For more than two decades, Sheli Armstrong has been showing off her backyard—New Mexico—to travelers from across the globe. Her company, Destination Southwest, specializes in single- and multi-day tours featuring the state.
“New Mexico is one of those unassuming destinations that people don’t realize is so unique and beautiful,” she says. “Nowhere else in the States do you have the type of cultural and historical heritage as we do here in New Mexico. We take great pride in our arts, architecture, cuisine, and landscapes.”
Three of her day trips feature unique destinations in the state: Acoma Pueblo, Santa Fe, and Tent Rocks.
Known as Sky City because of its location on a massive sandstone mesa at 7,000 feet, Acoma Pueblo was founded around 1150 AD. Visitors can see this historical village, which is the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the U.S., on a tour with an Acoma native.
The Santa Fe program includes a walking tour of the city’s central plaza, where travelers see Loretto Chapel, the St. Francis Cathedral, and the San Miguel Mission. The third tour features Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument and its fascinating cone-shaped rock formations.
For those seeking a deeper—and longer—dive into local culture, Destination Southwest offers a four-day itinerary featuring southern New Mexico. Highlights include visits to Lincoln County, Mesilla, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and White Sands National Park.
“But our absolute best-selling and most popular tour package is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Tour,” Armstrong says, adding that five- and seven-day options are available. “Few spectacles on earth rival the Mass Ascension, as hundreds of hot air balloons lift off from Balloon Fiesta Park to drift in the crisp early morning high-desert air.
The company also offers itineraries that include neighboring states, which Armstrong says lends to a richer understanding of the American Southwest.
“Before New Mexico was a state, this whole region shared in culturally and historically significant events that helped shaped what the Four Corners states have become,” she says. “While New Mexico is our pride and joy, you don’t get the whole story of the Southwest without visiting the whole region.”
Top photo: Acoma Pueblo
Photo by CC Flickr/Sakeeb Sabakka:bit.ly/397ODOL