We had a long driving day ahead of us as we made our way from Arizona to New Mexico. We made a few stops, some of which, despite the previous research we had done, were a little underwhelming. What we did enjoy, however, was the Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec, New Mexico. And, as is often the case, it was a last-minute addition to our plans!
The entrance fee is $10/person (or free if you have the American the Beautiful pass). Upon arrival, we were welcomed with a brief orientation. Visitors can watch an informational 10 minute video then stroll around the grounds on a self-guided half mile tour through the ruins. The structures were built in the 1100s by the ancestral Puebloans. Fun fact: when the Spaniards arrived, they assumed the buildings were made by the Aztec and dubbed them Aztec ruins. The name stuck, but they’re not Aztec structures at all.
There were a number of cool features to explore, including a rebuilt Kiva, which is a structure where gatherings or ceremonies were held. You could walk through old doorways, marvel at the still-standing stone facade and imagine what the area must have looked like in the 1100s. We spent roughly 1.5 hours there and took many pictures.