Visiting Acoma Pueblo New Mexico

Enjoy a visit to Acoma Pueblo Sky City

Enjoy a visit to Acoma Pueblo Sky City

If you have traveled in the Southwest U.S. or have visited a Native American art market, you have probably come across Pueblo Pottery. One of the most common types of  Pueblo Pottery is the pottery from Acoma Pueblo. Visiting Acoma and learning more about their pottery makes for a fantastic day trip from Albuquerque or Gallup, New Mexico.

Visiting Acoma Pueblo
Acoma, Sky City can be accessed off I-40. You’ll see signs to the Pueblo on the south side of the exit, right across I-40 from the Acoma Sky City Casino and Hotel. The drive through the beautiful countryside takes about a half hour once you leave the freeway.

Of course you will want to take a guided tour of the Pueblo, but make sure you allot time to visit the beautiful museum which has displays of the famous pottery through time. It thrilled me to see early photographs of the Acoma women carrying water on their heads from the watering hole to the Pueblo… using their now famous pottery.

Also in the museum is a display showing the history of the Spanish and the building of the Mission at the Pueblo. This history is so negative, that I usually bypass such displays and move on to information on the Pueblo people and their culture.

Touring the Pueblo
Old Acoma is located high on a mesa. It is truly amazing to look up and see the adobe and brick homes. Visitors cannot go there alone. You must take a tour and stay with your guide.  Considered one of the best cultural tours in New Mexico, Acoma Sky City ranks in the “top 10 great places to honor American Indian Life” –USA Today. The tour is one hour and 25 minutes long and covers approximately three-quarters of a mile. The tour prices range from $10 to $20.

On the tour you will walk along the village streets and visit the San Esteban del Rey Mission and graveyard. You will be impressed with the vistas from this beautiful mesa. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to purchase pottery…. Some of it simple green ware ceramics and some of it traditionally made Acoma pottery with detailed designs.

Emil Chino Acoma Pottery

Emil was working on this pot which will have the 13 clans of the Acoma people on it when finished

At the end of the mesa, look for the Chino family’s pottery displays (section 3). Emil Chino and his brother make beautiful traditional and contemporary pottery. They will show you the yucca plant that they use for making brushes to paint the exacting fine lines on the pottery. On my last visit, Emil showed me two amazing pots. He has been experimenting with a carved look to his pots. Emil Chino and his pottery can also be seen at such shows as the Pueblo Grande show in Phoenix and the Litchfield Park Native Arts show in the West Valley of Phoenix.

Emil Chino, Potter

Emil Chino with a beautiful pot showing a carved design.

Once you finish your tour and, hopefully, buy some pottery, you will be transported (or you can walk) down to the Visitors Center. In back of the center you will see more vendors, some with excellent Acoma Pottery for sale. Take your time to look and visit with the vendors.

As I walked from table to table I visited with Carolyn Concho and her sisters. They are known for hand made pottery painted with natural paints. Carolyn adds raised features to her pottery. She also has a line of pottery pendants and earrings which make a great gift or souvenir of your visit. You may have more time with these vendors than you will with the vendors dotted along the streets on your tour. Carolyn took time to explain the significance of the designs on her pottery and showed me what her work looks like pre and post firing. I couldn’t resist purchasing a small seed pot and pendant.

Carolyn Concho, Acoma Potter

Carolyn Concho shows how her pots look before firing.

The Visitors Center has an excellent restaurant serving native-inspired cuisine as well as traditional American fare. You order at a window and wait-staff will bring your selection to you. I had a wonderful grilled chicken sandwich on horno bread and sat under the portal with a view of the Pueblo high up on the mesa. More on the café.

Carolyn Concho Pottery

Carolyn Concho pottery after firing. The pots are painted with natural dyed paints.

Where to Stay
Acoma Pueblo has built a casino and hotel just off I-40. They are known for their low prices. The rooms are simple but there is a lovely pool on the grounds. If you are hungry for a simple meal, the casino restaurant provides a buffet where visitors can dine for under $10 (all you can eat, of course!).  I stayed there with a woman-friend and we enjoyed the fact that you could not hear road noise from the room. We also felt safe there. Things were fairly quiet. The fact that alcohol is not served at the casino is a contributing factor. More on Acoma Sky City Hotel.

More Information:
Acoma Sky City Website
Potter Emil Chino – 505.552.7413  cell: 505.240.0635
Potter Carolyn Concho – 505.552.7177