Visiting the Ancient Acoma Pueblo

Acoma Mission
Elizabeth R. Rosel

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, 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.

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. 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.

Days and Hours

November to March, it's open 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and April to October it's 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 to 13th and 25th as well as the first and/or second weekend of October and the first Saturday of December.

Public Events

  • Governor's Feast at Old Acoma the 1st or 2nd weekend of February
  • Santa Maria Feast Day in McCarty's the first Sunday in May
  • Harvest Dance at Sky City and the San Esteban Feast Day September 2nd
  • Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair Thanksgiving Weekend
  • Luminaria Tour December 24th to 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.

Dining at the Yaak’a Café

The Yaak’a Café is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. mid-October through mid-April and 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. 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.

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.
  • 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 is 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 hold carved into the rocks used to be the only way that Acomans could get up and down from the Pueblo.