Santa Fe New Mexico

The Holy Faith

Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, just off the Plaza

Downtown Santa Fe at Twilight

Santa Fe is the site of both the oldest public building in America -- the Palace of the Governors -- and the nation's oldest community celebration -- the Santa Fe Fiesta, established in 1712 to commemorate the Spanish reconquest of New Mexico in the summer of 1692. Readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine have picked Santa Fe as the best travel destination in the world.

Santa Fe (meaning the Holy Faith) is an ancient city nestled at an elevation of 7000 feet in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Santa Fe was founded by the Spanish in 1610, more than 400 years ago. It is the oldest capital city in the United States. The culture of the Pueblo people of New Mexico predated the European settlement of Santa Fe by 12,000 years.


The high desert of Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico became part of the United States less than 200 years ago, in 1848. Since that time, the area has diversified, and Santa Fe is a modern American city. Still, the Native American and Spanish cultures remain a vital part of Santa Fe's character, interweaving the old with the new, creating a rich, often mystifying effect.

Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, just off the Plaza

Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, just off the Plaza

The population of Santa Fe has grown by 26% since 2010, reaching 85,626 in 2021. The combination of a centrally located, sophisticated urban setting with access to a wealth of cultural opportunities and a rich, well preserved history have drawn many to the city. For artists, it is additionally the indescribable beauty of the physical surroundings that keeps them in love with this colorful city.

Santa Fe is known for its many world class museums, shops and boutiques, art galleries, and wide range of entertainment from opera and dance to theater to music which can keep visitors busy both day and night. Much of what Santa Fe has to offer is located within the historic downtown area, which has a definite European vibe, and can be covered easily on foot. Strict construction guidelines mandate the territorial and Spanish colonial architecture that characterizes the Santa Fe style. City codes allow no high rises to block the mountain views.

Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, just off the Plaza

Iconic Architecture in Santa Fe

For those with outdoor recreation in mind, Santa Fe is surrounded by more than 1.5 million acres of National Forest and public land which offer fishing, camping and hunting within easy reach. Hiking, biking, kayaking, backpacking, mountain climbing, cross-country or downhill skiing at the Santa Fe Ski Area, white water rafting and wind surfing are all available during the year. Golf, tennis and even bird watching are other ways to enjoy the typically sunny, temperate days.


Don Juan de Onate, the first Governor-General of New Mexico, established his capital in 1598 at San Juan Pueblo, 25 miles north of Santa Fe. Thirteen years before Plymouth Colony was settled by the Mayflower Pilgrims, Santa Fe, New Mexico, was established on a very small scale in 1607.

Don Pedro de Peralta succeeded Onate in 1609 and moved the capital to present day Santa Fe within the year. Peralta and his men laid out the plan for Santa Fe at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the site of the ancient Pueblo Indian ruin of Kaupoge, or "place of shell beads near the water."

For a period of 70 years beginning the early 17th century, Spanish soldiers and officials, as well as Franciscan missionaries, sought to subjugate and convert the 100,000 Pueblo Indians of the region. In 1680, Pueblo Indians revolted against the 2,500 Spanish colonists in New Mexico, killing 400 and driving the rest back into Mexico. The conquering Pueblos sacked Santa Fe and burned most of the buildings, except the Palace of the Governors. Pueblo Indians occupied Santa Fe until 1692, when Don Diego de Vargas reconquered the region and entered the capital city after a bloodless siege.

When Mexico gained its independence from Spain, Santa Fe became the capital of the province of New Mexico. The Spanish policy of closed empire ended, and American trappers and traders moved into the region. William Becknell opened the 1,000-mile-long Santa Fe Trail, leaving from Arrow Rock, Missouri, with 21 men and a pack train of goods.

For a brief period in 1837, northern New Mexico farmers rebelled against Mexican rule, killed the provincial governor in what has been called the Chimayó Rebellion and occupied the capital. The insurrectionists were soon defeated, however, and three years later, Santa Fe was peaceful enough to see the first planting of cottonwood trees around the Plaza.

On August 18, 1846, in the early period of the Mexican American War, American army general Stephen Watts Kearny captured Santa Fe and raised the American flag over the Plaza. Two years later, Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ceding New Mexico and California to the United States.

When New Mexico gained statehood in 1912, many people were drawn to Santa Fe's dry climate as a cure for tuberculosis. The Museum of New Mexico had opened in 1909, and by 1917, its Museum of Fine Arts was built. The state museum's emphasis on local history and native culture did much to reinforce Santa Fe's reputation as an historic city.

Native American

Of the 19 Native American communities located in New Mexico, eight are near Santa Fe. All these eight are Pueblo Indian tribes. Throughout the year, the Pueblo communities surrounding Santa Fe hold special dances, feast days and celebrations open to the public. To find out more about the eight Pueblos and their events, click here.

Weather / Climate

At 7,000 feet above sea level, Santa Fe has warm days and cool evenings during spring, summer and fall, and a jacket or sweater is advisable, even during the summer. Day temperatures reach an average low of 40 degrees F during the winter months, and an average high of 91 degrees F during the summer.

Nights are cool year-round in this high desert city. Santa Fe usually receives six to eight snowfalls a year between November and April. Its heaviest rainfall occurs in July and August. Santa Fe has 300+ days of sunshine a year and has an average relative humidity of 50%.


 Santa Fe, New Mexico - Monthly Climate Normals
   Year  Jan  Feb  Mar  Apr  May  Jun  Jul  Aug  Sep  Oct  Nov  Dec
 High °F













 Low °F













 Avg °F




























Where to stay

Hotels/Motels - There are hotels and motels in Santa Fe with something for every taste and price range. For more information and a complete list, click this link for hotel rates, availability, customer reviews and reservations online.

Things To Do

Calendar Events

Santa Fe has more events and acitvities than any other city in the Desert Southwest. Two of the most popular events during the summer in Santa Fe are the Indian Market and the Spanish Market.

  • May: Santa Fe Century Bike Race
  • June: Annual Santa Fe Plaza Arts & Crafts Festival
  • July: Annual Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Artist & Craftsman Show - Over 1,200 Native American Artists - Traditional dance & music - Native Foods
  • August: Santa Fe Indian Market - The world's largest show of Native American art. More than 1,000 artists exhibit all aspects of Native American art, including paintings, pottery, jewelry and more.
  • September: Fiesta Arts & Crafts Market
  • October: Annual Expo-Native American International Film Expo
  • November: Santa Fe Art Fair & Auction
  • December: Winter Santa Fe Spanish Market - Features some of the area's finest craftspeople exhibiting and selling traditional Spanish Colonial arts and modern Spanish-influenced art.

For more information on events, contact:

Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau
2012 W. Marcy St. P.O. Box 90
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504
Phone: 505-984-6760; 800-777-2489


Cities & Towns

Parks & Monuments

  • Bandelier National Monument: 23 miles west.
  • Rio Grande Gorge State Park: 98 miles north.
  • Jemez State Monument: 75 miles west.
  • Kit Carson State Park: 78 miles north.
  • Pecos National Historic Park: 25 miles south.
  • Hyde Memorial Park: 43 miles west.
  • Petroglyph National Monument: 59 miles south

Recreation & Wilderness Areas

  • Santa Cruz Lake National Recreation Area: 25 miles east.
  • Carson National Forest: 50 miles northeast.
  • Pecos Wilderness Area: 20 miles east.
  • Santa Fe National Forest: 10 miles east.

Historic & Points of Interest

  • Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi: 505-982-5619
  • Cristo Rey Church: (largest adobe structure in US): 505-983-8528
  • El Rancho de las Golondrinas (living history museum):  505-471-2261
  • Museum of International Folk Art: 505-827-3650
  • Palace of the Governors: 505-827-6483
  • Museum of Fine Arts: 505-827-4468
  • Museum of Indian Arts and Culture: 505-827-6344
  • Museum of New Mexico (a whole system of museums): 505-827-6463
  • Georgia O'Keeffe Museum: 505-995-0785
  • Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian: 505-982-4636
  • Institute of American Indian Arts Museum: 505-988-6281



Related DesertUSA Pages


Share this page on Facebook:

DesertUSA Newsletter -- We send articles on hiking, camping and places to explore, as well as animals, wildflower reports, plant information and much more. Sign up below or read more about the DesertUSA newsletter here. (It's Free.)

The Desert Environment
The North American Deserts
Desert Geological Terms


Enter Email:

Shop desert store



Copyright © 1996- and Digital West Media, Inc. - -