American Southwest Tour to New Mexico, Colorado, Utah & Arizona
Tour the Four Corners of the American Southwest: Canyon de Chelly, Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, and join the festivities at the Navajo Nation Fair and Rodeo.
with Dr. Stephen H. Lekson
September 1 – 10, 2023
Why Take This Tour?
- Private tour of Ute Tribal Park with a Ute guide
- Private tour of Canyon de Chelly with a Navajo guide
- Private tour at Aztec Ruins National Monument
- Private tour of Laguna Mission Church
- Private talk by the archaeologist at Point Pueblo
- Private viewing of artifacts in the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology
- Visit Chaco Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Explore Mesa Verde, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Enjoy the Navajo Nation Fair and Rodeo
- Maximum 14 participants
(click to enlarge)
Day 1: Arrive Albuquerque. Indiana Pueblo Cultural Center, Maxwell Museum of Anthropology.
Day 2: Chaco Canyon.
Day 3: Aztec National Monument. Private talk on Point Pueblo. Hovenweep.
Day 4: Mesa Verde National Park.
Day 5: Ute Mountain Tribal Park.
Day 6: Canyon de Chelly.
Day 7: Hubbell’s Trading Post. Navajo Nation Fair and Rodeo
Day 8: Richardson’s Trading Post. Laguna Pueblo. Acoma Pueblo.
Day 9: Salinas Pueblo Missions.
Day 10: Fly home.
Why the Navajo Fair and Rodeo?
Established 75 years ago and held annually in the Navajo Nation Capital of Window Rock in Arizona, this world-renowned five day Native celebration has something for every one to enjoy. Along with an all-Indian rodeo with hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls, there is horse racing, an inter-tribal powwow, a Miss Navajo coronation, a frybread contest, and traditional dancing and singing with people participating in colorful traditional dress. The Navajo are renowned for their turquoise and silver jewelry, sand paintings, and woven rugs, and much is on display during the fair. Legend says that the art of weaving was taught to them by Spider Woman, an important creation figure in Navajo mythology.
The Four Corners area of the American Southwest is one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world. It is an enchanting land of painted deserts, verdant forests, and towering red mesas visible for miles under the brilliant sunlight. The ancient Anasazi remains, colonial Spanish villages and Native American pueblos (villages) reflect a proud heritage intimately in tune with nature and rooted in tradition.
Join Far Horizons for an extraordinary ten-day jaunt through the spectacular Four Corners, where the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona come together. Our trip begins and ends in Albuquerque, New Mexico where we visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the University of New Mexico’s splendid Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. We spend a day in Chaco Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before moving north to Aztec, Hovenweep with its free-standing towers, and Mesa Verde, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In both the Ute Tribal Park and Canyon de Chelly, Native guides take us on specially arranged tours to out-of-the-way areas seldom seen by tourists. Other highlights include Acoma, the oldest continuously occupied town in the United States; Laguna Mission Church with its stunning retablo; the Salinas Mission churches built in the early 17th century by Franciscans, and a full day at the Navajo Nation Fair and Rodeo.
Won’t you join this small group as we travel through a truly enchanting part of the United States!
Stephen H. Lekson received his PhD in 1988 in Anthropology from the University of New Mexico. He is Curator of Anthropology, Museum of Natural History, and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado. A specialist in the archaeology of the North American Southwest, Dr. Lekson has worked throughout the Four Corners region, including several sites we will visit on the trip. Dr. Lekson is the author of many books and other periodicals, most notably A History of the Ancient Southwest, The Architecture of Chaco Canyon, The Archaeology of Chaco Canyon, and Great Pueblo Architecture of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. His provocative and challenging book, The Chaco Meridian: Centers of Power in the Ancient Southwest, has created a storm of controversy. He has been consultant and curator of several projects including the permanent exhibit at Chaco Canyon National Park Visitors’ Center, and has presented papers throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. Dr. Lekson has been an invited speaker at many conferences and public lectures, including the Smithsonian Institution, the Archaeological Institute of America, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, and was a featured speaker on Southwest archaeology on several radio and television specials including National Public Radio, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel. Steve is a knowledgeable, personable, and fascinating teacher.
“Steve was a terrific lecturer, very informative and approachable. He was engaging, funny, knowledgeable, interesting, a real hit.” – Lori Mei
“Steve’s discursive style really highlighted the complexity of the history of the different cultures in the area. He vamped wonderfully on the bus rides, he told entertaining stories about local archaeology, all the while imparting knowledge. Kudos to him.’ – Steve Lanning
“A+++++ The highlight of the trip. Extremely knowledgeable, approachable, down-to-earth and a good sense of humor. A gem.” – Karen Doherty
“Steve was an exceptional leader. He provided a vast amount of content about a wide subject matter. Since he is not afraid of controversy or truth, we were not fed the sort of fiction that many such tours are fed. At the same time, Steve was sensitive to and honest about cultural encounters, and dived into their complexity with care. Steve brought stones to life, reminding me of the Faulkner character’s line: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”’ – Dan Massey
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 1: Arrive Albuquerque by 10am. Transfer to the Best Western Rio Grande Inn. After a light lunch at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, there will be time to view the exhibits displaying the history, culture and art of the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico and watch a display of Pueblo dancing. In the late afternoon enter the University of New Mexico’s Maxwell Museum of Anthropology where the director will give a talk and bring out artifacts not normally seen by the public. Gather this evening for a welcome dinner of traditional southwestern cuisine. Overnight for one night in the Best Western Rio Grande Inn, located in Old Town. (L/D)
Day 2: An early start this morning for a long but memorable day as we explore remote Chaco Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An archaeological survey has recorded over 2,000 ancient architectural remains within the valley and nearby areas. This arid, treeless arroyo was the center for the Pueblo culture a thousand years ago, and magnificent building complexes still stand as mute testimony to its former grandeur. An important hub for commerce, the immense road system branching out from Chaco Canyon shows the importance of trade to the area. In complexity of community life, in social organization and architecture, the inhabitants of Chaco Canyon reached heights rarely matched and never surpassed by their kindred in the Four Corners Region. Overnight for one night at the Step Back Inn in Aztec, New Mexico. (B/L/D)
Day 3:Multi-storied Aztec National Monument is situated on the north bank of the Animas River. We will walk through this five-hundred-room complex built almost 1,000 years ago. A highlight will be seeing a large and beautifully restored kiva, an underground chamber used for religious rites. Additionally, this thousand-year-old village is claimed to be the terminus of Chaco Canyon’s Great North Road. Later, we will meet with archaeologist, Linda Wheelbarger, for a specially arranged private talk on her work. She’s the excavator at Point Pueblo where a great house with attached great kiva has been discovered. After crossing into southeastern Utah, stroll through Hovenweep National Monument where prehistoric communities carefully constructed ashlar buildings. Often these edifices were accompanied by multistory towers perched on canyon rims and precariously balanced on boulders. Interestingly, these towers seemed to have protected water sources. Continue to Cortez, Colorado where we overnight for two nights at the Holiday Inn Express. (B/L/D)
Day 4:Today we go to Mesa Verde, the first national park set aside for its archaeological treasures. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural site in 1978. Around 600AD, thriving communities of Ancestral Pueblo people built elaborate stone multi-storied “apartment houses” on the mesas and in the cliffs of the towering canyon walls. Our full day here is filled with wonder! Cliff Palace with about 150 rooms is the largest rock face dwelling in the park. To reach Balcony House, the adventurous must climb a 32-foot ladder. Spruce Tree House is the third-largest cliff dwelling in the Park and we will be able to look down on it from an adjoining nearby ridge. (B/L/D)
Day 5: Drive south the Southern Ute Tribal Park. Here, we will spend the day with a Native guide on a private 4-wheel drive expedition. Directly south of Mesa Verde, the park has similar architecture, but has received only minimal stabilization. And the “undiscovered” feel is one of the park’s appealing attributes. As we explore the backcountry, we will examine various cliff dwellings as well as historic Ute wall paintings and ancient petroglyphs. Continue on to Chinle, Arizona and overnight for two nights at the Best Western Canyon De Chelly. Dinner is on our own. (B/L/ )
Day 6: Part of the Navajo Tribal Land, glorious and vast Canyon de Chelly lies at the junction of two immense canyons. Sheer ruddy sandstone walls rise up to 1,000 feet, towering over arroyos with white sand stream¬ beds. Within caves and recesses, dramatic masonry dwellings were forged, some of them hundreds of feet from the valley floor and reached only by hand and foot holds carved into the rock. These cliff houses, along with exquisite rock paintings and petroglyphs recall the prehistoric culture that once existed here. The grandeur of this countryside will be truly appreciated as we ride through remote canyons in four-wheel drive vehicles with our private Navajo guide. He will provide us with fascinating insights into the present-day life of the Navajo, or Diné, who still inhabit and cultivate the lush valley floor. After time to rest in the afternoon, we will drive the rim of the canyon and stop for stunning views of the valley. Dinner is on our own. (B/L/ )
Day 7: An early departure takes us to Hubbell’s, the oldest, continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Nation lands. It offers a unique glimpse into the time when traders served as the main contact to the outside world for reservation dwellers. John Lorenzo Hubbell purchased the trading post in 1878, and the Hubbell family continued to operate it until it was sold to the National Park Service in 1965. Today, the post store still operates and there will be time to peruse the merchandise after the tour of the museum. Then we move on to Window Rock, Arizona, the capital of the Navajo Nation where we totally immerse ourselves into tribal culture at the Navajo Fair and Rodeo. The Navajo have the largest territory of a sovereign Native American nation in North America. The rest of the day is free to enjoy a Native American rodeo with championship bull riding, horse races, an inter-tribal powwow, a Miss Navajo coronation, country and western concert, fry-bread contest, and traditional singing, dancing and drumming by various tribes from throughout North America. And of course, there will be an arts and crafts show featuring Native artists. Lunch is on our own to take advantage of the traditional food being presented at the fair. In the late afternoon, drive to Gallup, surrounded by Navajo, Zuni and Hopi lands. Spend two nights at El Rancho Hotel, located on historic U.S. Route 66. This quaint inn, built in 1937 by the brother of movie magnate D.W. Griffith, became the temporary home for many Hollywood movie stars who filmed Westerns in the area throughout the 1930s to 1940s. Their autographed photos adorn the historic two-story lobby. (B/ /D)
Day 8: Gallup, New Mexico is at the heart of Indian Country and renowned for Native American art. For many Native people, the most trusted non-Navajos in the last century were Lorenzo Hubbell and Bill Richardson. Navajo families would come to these merchants to pawn their most treasured jewelry and rugs, some of which had been in their family for generations. Up until the 1970s, this was one of the main functions of trading posts on reservations, to provide a safe place to keep these family heirlooms safe. We will visit Richardson’s Trading Post, established in 1913, to peruse the fabulous array of Native jewelry, handmade rugs, and pottery on display (and for sale!). Here, we meet privately with a staff member who will tell us about the history of Richardson’s and about the vault that safeguards the most valuable pieces of jewelry for the local Navajo population. We depart Gallup and drive to Laguna, the largest pueblo of the Keresan speaking people. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1973, the record indicates that ancestors of the pueblo’s current residents have been lived here since at least 1300, and that people have inhabited the area since at least 3000 BC. By special arrangement, we join a Laguna guide to enter the old San José de Laguna Mission Church built in 1699 and legendary for its interior decoration. Original Laguna art and rare early Spanish paintings adorn the walls and altar, and the ceiling above the sanctuary is painted with Laguna symbols of a rainbow, the sun, moon, and stars. The stunning 19th century wooden retablo (altar screen) is the highlight of the mission church’s art. After a short stop, we continue to Acoma Pueblo, perched atop a striking sandstone mesa 367 feet above the valley floor. Known as ‘Sky City’ and inhabited since the 12th century, it is reputed to be the oldest continuously occupied community in the United States. In 1629, Acoma Pueblo received its first missionary, Fray Juan Ramirez, and under his direction, the San Estevan de Rey Mission, a monumental adobe structure, was built. Our guided tour of the pueblo takes us into the church and through the village. Here, we learn about the customs and way of life as well as the distinctive and famous black-and-white pottery made by the people who continue to inhabit the mesa and preserve this ancient and living site. We return to Albuquerque and overnight for two nights in the Best Western Rio Grande Inn. (B/L/D)
Day 9: Once thriving Native American trade communities of Tiwa and Tompiro language-speaking Pueblo people inhabited the remote frontier area of central New Mexico. Then, in the 1620s Spanish Franciscans arrived to establish Christianity. We delve into the role of these Catholic missionaries in the Colonial era of New Mexico’s history during an excursion to the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. Here, we will focus on two of the missions: Abó and Quarai. Abó became the seat of the Mission of San Gregorio with a monastery, orchards, and gardens. The intriguing church ruins stand next to the crumbling remains of the community, and a kiva within the courtyard of the church leads anthropologists to speculate about the methods used by the Franciscans to convert these communities to Catholicism. Originally known as La Purisima Concepcion de Cuarac, Quarai was built in 1630. The surrounding village, consisting of compact apartment complexes, dates to 1300 AD. The magnificent crimson sandstone walls of the mission church still stand overlooking the settlement. Return to Albuquerque with time for last minute shopping in Old Town. Gather this evening for a farewell dinner in one of Albuquerque’s renowned restaurants. (B/L/D)
Day 10: Transfer to the airport for our return flight home. (B)
$7,995.00 (per person, based on double occupancy) includes accommodations based on double occupancy, meals as noted in the itinerary, entry fees to sites named in itinerary, ground transportation, gratuities to guides and drivers; and emergency evacuation insurance for each participant.
Single Supplement: $795.00 Far Horizons will attempt to find a roommate for participants requesting that we do so. However, if one is not available, the single supplement will be charged.
Cost Does Not Include: Flights to and from Albuquerque, New Mexico; a separate donation check of $150.00 per person to a designated donation project; meals other than those listed in the itinerary; food, alcoholic and other beverages not on set menus; airport or departure taxes; laundry; excess baggage charges; personal tips; luggage handling; internet, telephone and fax charges; necessary vaccines and tests; or any other items of a personal nature.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
The cost of the tour does not include air tickets into and out of Albuquerque. The Albuquerque hotel offers airport to hotel transfers. You must contact the hotel to confirm your transfers. You are responsible for all flight arrangements and transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased.
A deposit of $750 per person is required along with your registration form. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and tour bulletin containing travel information. Click here to download the Registration Form.
Cancellations and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure (May 5, 2022) will receive a refund less a $450 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Insurance recommended by Far Horizons can be reviewed by clicking HERE.
Private Tours and Talks
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be onsite when our groups arrive due to other commitments, or that the date or time of our visit to their project must be changed.
As a tour company that benefits from the historical, cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to scholars, archaeological and cultural projects, and museums in each of our destinations. This has created a bond with the academic community that allows you to gain an ‘insider’s view’ of the work being done in each country. We ask that each participant write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person and is made by check directly to the donation project. The donation is required as part of your registration and a donation project for this trip will be assigned shortly.
Note About Itinerary Changes
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. A good book to read as well as a flexible attitude and a sense of humor are essential.
Travel in this Part of the World
You will be traveling into remote areas at altitudes of 5,000 to 7,000 feet. The itinerary is designed for those who are in good health and have a spirit of adventure. Hotels will be simple and clean but will not be five- or even four-star. Most will not have bell staff and you will be responsible for your own luggage. Meals will not be haute cuisine and several lunches will be picnics or box lunches. At times we will be walking over uneven terrain for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. All participants are expected to be physically active and able to walk independently throughout our very full touring days. Keeping up with the group is each participant’s responsibility; please do not expect assistance from the other group members or staff. Team spirit and a good sense of humor are vital! If you have questions about your ability to handle this sort of challenge, please call us.
This Archaeological Tour is limited to 14 participants