Chimayo Courtyard entryway

El Santuario de Chimayó — Enchanted Weekend Trip Part 2

On to Chimayo

This is part 2 in an 8 (or so) part series about our weekend trip from Albuquerque up to Red River and back. Find part 1 here.

We passed right on through Santa Fe with nary a foot stepped on the Plaza nor a breakfast burrito in our guts and headed north on Hwy 84 to state road 503.

FUN MAP FACT: When looking at a map, you can tell the difference between a US Highway and a State Road by the shape of their number designator. US numbered highways are marked with a shield shape with the number inside. State Roads are marked with a circle and the number inside. 

For some great New Mexico road maps (including a map of State Roads, one of Scenic Byways, and one of rest stops), visit the NM DoT:  NM Dept of Transportation Maps.

After turning east on road 503, we passed through the small town of Nambé. The town combined with Nambé Pueblo has a population of around 2,000 people. A nearby mill produces the eight-metal alloy used to create Nambé housewares such as THESE BEAUTIES. But they are actually made elsewhere. Like, China-elsewhere.

About 12 miles up the road (503), we came to Santuario de Chimayó.


Chimayo Courtyard entryway
The oft-photographed & painted entryway to the Santuario de Chimayo courtyard.

The church at Chimayó is known for many things. The original chapel on the site was built around 1810 and was then upgraded to the larger church (which stands today, and BTW is still pretty small) a few years later. So, it’s pretty old, is what I’m saying. During the Easter season, the roads from nearby towns to Chimayó are crowded with walkers. Not the Walking Dead kind of walkers, rather those devout souls making the pilgrimage (walking or even on hands and knees) to this holy place from locations all over northern NM. There is a ton of history here, which you can read about at their website: Santuario de Chimayo Website  (but be forewarned it autoplays music).

Toward the rear of the church, a tiny room with a slanting floor and low ceiling holds what tens of thousands of people come here for each year: El Pocito — the healing dirt of Chimayó. Believed to have healing powers, the dirt is dug from a small hole in the clay floor. Visitors either rub the dirt on a hurting or problem area (a bum knee, say), bag a teaspoon up to keep with them, or in some cases (I’ve read) ingest it. Team EatingNewMexico opted to save our stomach space for chips & salsa and just rubbed a small amount of the dirt on our hands.

Beyond El Pocito you pass through a prayer room, lined with photos, testimonials, and discarded crutches (by those allegedly healed by the soil).

PROS:  The church is beautiful and has major historical significance in New Mexico. The grounds are lovely. It is a spiritual place sure to have an impact on people of any faith.

The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo
The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo
The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo
The grounds at Santuario de Chimayo

CONS: Now, I remember visiting Chimayó maybe 15-18 years ago, and I remember there only being the church, kind of hard to find, with a small dirt parking lot in front and one across the road. Now, there is a gift shop, a café, and other things that just make it feel kind of commercial. It was pretty sad/annoying to walk up the hill to the church from the parking lot (which is now down the hill behind the church) and see a big plywood SLUSH PUPPIE sign in front of the café. Talk about tacky. It has just lost some of its mystery and charm, is all.

But it is still WELL WORTH the visit. We hung around the Santuario de Chimayo for about an hour total, then got back in our cars to continue on our journey up along The High Road to Taos.


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