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Visiting the Ancient Acoma Pueblo - Sky City Cultural Center and Museum

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Acoma Mission

San Esteban del Rey Mission at Sky City, Acoma

©Elizabeth R. Rosel

About Acoma Pueblo and Sky City:

Acoma Pueblo's Sky City is situated on a 370 foot high mesa. This is the homeland for the Acoma people. There are 300 homes and structures on the mesa which are owned by Acoma women. They are passed down in their families. Hour-long guided tours take visitors to this amazing place. You will see the ancient Pueblo, the Mission and have a chance to shop for Acoma pottery. The beautiful new Cultural Center has an Acoma pottery museum, cafe and gift shop.

Getting to Acoma Sky City:

From I-40, take Exit 102. Acoma Sky City is located 45 minutes west of Albuquerque and one hour east of Gallup. If you are coming from Gallup, it's kind of nice to exit north of Sky City at McCarty's and follow the somewhat small sights to Acoma Sky City. It is a beautiful drive with rock formations and great scenery. When you are on the reservation, don't take photos until you get a permit. Area Map

The Main Things to Do:

Sign up for a tour of the old pueblo high atop the mesa... Sky City. A shuttle will take you up the hill and a guide will take you around the village, through the mission and past many pottery vendors. Streets are uneven. Wear comfortable shoes, wear sunscreen and a hat. Modest dress is required (no short shorts or tank tops). Before or after the tour, make sure you take time to visit the museum, video presentations, cafe and gift shop. The new (2006) Cultural Center is an attraction in itself. It is a beautiful building.

Days and Hours:

November - March open 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and April - October Open 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The last tour of Sky City leaves an hour before closing. Tours last a little over an hour. Usually, the pueblo is closed to tours June 24th and 29th, July 10th - 13th and 25th as well as the first and/or second weekend of October and the first Saturday of December. I suggest you call before going. 800.747.0181 (this is the number for group reservations too.)

Cost:

Tour prices are $12.00 for adults, $11.00 for seniors (60+), $9.00 for youth. A still camera (no video is allowed) permit is $10. It is very well worth it. If you just want to visit the museum the charge is $4.00 for adults, $3.00 for seniors and students/children are $2.00. Native Americans gain entry free of charge. They accept credit cards.

Public Events:

Watch for the Governor's Feast at Old Acoma the 1st or 2nd weekend of February, the Santa Maria Feast Day in McCarty's the first Sunday in May, the Harvest Dance at Sky City and the San Esteban Feast Day September 2nd, the Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair Thanksgiving Weekend and the Luminaria Tour December 24th - 28th. Cameras are not allowed at festivals.

Tours from Albuquerque:

A tour company, Into the Sunset Western Pueblo Tours, offers one day tours each Tuesday and Thursday to Acoma. The tours begin at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Phone: 505.843.7270.

Dining at the Yaak’a Café:

The Yaak’a Café is open daily from 8:00am to 4:30pm mid-October through mid-April and 8:00am to 6:00pm mid-April through mid-October. It is an ideal stop for lunch during your visit. You will be pleasantly surprised at this Native American fusion menu. Try the stews... they are amazing!

For More Information:

The new (2008) Acoma Sky City website has all the information you will need to plan your trip.

Review and Recommendations:

Visiting Acoma Pueblo's Sky City is a "must do" on your trip through New Mexico. It's a great day trip from either Albuquerque or Gallup. The drive through the reservation countryside is beautiful and makes for an ideal transition from the bustle of city life and freeways to the history and spiritual importance of Sky City.
  • When you reach the Cultural Center, sign up for the next available tour. Make sure you allow time before or after your tour to visit the museum and view a video about Sky City.
  • The tours are led by knowledgeable people from the Pueblo. Expect to join a group from all over the world as you hear the history of the pueblo unfold. The guides have a good sense of timing and will make sure you see the entire pueblo as well as spend time inside beautiful San Esteban del Rey Mission.
  • Listen and be respectful of the history and values of the Acoma people. The history of the pueblo has not always been one of peace. The story of the building of the Mission is an amazing one. The church was built by the Acoma men, under the supervision of the Spanish friars. For example, the pine vigas (roof beams) had to be carried for 30 miles on the shoulders of multiple Acoma men, who were not allowed to let them touch the ground during the entire journey. This was in keeping with their tradition of bringing in poles for consructing Kivas.
  • It's a great place to enjoy looking at Acoma pottery and purchasing some. There are very fine pots and small tourist items for sale. Be sure and ask the vendor's if the pot is ceramic or traditionally made (coil method), the latter are more collectible and, of course more expensive. It is ok to bargain respectfully. Buying directly from the artist is the way to go.
  • After the tour you will have the option to stay and shop awhile with a vendor guide, return on the shuttle, walk back to the Cultural Center via the road, or if you are fairly fit and are wearing walking shoes, consider taking the ancient steps down from the top of the mesa to the road. These steps and hand holds carved into the rocks used to be the only way that Acomans could get up and down from the Pueblo. I took the stairs and found the descent a special experience. I have to add that my thigh muscles ached a bit the next day! Be careful if you take the stairs.
In my book, Acoma is one of those places you want to see during your lifetime. It's that special.

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