If you are in the Gallup or Albuquerque area, a visit to Zuni Pueblo may not be far for you. You can reach Zuni from I-40 by taking Route 602 South from Gallup, then turning west on Rt. 53. You can also take the scenic route from I-40 and Route 53 near Grants, passing the El Malpais National Monument (interesting volcanic flow) and by El Morro National Monument. El Morro is an imposing sandstone cliff. Spanish and American travelers rested and carved their signatures, dates and messages for hundreds of years. El Morro National Monument protects over 2,000 inscriptions and petroglyphs, as well as Ancestral Puebloan ruins. Zuni Locator Map.
Preparing for Your Visit to Zuni
The beauty of Zuni is that it is a culturally intact Native American reservation. People live in Zuni as they have for generations. It is important to go to Zuni with reverence and respect for the culture and history as well as for the beauty of the land.
The Zuni Pueblo puts out a very nice publication, Experience Zuni, which is available online or by calling 505-782-7238. It is well-worth reading before your visit. Zuni Pueblo also has a very good website which explains a little bit about Zuni, what you will see, and gives tips on how to be a respectful visitor.
When you get to Zuni, be sure and stop by the Visitor’s Center before starting your visit to Zuni Pueblo to get an orientation and current information. They can give you photography permits, if needed and share with you key places to visit. The following tips may help you understand the difference between visiting Zuni and visiting "tourist attractions."
- Zuni is a community of people with spiritual and cultural traditions that may be different from your own. It is a living community of private homes and cottage industry rather than a "living history museum."
- In general, photography is forbidden. Ask if and where you can take photos. It is always a good rule to leave your camera at home during religious ceremonies.
- Religious and cultural ceremonies include processions and dances. They are not shows. It is expected that visitors will remain at a distance and be quiet and respectful.
- Walk and hike only in designated areas. The Visitors Center can tell you where those are.
I highly recommend a guided tour to get you started on your visit to Zuni. Inquire at the Visitors Center about the tours. There are three types of tours offered:
- Old Mission and/or the historic pueblo/Middle Village - cost $10.00 per person
- Artist Workshop tour - 2 artists - cost $75 for up to four people (with at least a week's notice)
- Hawikku or Village or Great Kivas archeological sites - by appointment. cost $75 for up to four people (with at least a week's notice)
- Zuni Mission - visit the historic mission church and world famous murals of Zuni ceremonial figures. There is a charge to enter the church but it is very well worth it. The murals are both moving and impressive. As usual, there is no photography allowed inside the church. Enjoy the murals with your eyes and your heart.
- Zuni Artist Studio Tour– Ask at the Visitors Center about guided tours. We were privileged to take a tour and visited the homes and studios of a potter and jewelry makers. We also enjoyed a stop at the Zuni Bakery where breads and pies are made in a traditional earthen oven. By the way, the apple pie is the best!
- Enjoy Zuni Arts and Crafts – Enjoy the local arts and crafts and consider buying a piece or two to take home. 80% of the families are involved in arts and crafts such as jewelry-making, pottery making and carving animal figures. By doing this work in their homes, they can have an income and live in the beautiful countryside on traditional lands. When you buy from artists on the reservation, you know you are getting authentic Zuni-made items. There is an artist’s cooperative, some artisan stores and, in Gallup, some Trading Posts that trade in authentic Zuni and Navajo goods.
- Learn the History - A great place to start in Zuni (after the Visitors' Center) is the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center. This museum is primarily for the people of Zuni, especially the children, but if you can find the museum, located in a historic adobe, you will not only learn from the exhibits, you will be enlightened. The museum is free, but please leave a donation.
- Photo Tour: Follow our visit to Zuni through our early December photo tour.
Zuni has a wonderful Pizza restaurant located right on Highway 53 just as you enter town from Gallup. Chu Chu's is open 7 days a week, from 11am to 10pm (usually). They are known for their pizza and subs but also serve salad, full meals and Mexican-style food. The food is good, the booths are comfy and, above all, you will have a wonderful view of Dowa Yalanne or Corn Mesa. Phone is: 505.782.2100. The restaurant is Zuni owned and run.
The Time is Now
The best part of visiting Zuni was that it was seemingly untouched by time. Important religious ceremonies go on from year to year, and families pass down language and tradition. I worry that time will change the beauty of Zuni and the traditions of the people. I highly recommend that you visit Zuni while you can still see and learn from the ways of the elders. Immerse yourself in the culture and the beauty of the area, even if just for the day, and you will come away, as I did, with a desire to return.