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New Mexico is called The Land of Enchantment for a host of reasons. It’s difficult not to be entranced by the state’s out-of-this-world scenery and its unique multi-cultural roots. And don’t even get us started on the cuisine—a mix of New Mex-Mex and Native American traditions. Here are a few can’t-miss things to see see and taste I’m the Land of Enchantment.

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Snowlike sands

Yuccas growing in the sand of White Sand National Park.

White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico may, in a haze, resemble a snow field (and you can sled here). But make no mistake: Those wave-like dunes are made of gypsum sand, not snow. They engulf 275 square miles of desert, creating a dune field filled with amazing vistas. One warning from the National Park Service: “Occasionally the road into the park can close due to missile testing.” That’s because there’s an Air Force base between the park and the area’s main town of Alamogordo. That high desert town houses the New Mexico Museum of Space History, which incorporates the International Space Hall of Fame.

Gila Cliff Dwellings

“Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico, from the people of the Mogollon culture who lived in the Gila Wilderness centuries ago.”

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in southwestern New Mexico offers a look at the cliff houses of the Mogollon people who lived from the late 1200s through the early 1300s. Five natural caves in a canyon cliffside contain ruins of dwellings. Visitors can explore these ancient digs if game for tackling a somewhat steep, one-mile trail.  For those who don’t want to retrace steps on the way back, there’s the option of exiting via wooden ladders set against the canyon wall. Find a hotel near the Cliff Dwellings here.

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Pueblo Great Houses

Chaco, New Mexico

pueblo indian house at chaco arheological site

Up north, Chaco Culture National Historic Park is one of New Mexico’s three UNESCO World Heritage Sites (the others being Taos Pueblo and Carlsbad Caverns). The park is home to massive 1,000-year-old Ancestral Pueblo Great Houses. The main archaeological sites are accessed by a nine-mile loop road through a canyon. No visit to Chaco Culture NHP is complete without a little stargazing. As one of only four National Park sites to receive a top rating from the International Dark Sky Association, it’s among the best places in the country to check out the constellations. Find your hotel near the Pueblo Great Houses here.

Breakfast burrito byway

If stargazing and sightseeing leaves you famished, stop and smell (and taste) the chile. The chile pepper reigns supreme in New Mexico. So it should be no surprise that the state’s chefs love to develop dishes incorporating the nightshade. The New Mexico breakfast burrito, which includes a dollop of green chile salsa, is a wrapped wonder bringing spice to a New Mexican morning. By following the New Mexico True Breakfast Burrito Byway, you can sample 92 different varieties, if you dare.

A cheeseburger trail

On the other hand, if you aren’t an early riser, follow the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail instead. What’s the dish? New Mexico didn’t invent the hamburger, but it did add the heat. Green chile burgers are a Land of Enchantment staple, having been served there for more than 50 years. A juicy, thick patty is grilled, then smothered in molten cheese and topped off with enough green chile to tingle the taste buds. There are more than 100 places around the state that serve the dish, including some McDonalds.

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Tagged: New Mexico

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Laura Powell

Laura Powell

Laura is a 20-year veteran travel journalist. She was CNN's first travel reporter, and has written for publications ranging from Alaska Airlines Magazine to The Washington Post. Find her at the or on Twitter: @dailysuitcase

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