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Exploring New Mexico’s Desert Metropolis: Sights and Sleeps in Albuquerque

Founded in 1706 as a small Spanish settlement on the banks of the Rio Grande,  Albuquerque has since grown into a bustling desert metropolis that is famous for its annual International Balloon Fiesta and, more recently, for the award-winning TV show, Breaking Bad, which is filmed at various locations around the city.

Albuquerque may not have the most inspiring architecture, but it’s steeped in rich history, scattered with an array of cultural attractions and world-class museum collections, and surrounded by dramatic terrain that is criss-crossed with a network of bicycle and hiking trails.

Here are a few of Albuquerque’s top highlights and suggested accommodation options, to help you get the best out of your stay here.

Old Town

2 - New Mexico - Albuquerque-2

Photo credit: 2 – New Mexico – Albuquerque-2 by Emily via Flickr Creative Commons licence

The Catholic church of San Felipe de Neri lies at the heart of Albuquerque’s old town and serves as a symbol of the city’s Spanish roots.  You’ll also find several museums here, including the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, and the International Rattlesnake Museum, as well as countless restaurants, shops, and bars.

Albuquerque Biopark

Home to a zoo that occupies 60 acres of land alongside the Rio Grande, an aquarium with a 285,000 gallon shark tank, and a botanical garden containing a 10,000 square foot greenhouse, Albuquerque BioPark has enough to keep both adults and children entertained all day.

Biopark Mandala

Photo credit: Biopark Mandala by Sharon Sperry Bloom via Flickr Creative Commons licence

Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway

The world’s longest aerial tram climbs 2.7 miles from the desert floor, through vast canyons to lush forests, to to the summit of 10,378ft Sandia Crest.  If you follow the Crest Trail along the cliff edge, you’ll enjoy some spectacular views of Albuquerque and the surrounding mountains.

Sandia Crest

Photo credit: Sandia Crest by wehardy via Flickr Creative Commons licence

Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre

Dedicated to the preservation of Pueblo Indian culture, history, and art, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre is run collectively by New Mexico’s 19 Pueblos.  As well as the browsing the fascinating museum, you can watch native American dancers and craft demonstrations, or try your hand at pottery.

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Dancer 2

Photo credit: Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Dancer 2 by Mr.TinDC via Flickr Creative Commons licence

Albuquerque Hotels

Hotel Albequerque at Old Town is located just a 10-minute walk from the Old Town Plaza, and offers spacious rooms either with views across Albequerque and towards the Sandia Mountains, or with a balcony overlooking the beautifully-landscaped garden and pool area.

There are three top-rated restaurants on-site, as well as a relaxing hot tub and fitness centre.  You can even treat yourself to an in-room massage.

Hotel Andaluz was awarded the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence in 2014.  Styled in Moroccan and Spanish-inspired decor, and with an on-site tapas restaurant, and rooftop patio, this trendy Albuquerque hotel is located in the city’s downtown area, just 1.5 miles from Albuquerque’s Biopark.

Hotel Blue is one of the best value for money hotels in the city’s downtown area, and room rates even include a continental breakfast buffet, and complimentary tea and coffee 24 hours a day.

Hotel Park Central is located in a building that formerly housed the Santa Fe Hospital.  There’s a 24-hour fitness centre on-site, complimentary breakfast is available every morning, and the rooftop lounge offers spectacular views of the Sandia mountains.  The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway is just a 20-minute drive away.

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