The single most defining feature of New Mexico is its adobe architecture, as seen on homes, churches and even shopping malls and motels. A sun-baked mixture of earth, sand, charcoal and chopped grass or straw, adobe bricks are set with a similar mortar, then plastered over with mud and straw. The soil used dictates the colour of the final building, so subtle variations are apparent everywhere. However, adobe is a far from convenient material: it needs replastering every few years and turns to mud when water seeps up from the ground. These days, most of what looks like adobe is actually painted cement or concrete, but even this looks attractive enough in its own semi-kitsch way, while hunting out such superb genuine adobes as the remote Santuario de Chimayó on the “High Road” between Taos and Santa Fe, the formidable church of San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos or the multi-tiered dwellings of Taos Pueblo, can provide the focus of an enjoyable New Mexico tour.

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