ACOMA SKY CITY – a simple life that has endured for a thousand years


On Saturday, May 14, 2016 I visited Acoma Pueblo Sky City located 370 feet above the desert on a mesa 65 miles West of Albuquerque, NM. It has fewer than 50 permanent residents living in  homes on seven acres of New Mexico mesa top.

Sky City Catholic Church

Catholic Church on top of Acoma Pueblo mesa. Sky City.

San Esteban del Rey Mission dominates Sky City. Established in the early 1600’s, it now has no priest. A service is held yearly on September 2 and is open to the public. The church was started in 1629 and completed in 1640.

There is a still-used cemetery in front of the church, with burials in dirt hauled up from the desert floor. The church’s is  150 feet by 40 feet and has a dirt floor. It is simple inside and is undergoing some reconstruction, but is still 95% original.

The streets in Sky City are dirt. At intersections cisterns  collect rain water. There are no utilities. No water, sewage, gas or electricity. There are some generators and port-a-potties everywhere. They were installing a huge water tank on Saturday, so the water problem may be alleviated.


Water Cistern at Acoma Pueblo

Cistern to collect water at Acoma Pueblo, Sky City.


Commercial port-a-potties have replaced the outhouses  suspended over the edge of the mesa that I remember from 40 years ago.

Until the 1920’s there was no road to Sky City, just a single-file path cut into the steep side, which made it easy to defend. A movie company agreed to put in a dirt road in exchange for the right to film. In the 1950’s a second movie company paved the road. Today it is used for busses and on the week-ends for residents cars and trucks as they work on their houses.

The Acomas are matrilineal  and the homes in Sky City are owned by female tribe members.  The youngest daughter inherits. They cannot be sold. Non-Acomas cannot stay overnight and of course there is no Airbnb.


Road to top of mesa at Sky City, Acoma Pueblo

Road to top of Sky City, Acoma Pueblo.

The residences are from one to three stories, and usually reached by means of ladders.

Each family is responsible for their own repairs and the only restriction is maintaining the earth colors, so in repairing the homes, concrete block, insulation and modern roofing is used.

Traditional Food can be had in the cafe at the visitor center.

Fifteen miles away, on I-40, is the Sky City Casino owned by the tribe and which provides income and tourists. The Casino has a hotel and an RV Center.

At the visitor center you buy your tickets, visit the museum and gift shop and eat at the restaurant.

You board a small bus and make about a 10 minute trip to the top with an articulate and knowledgeable guide. You can also walk up and down, but… remember your age.


Aroma Pueblo, Sky City

Residence at Sky City.




  1. Tours: daily on the half-hour
  2. Location – 65 miles west of Albuquerque, NM, off of I-40.
  3. Hours: 9 – 5
  4. Cost – $20 for seniors
  5. Casino and Hotel –Sky City Casino Hotel
  6. Bus to top-  Small bus
  7. Pottery- see museum and tables set up by residents.
  8. Toilets – Nice at Center on desert floor, port-a-potties on the mesa
  9. Museum – small but impressive – lots of excellent pottery


  1. The streets are dirt and rough. You can fall.
  2. Hot in the summer. Take a hat and water. Buy a bottle from tables
  3. Toilets are port-a-potties.
  4. Senior rate is $20.
  5. Senior Centers have tours at various times of the year – check bulletin boards and senior magazines at centers.
  6. There is an RV park next to the Casino.


  1. Never forget local Senior Centers. In Albuquerque, the Manzano Mesa Multigenerational Center, has a trip to Sky City Cultural Center $ Haaku Museum on May 25, 2016. Depart at 8:00 am – return at 5:00 pm. $9.50 for transportation and $20 admission.
  2. See the ABQ 50+ Activities Catalog.
  3. Sky City Cultural Center.
  4. New Mexico True












If you are travelling and want an interesting way to experience your destination, consider “Continuing Education.” In most towns with a university there is a continuing education program. All you have to do is search “continuing education” and the town or university that you are interested in.

Since I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I use UNM. ( This link takes you to the Story of New Mexico. Here you can find lectures and trips around New Mexico. The nice thing about these trips is that they include transportation, a guide, lodgings in interesting places, and some meals.

I have selected, but not yet registered for (the catalog just came today), the following fall trips:

1. Visit Georgia O’Keefe Home and Studio – $95 on Oct. 7 or Nov. 14. – This tour is usually wait-listed.

2. Hopiland – Two days – Aug. 20-21 and Nov. 5-6 – $260.

3. Acoma Pueblo San Estevan Feast Day and Harvest Dance -Sep. 2 – $70.

4. The San Ildefonso Corn Harvest Dance – Sept. 8 – $70

5. Meeting the Spirituality of Northern New Mexico – Oct. 30-31 – $300.

6. The Confederate Invasion of New Mexico; Glorieta Pass – Nov. 7 – $92.

And a lot more. This is just New Mexico. You have to get on your computer and see what is available where you are going and when. I have done it in New Mexico, Arizona and Florida.

If you are old like me, you may not be comfortable driving in strange places, or after dark. You might also like to have arrangements made for you.

One of the best tours that I have taken was to the Crownpoint Rug Auction. It was great to have someone else drive me to Crownpoint; but, it was even better to have someone drive me back to Albuquerque at 1:00 in the morning after the auction was over. You can buy Navajo rugs from the weavers who wove them; and, at good prices.

A word of  advice. Don’t eat the furnished “box lunch.” Go for the  fry  bread and the Indian Tacos that they serve at the auction. This trip was run by the senior centers in Albuquerque a few years ago. I have been watching for it to pop up again. An excellent source of trips is the senior center bulletin board; the centers are also good for free books, cheap coffee and cheap lunches. You can also find wi-fi. Next new town you are in, stop by a senior center and see what they have.