, which runs from Albuquerque to Sante Fe through the majestic Sandia Mountains, passing through the revived 'ghost' towns of New Mexico's mining belt. The route begins on NM14 about 16 miles (26km) east of central Albuquerque, covering about 61 miles (98km) before reaching Sante Fe. En route is the Cibola National Forest, mining towns of Madrid, Golden and Cerrillos filled with art and craft practitioners, the Tinkertown Museum, Museum of Archaeology, Old Coal Mine Museum and the Turquoise Mining Museum.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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