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New Mexico’s largest city sits on top of the world, almost 1,500m above sea level in the centre of the New Mexico desert. The skyline is dominated by the imposing peak of Sandia Crest and the city enjoys clear desert air all year round. That’s not to say this is some rural backwater – Albuquerque is a thriving university town that comes with everything that suggests: a buzzing music scene, plenty of places to eat and drink and a vibrant artistic community. There’s also a charming and impeccably maintained historical centre, referred to as the Old Town, which features centuries-old traditional adobe buildings.
Book a hire car in Albuquerque and you’ll be free to explore the city and the beautiful, desolate New Mexico desert. Albuquerque sits at the meeting point of the state’s two major highways, Route 40 and Route 25, so it’s easy to start here and create your own state-hopping itinerary. Arizona is two hours west, Colorado around three hours north, while you can reach Texas in around four hours when you head east.
Most visitors to Albuquerque fly into the city’s major airport, Albuquerque International Sunport. It’s about ten minutes south of the city centre.
Albuquerque is a sprawling city, and, unless you’re used to it, its altitude means even fit people can find themselves out of breath after a brisk walk. For that reason, it’s a good idea to book a rental car for your trip.
Book a rental car in Albuquerque and you’ll be able to choose from a range of trusted and reliable brands, including Hertz, Avis and Alamo. Most have pickup points at the airport, so you can get your car and be on your way in minutes.
Albuquerque’s Old Town dates from 1706, and hasn’t changed much in the meantime. Many of the original Pueblo-Spanish adobe buildings have been excellently maintained and you can still visit the original church, San Felipe De Neri, which is the oldest building in the city. For some even older history, visit the Petroglyph National Monument, where native American and early Spanish settlers carved pictures into a lava field between 400 and 700 years ago. To get there, take the I-40 westwards out of the city for about 25 minutes.
It’s worth making the time to visit nearby Santa Fe. The US’s second-oldest city is about an hour northwest of the city and has plenty to see, including the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, which tells the often-overlooked story of Native American art. Or, head south to Los Lunas or east to Moriarty. These two small towns are a little quieter, and make excellent bases for exploring New Mexico’s natural attractions, on foot, on horseback or by car.
Driving in Albuquerque follows the same rules as the rest of the US. Keep to the right, and allow priority to traffic entering from the right. Watch out for four-way crossroads – all cars are required to stop as they approach, even though it might be signposted.
Feeling inspired to visit Albuquerque for yourself? Start with this Albuquerque city guide and then use the Expedia search tool to find the best deals on flights and hotels, and to research the best attractions and activities.
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