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Avoid Santa Fe and Visit These Nearby Towns Instead

Santa Fe may be the capital of New Mexico, but it’s earning a reputation for far more than hosting the state’s political leadership. Despite its rich cultural history and natural beauty, it has become a city that we think you should avoid for multiple reasons.

Several alternatives are not only safer but equally as impressive and rich in Native American culture.

Today, we’re sharing several alternative nearby towns you should consider visiting instead of Santa Fe. Let’s get started!

Is It Worth Going to Santa Fe, New Mexico?

Santa Fe, N.M., at almost 400 years old, is one of the oldest cities in America. Many of the 70,000 residents have deep roots in this community. It’s not uncommon for residents to trace their lineage several generations back to the city. 

The city has a rich Native American culture that visitors can easily sense through the many adobe buildings and historic tourist attractions. It’s a beautiful city full of culture, art, and history ripe for exploring. 

Its proximity to the southern end of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of roughly 7,000 feet makes it a beautiful place to visit. However, safety it’s not all a bed of roses in Sante Fe.

Why Should You Avoid Santa Fe?

Santa Fe, N.M., may be a beautiful place to see, but the crime rate is through the roof. Some reports even state that crime here is higher than in 98% of cities and towns in other parts of the state. Crimes here occur frequently; some stats indicate a crime occurs every hour and eight minutes.

The risk of being a victim of a crime is 1/11 in some parts of the city, which is quite shocking. gives the city a D- for the overall crime. Does that sound like a city you want to spend time visiting?

Pro Tip: Still want to visit Santa Fe? Spend the night at one of these 7 Magical Santa Fe RV Parks & Campgrounds.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA downtown at night.
While Santa Fe is a unique city, there are many cooler nearby towns worth a visit instead.

Avoid Santa Fe and Visit These Nearby Towns Instead

As you can see, Santa Fe isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. However, you can find several alternative options for towns to visit instead of Santa Fe. Let’s take a look!

Taos, New Mexico

Location and Distance from Santa Fe: In Northern New Mexico, travel 70 miles northeast of Santa Fe to Taos.

About: Taos has the Sangre de Cristo mountain range as a magnificent backdrop to the town. Many know it as the “Soul of the Southwest” as it has served as a colony for artists for many generations. As a result, the city offers plenty of art museums, historical tourist attractions, and a heritage that tourists can dive into and discover. 

Reasons to Go: The drive from Santa Fe takes you through various landscapes and sceneries. You’ll experience everything from valleys to mountains and forests to high deserts. Guests arriving in town are welcomed by the sights of a Pueblo Indian village in all of its glory. 

Hike to the top of Wheeler Peak to enjoy the city’s best view. If looking for something less physical, explore the Taos Art Museum, drive the Enchanted Circle Drive, or shop at Taos Plaza, the heart of the town’s historical scene.

Chimayo, New Mexico

Location and Distance from Santa Fe: Drive 30 miles north of Santa Fe to Chimayo, N.M.

About: Chimayo is nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It’s a short 40-minute drive to this magnificent town known for its weaving shops and savory dishes.

The town has less than 3,000 people, which gives it a very small-town vibe that’s easy to enjoy. If looking for a place to shift to a slower pace and enjoy a bit of unique culture and beautiful landscapes, visit Chimayo.

Reasons to Go: One of the most popular landmarks in Chimayo is El Santuario de Chimayo. It is a national historic landmark that attracts nearly 300,000 visitors annually. Many tourists flock to the location for its unusual legend surrounding its creation. Some even refer to it as “the most important Catholic pilgrimage center in the United States.” 

Those looking for a cure for afflictions or ailments will attempt to find it in the soil thought to have healing powers. If you enjoy admiring art and architecture, Chimayo can make a great day trip.

Nambe, New Mexico

Location and Distance from Santa Fe: Nambe, N.M., lies 20 miles north of Santa Fe.

About: The town sits at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Its name translates to “People of the Round Earth” in Tewa, a Native American language used by many in the area. 

The area has been occupied since the 14th century, but during the 17th century, the town was the primary cultural, religious, and economic center. The city has a reputation for a very distinct pottery style, Nambe Polychrome.

Reasons to Go: If you want an opportunity to enjoy the land’s beauty through outdoor recreation, Nambe can be a great place to do it. Nambe Falls Recreation Area sits above the pueblo and offers opportunities for swimming, fishing, camping, and even a waterfall or two. If you find yourself there in July, the July 4th Nambe Falls Ceremonial is full of dances and fairs and is popular amongst locals and tourists. 

Jemez Springs, New Mexico

Location and Distance from Santa Fe: Jemez Springs lies 75 miles west of Santa Fe.

About: The town of Jemez Springs may feel like a newly discovered town, but it’s been inhabited for thousands of years. Many people have called the area home over the years, and estimates this tiny town of fewer than 500 people was once home to more than 30,000 in its prime. 

Locals quickly saw the potential to capitalize on the springs. During the 1800s, the town became quite the tourist draw due to the hot springs. To this day, the springs play a significant role in tourism. Visitors can soak in the springs and enjoy more than 150 years of history in the town’s stone ruins.

Reasons to Go: If you want an opportunity to unplug from the world and reconnect with yourself, a higher power, or a loved one, soaking in Jemez Springs can make it happen. The area also has many outdoor adventures and an enlightening history and cultural experience. 

You can camp, dine, shop, and enjoy the arts. You’ll find several hot springs in the area, including some bathhouses that offer healing massages at budget-friendly prices. 

You’ll find everything from very primitive opportunities to soak to the most luxurious experiences you could imagine. Refresh your mind, body, and spirit by visiting Jemez Springs.

Lamy, New Mexico

Location and Distance from Santa Fe: This town in Central New Mexico lies 20 miles south of Santa Fe.

About: Lamy, N.M., with a population of 150, is the least populated town on our list. However, don’t underestimate it due to its lack of people. Lamy served as an important railroad junction for rail traffic coming and going to Santa Fe during the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, the town has quieted down and is now the perfect place to enjoy some peace and quiet. 

Reasons to Go: The town sits in the Galisteo Basin, which offers hiking trails and some of the best sunsets in New Mexico. You’ll find the Lamy Railroad and History Museum, and just about everyone will enjoy experiencing the unique architecture of Lamy. The town has buildings and structures rich in history and full of fascinating stories.  

Pro Tip: Check out these 5 Must-See Ghost Towns in New Mexico while avoiding Santa Fe.

Are Small Towns Near Santa Fe Worth Visiting?

Sometimes the best places to visit are the small towns off the beaten path. While Santa Fe may be a city we recommend avoiding, several small towns in the area are worth experiencing. 

You can easily tackle one or two of these towns in a day trip. However, small towns can feel special and provide a great opportunity to enjoy a slower pace and quieter atmosphere. So take advantage of these small towns near Santa Fe and share your experience with us!

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