Taos is a laidback town that was founded 400 years ago. Nestled at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico, it is an easy hour’s drive from Santa Fe and a much-loved destination.
What is so special about Taos? Known as the “Soul of the Southwest,” Taos has a peaceful, spiritual atmosphere; clean air and gorgeous light; and incredible vistas of the surrounding landscape. Sunsets here are awe-inspiring; it’s easy to see why Taos has long been an artists’ colony. If you’re wondering “is Taos worth visiting?” the answer is definitely yes.
The perfect spot for a romantic getaway, Taos offers fascinating historic sites that date back more than a thousand years, a walkable downtown filled with art galleries and interesting shops, local restaurants serving mouthwatering cuisine, and tons of outdoor activities.
How many days do you need in Taos?
This is up to you, but you’ll want to spend at least 2 full days here, and more if you can. You could easily spend a week in Taos. The pace in Taos is relaxed; instead of rushing from place to place, build in enough time in your schedule so you can take it slow. This way you’ll really soak in the peaceful atmosphere and leave Taos feeling recharged.
Here are some of the top things to do in Taos, including the top attractions to visit in Taos plus things to do in Taos in summer and things to do in Taos in winter.
Wander the historic downtown
Downtown Taos is easily walkable and centered around the historic Taos Plaza, founded in the late 18th century by Spanish settlers. The shady open space provides a gathering spot for locals and visitors, and is the scene of events and concerts throughout the year.
There is plenty to do and see in downtown Taos, including interesting architecture, historic sites, boutiques, galleries, museums, and cafés.
Soak in some art
Taos Art Museum is just north of the center of town. Dedicated to preserving the heritage of local art, it is set in a historic adobe building that was home to Russian-American artist Nicolai Fechin. It features interesting architecture and great views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in addition to a collection of art by Taos artists dating from 1898.
The Harwood Museum of Art features art from New Mexico and Colorado, including pieces done by settlers and local Native Americans. Part of the collection is about 20,000 photographs that date from the 1800s, as well as art by members of the famous Taos Society of Artists, which was active from 1915-1927.
The Ernest Blumenschein Museum is next door and offers a wonderful collection of art from the members of the Taos Society of Artists (he was a founding member).
Initially founded by an oil heiress who supported the local art scene in the 1950s, the Millicent Rogers Museum is about 10 minutes outside of Taos and has a huge and varied collection of Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo-European art that ranges from paintings to ceramics to photographs to textiles to turquoise jewelry.
Tour Taos Pueblo
Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located just a few miles outside of town, it features ancient adobe structures and a Native American community that has been continuously inhabited for more than a thousand years. This is one of the top-rated attractions in Taos, and it is amazing to see. Check to see when it’s open to visitors for guided tours during your stay, and if they are holding a feast day or ceremonial dance, don’t miss it.
Learn about local history
The Kit Carson Home and Museum is close to Taos Plaza and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built-in 1825, the Spanish Colonial building was bought by the famous frontiersman Kit Carson in 1843 and includes fascinating artifacts of the time as well as information and memorabilia about Carson.
The unique adobe San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church (also known as Mission Dolores), about 4 miles from the center of town, is one of the most photographed churches in the country (it was photographed by Ansel Adams, among others). Built-in 1772, it is a World Heritage Site and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It still operates as a Catholic church, but you can go visit the peaceful interior.
The Hacienda de los Martinez is on the banks of the Rio Pueblo and is a restored Spanish Colonial building that dates from 1804. This house museum showcases what life was like in Taos before statehood.
Get active outside
The varied landscape around Taos offers all sorts of opportunities for outdoor activities, which differ depending on the season. The best things to do in Taos in summer are hiking, whitewater river rafting, fishing, rock climbing, mountain biking, golf, and horseback riding. Schedule your horseback ride for sunset, for a romantic and awe-inspiring experience.
A great place to hike is the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness area in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which has a variety of ecosystems and is home to mule deer and elk (and black bears, so be careful). There are plenty of well-marked trails to follow here, with something for every level of hiker. The Williams Lake Trail at Taos Ski Valley is also a great place to hike.
One of the best things to do in Taos in winter is to go skiing; several ski resorts are close to town, including Taos Ski Valley, Red River, and Sipapu. and Angel Fire Resort. Another fun thing to do in Taos in winter is to go snowshoeing.
Visit the Rio Grande Gorge and Bridge
One of the top attractions to visit in Taos is just 12 miles outside of town. The Rio Grande Gorge is 900 feet deep and a beautiful natural site. To view it, go to the Gorge Bridge, which is the fifth-highest bridge in the country and an engineering marvel. You can also hike a 9-mile trail around the edge of the gorge, and have an al fresco lunch at the picnic area.
Dive into delicious local cuisine
For breakfast or lunch, try the tasty Latin-French fusion dishes at Gutiz. Ranchos Plaza Grill is another excellent breakfast or lunch option; it is said to have the best chile in Taos and serves authentic New Mexican food (including yummy sopapillas drizzled with honey).
You’ll have plenty of choices for a romantic and fabulous dinner in Taos. The Love Apple serves organic regional home cooking featuring locally grown and sourced ingredients in a historic former chapel. De La Tierra Restaurant and Garden Courtyard offers cutting edge regional and global cuisine in a charming and elegant setting (it’s also open for breakfast and Sunday brunch).
At Doc Martin’s restaurant at the Historic Taos Inn, where you can savor authentic Southwestern cuisine and choose from an award-winning wine list in the adobe dining room or outdoor courtyard.
Speaking of wine, a fun romantic thing to do in Taos is enjoy the happy hour wine and hard cider tasting at the Black Mesa Winery. Work up an appetite for dinner by strolling the vineyard looking at the ancient petroglyphs.
See Taos from the sky
One of the most unique things to do in Taos is take a hot air balloon ride. You’ll get amazing views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Rio Grande Gorge, and all the surrounding landscape on your trip, which lasts about 4 hours. For a stunning and romantic experience, schedule your ride for sunrise or sunset and add on a champagne toast at the end. Local hot air balloon tour operators include Taos Balloon Rides, Eske’s Paradise Balloons, and Rio Grande Balloons.
Watch the glorious sunset
One of the top-rated attractions in Taos is not an attraction, but an experience. Sunsets here are incredibly gorgeous due to the landscape and the light. Position yourself somewhere outside as dusk approaches and have your camera ready. You’ll want to capture the changing light as it gets more and more vivid. This is also one of the most romantic things to do in Taos, especially if you’re doing it from a hot tub!
Have a famous margarita
Go to “the living room of Taos” at the Historic Taos Inn’s Adobe Bar for the famous margaritas. This welcoming spot in the bright 2-story lobby is where locals gather along with tourists to enjoy cocktails, conversation, and live music. This is one of the best things to do in Taos at night.
The Historic Taos Inn encompasses multiple adobe buildings from the 1800s and is a National Historic Landmark. This is also a charming and convenient place to stay, as it’s located just off the plaza. Rooms have a unique characteristics with antique furniture, hand-carved doors, and wood-burning fireplaces. (For more great places to stay in Taos, see below.)
Best places to stay in Taos
The only hotel on Taos Plaza, Hotel La Fonda de Taos is set in an adobe building that housed the first Taos “la fonda,” or inn, opened in 1820 by Spanish settlers. Renovated rooms feature luxury linens, hand-tiled bathrooms, and fireplaces, and there’s a coffee shop onsite.
Named one of the “10 Most Romantic Inns in the U.S.” by USA Today, the intimate Taos Hacienda del Sol Bed and Breakfast features just 12 rooms in three historic adobe buildings on over an acre of land. Some rooms feature jacuzzis, some have kiva fireplaces, and some have steam showers. There’s an outdoor hot tub as well, breakfast is included, and there are two outdoor courtyards to relax in. The beautiful setting feels secluded but is walking distance to the downtown area.
For a longer stay and to immerse yourself in the beautiful landscape, rent a casita. These authentic adobe houses located just outside town feature stunning views and sunsets as well as room to spread out, and many come with fireplaces and hot tubs for extra comfort.