Stop by Oppenheimer’s hometown: Los Alamos. A must-do on an unforgettable road trip across the state of New Mexico, US.

In light of recent award ceremonies praising Oppenheimer as one of the best movies of 2023, we felt it was the perfect opportunity to do a deep dive into the secret location of Los Alamos, New Mexico. Indeed, in addition to being a pivotal location for world history, its state of New Mexico is well worth the visit - a road trip nonetheless! Expect breathtaking deserts, exceptional scenery and fantastic local cuisine. An American state that is truly one of a kind.

Aerial view of Los Alamos, New Mexico.

- © Zack Frank / Shutterstock

1. Taos

A natural first stop on your journey across New Mexico is the charming town of Taos. Once an ancient Puebloan settlement, it is considered a World Heritage Site today. Indeed, the adobe architecture is a common theme when uncovering the streets of New Mexican towns and Taos is no exception. Amongst these stands a particularly lovely building, the San Francisco de Assisi Church, used by Mexican and Native American communities back in the 1700s - which is well worth a visit! 

Not only is the town a pleasant place to have a stroll, it is also known for its many small businesses selling locally-made colourful jewellery, pottery, and art! These can be found right by the main Taos Plaza (downtown historic district). Ideal to buy a beautiful and authentic souvenir!

Taos, New Mexico.

- © Nick Fox / Shutterstock

But there are also wonders to do in its surrounding area. If you’re in the mood to hike, Wheeler Peak is just around the corner. Also known as New Mexico’s highest mountain by Williams Lake, you won’t be disappointed by the sublime views this natural jewel offers on a trek. This also goes for La Junta Point, another hike for the best outlook over Taos! 

A final stop to be made on your way out of Taos is the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, just ten miles out of the town centre. Also known as the second highest bridge on the US highway system, its steel material truly stands out from its otherwise extremely arid setting.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, New Mexico.

- © Bored Nomad / Shutterstock

Our favourite hotel in Taos

Hotel La Fonda de Taos Taos

Hotel La Fonda de Taos

A lovely hotel located in Taos, New Mexico.
£116 /night

2. Los Alamos

Now let’s get down to the subject of the matter, Oppenheimer’s Manhattan Project location: Los Alamos. Today a population of 18,000 population, Los Alamos was initially a secluded village kept secret to the general public as it was utilised by the government to build the world’s next weapon of mass destruction: the atomic bomb during the second world war. 

But why here, you may ask? Oppenheimer (a popular American physicist) had been brought up on a ranch in Albuquerque, spending a large part of his childhood in the great Los Alamos area - which is where he decided to host the Manhattan Project (name given for this operation) due to its large, unoccupied space. 

The bomb created by Oppenheimer and his scientific team was tested on the 16 of July 1945 in this part of New Mexico’s vast desert. These detonated bombs were released on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While these bombs ended the war, it had taken over 225,000 lives and left devastating effects on the Japanese territory and population to this day. 

What was once a village dedicated to scientists and the American military, Los Alamos had reached a population of 6,000 by the end of the war - meaning that infrastructure was also multiplied to accommodate its growing size over the years, amounting to over 18,000 people today. You can still find the “Los Alamos National Laboratory” on site as well as the Bradbury Science Museum that was created in 1953 to unfold the full story of the grounds, which was expanded and made open to the public in 1963. 

Los Alamos, New Mexico.

- © Faina Gurevich / Shutterstock

3. San Antonio Hot Springs

A neighbouring paradise: the San Antonio Hot Springs. Nested away in the mountains of New Mexico, this series of rock walled pools are a perfect end to a hike in the Santa Fe National Forest. While there are countless pools to choose from, these can reach up to 50 degrees celsius - you’ve been warned! 

San Antonio Hot Springs, New Mexico.

- © Barbara babala / Shutterstock

4. Santa Fe

Once you’ve relaxed from the hot springs, you can start heading your way to New Mexico’s capital: Santa Fe. Much like Taos, the major themed architecture entertained throughout the streets of Santa Fe is Spanish, Mexican and Native American influenced - so much adobe style. 

Amongst many attractions, you must make your way to its breathtaking chapels and churches, such as the Loretto Chapel, San Miguel Chapel, and the Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi, a grandiose Roman Revival style Catholic cathedral.

Finally, if you are in the mood for a museum, the Indian Arts and Culture Museum is a great way of understanding the Native American heritage and culture embedded in the region and specially Santa Fe, along with its sublime art to be admired. 

Santa Fe, New Mexico.

- © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Our favourite hotel in Santa Fe

Drury Plaza Hotel in Santa Fe Santa Fe

Drury Plaza Hotel in Santa Fe

The Drury Plaza Hotel in Santa Fe offers spacious rooms and quality service.
9.1 Fabulous
£189 / night

5. Albuquerque

Last but not least, the largest city in New Mexico: Albuquerque. Whilst this may have more of an urban city feel, it has so much to offer.

The first thing that has to be done when you stroll in the streets of Albuquerque is to visit the Old Town. Expect floral streets, colourful squares, and charming hispanic architectural themes at every corner. The brick pattern pavements truly accentuate the abode facade buildings and the intense blue sky that reigns above it all! When you’re not busy taking in all of the atmosphere, you’re constantly surprised about what you might find next. 

Let’s chat activities. The first tourist attraction that comes to mind when visiting Albuquerque is the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway that travels up 10,378 feet in height - offering a never-before-seen panoramic view of the city and its surroundings. You’d be surprised at how temperatures can drop when reaching the Sandia Peak, travelling from the dead heat of the desert to the crisp snow-kissed winds! It’s also an ideal area to hike as the views from every direction of this mountain are well worth taking in. 

Next thing to do in Albuquerque is the National Hispanic Cultural Centre, where you can extensively learn about the cultural heritage of the city and artistic influence that have styled the city the way it is today! 

Another establishment to visit on foot is the San Felipe de Neri Parish Church, Albuquerque’s first Roman Catholic Church founded in 1706. Otherwise praised as the “crown Jewel” of the city, it is located north of the Old Town - and cannot be missed! 

Finally, let’s end things with beauty. Consider booking a hot air balloon to hover over the city at sunset! This is a major attraction in Albuquerque, and I for one, understand why:

Hot air balloons hovering over great Albuquerque, New Mexico.

- © Greg Meland / Shutterstock

Our favourite hotel in Albuquerque

Casas de Suenos Old Town Historic Inn, Ascend Hotel Collection Albuquerque

Casas de Suenos Old Town Historic Inn, Ascend Hotel Collection

A lovely hotel located in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
£143 /night
by Lena COLIN
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