Continuing the exploration of New Mexico from the central location of Albuquerque, this next part of the series will focus on three different areas in the southern part of the state, all under 3-½ hours from Albuquerque and each unique to the heritage and culture of New Mexico.

For an eclectic day of sightseeing, begin by driving 90 minutes south to your first stop of the day, the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Located between two mountain ranges and fed by the Rio Grande, this sanctuary is a temporary home to thousands of sandhill cranes, geese, and other waterfowl that migrate here each winter, as well as a permanent home to ancient petroglyphs, lush groves of cottonwoods and willows, and abundant and varied wildlife.

Continuing south to Truth or Consequences, you will find a town famous for its natural hot springs, with a myriad of spas to choose from for a soak and a massage. It is rumored the great Apache chief and shaman Geronimo dipped himself in these healing waters. You can find out more about him, and the area in general, by visiting the Geronimo Springs Museum. And if space exploration is what you’re after, then you must take time to visit Spaceport America for an experience that is out of this world!

The last stop of the day is Hatch, New Mexico. Known as the chile capital of the world, this small agricultural community boasts piles of roasted chilis for the asking year round. And make sure to stop at Sparky’s Burgers, BBQ and Espresso for a green chili cheeseburger and a slice of old-time Americana to top off your day.

For a more leisurely (but no less fun!) day, consider a southern stroll through some tiny towns and the Very Large Array. Heading south on I-25 and then west on US-60, you will come to Magdalena, a hamlet filled with rich treasures, to include a Box Car Museum, a 16th-century mission church, art galleries, and a trading post.

Twenty-four miles west you will trade small-town charm for the awe-inspiring Very Large Array, one of the world’s first – and largest – astronomical radio observatories. Here you can wander through the visitor center, explore all the exhibits describing radio astronomy, and view antennas and telescopes through both self and guided walking tours.

After immersing yourself in dish antennas, head west for 40 miles to Pie Town to immerse yourself in a dish or two of pie at either Pie Town Café or Pie-O-Neer Café, or both! Sitting on top of the Continental Divide, this settlement has its roots in the dustbowl era, and continues to survive (and thrive) on pure determination and innovation – as a slice of New Mexican Apple Pie with Green Chili and Pinon Nuts will attest to!

Another must-do southern New Mexico experience is a day excursion to Roswell. Two hundred miles southeast of Albuquerque, this is the site of the 1947 “Roswell UFO Incident” in which an unidentified flying object (purported by the Air Force to be a weather balloon) crashed on a ranch during a thunderstorm, spurring decades of theories regarding aliens and government cover-ups. One result of the incident is the International UFO Museum and Research Center on Main Street, where several hours can be spent learning about the 1947 occurrence and subsequent research into extraterrestrial life. Other Roswell attractions include wineries, art museums, and a picnic at Bottomless Lakes State Park.