The Best 12 Small Towns In New Mexico

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

New Mexico is a state that has oh, so much Southwestern charm, it’s insane. It’s actually one of the best states to live in if you are a fan of quiet life that has a deep sense of the community. This gorgeous-looking state has plenty of little places that are perfect for people who are tired of the big city. You might be wondering which desert communities are best for you. This guide will help you figure that out.

When it comes to the small town scene in New Mexico, these locations offer the best amenities and most highly-rated experiences:

  • Truth and Consequences
  • Roswell
  • Santa Rosa
  • Tucumcari
  • Gallup
  • Raton
  • Madrid
  • Silver City
  • Chimayo
  • Las Vegas
  • Mesilla
  • Cloudcroft

There are a lot of great places that you can enjoy in and around New Mexico. If you want to make sure that you get one of the best picks in terms of cities, it’s a good idea to take a look at our list of highly rated choices.

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What Are The Best Small Towns In New Mexico?

As someone who is used to an extremely dense urban area, my definition of a small town might be different from yours. I’m sticking to cities that have a population below 50,000. The smaller, the better. When it comes to the towns on this list, we tried to get choices that will be great as both a home and a vacation spot. These particular towns made the ranks the best, in no particular order.

1. Truth And Consequences

via New Mexico Tourism Dept

This was a town that was once known as Hot Springs, but had a funky backstory to its more recent name. The town renamed itself after a radio show named Truth or Consequences. Ever since then, it was the town with the cool name. But, don’t be fooled here. It’s a charming town that is also famous for having some absolutely gorgeous hot springs that are ready to bathe in.

The hot springs brought about a fairly upscale tourist industry that makes the town serious money. Pretty homes, gorgeous Spanish architecture, and a friendly town community make this a great place to visit…and an even greater place for people who want to find a new home.

2. Roswell

via Taos News

We all know what Roswell is famous for, right? Yep. The alien spaceship crash in the 1940s was what put this sleepy little town on the map. Though aliens are what the tourism industry in the town is surrounded by, you don’t have to assume that everything here is alien-related. Yes, there are alien-centric tourist attractions and festivals. However, there are also good restaurants and a pretty strong economy.

Roswell is also starting to gain a fairly strong reputation for being an arts center in its own right. If you are a fan of being able to be creative and want to rub elbows with the quirky type, this is a great place to call home. Because there is always something funny and quirky going on around town, it’s safe to say that you will never get bored here.

Roswell is cheaper than the cost of living in Santa Fe.

3. Santa Rosa

via Santa Rosa Blue Hole

When people think of living in New Mexico, they don’t think of watery places. Yet, that’s exactly what brings people to Santa Rosa for a day trip or a new home. This gorgeous little town is famous for the Blue Hole—a deep, royal blue lake that has a strikingly chilly water temperature. The Blue Hole’s pristine waters have turned it into a major attraction for locals as well as people from neighboring towns.

The sights alone make Santa Rosa worth a visit. Local pastimes include walking through the park, chilling out by the lake, and also going for a snorkeling session. We can totally understand why. In a region where hot weather can make it hard to function, being able to take a dip in a chilled pool is a godsend.

4. Tucumcari

via Road Trip USA

This exotic-sounding small town is located right off of Route 66, and is considered to be a historic district. As a result, most of the buildings in and around the town have a very noticeably retro look to them. Quirky, kitschy, and absolutely beautiful, taking a walk through Tucumcari is a great way to get served up a dose of Americana.

The Route 66 Museum is here and if you’re a fan of Southwestern fare, you’re going to love living here. The slice of Americana is very alive and real here. Most people recognize Tucumcari for its iconic Blue Swallow Motel, but you don’t have to be a retrowave fiend to love this place. The sheer number of Instagram-worthy shoot locations make this place worth a visit at the very least.

5. Gallup

via Tips for Family Trips

So far, we’ve seen a lot of New Mexico’s small towns that are famous for their tourism industries. And, that’s not a bad thing. Gallup is technically a tourist-heavy town too. The gorgeous little town is most famous for its diversity and deep cultural ties to local Native tribes. Known as “the Heart of Indian Country,” Gallup is an amazing place for people who love Native culture.

Gallup also happens to be surprisingly commuter-friendly. It’s on old Route 66, right between Flagstaff and Alburquerque. So, if you want to have more job opportunities than most others, then you will enjoy the perks of living here. There are enough neighboring towns to expand your reach. Oh, and if you want to go to Flagstaff? The commute is doable for long-term drivers, depending on your driving tolerance and how often you actually have to be in the office.

As you can probably tell from the photo, this city has some pretty impressive festivals. Expect to see Native American dancing during the summer. It’s absolutely breathtaking!

6. Raton

via Pinterest

Not to be confused with Boca Raton, Raton is exactly what most people think of when they hear the word “Wild West.” 19th-century Western architecture can be found throughout Main Street. This small town was a major trading hotspot for the entire duration of New Mexico’s existence, even before it was a state.

Today, Raton has a strong historic twist to it but still maintains a lot of the cowboy charm that people adore. There’s shopping, cool arts programs, and a very friendly community here. And, if you move here, you’ll get to feel as Western as you can possibly feel in today’s day and age. When you’re not cruising around town, you can always check out the nearby natural attractions. There’s plenty to choose from.

7. Madrid

via New Mexico Nomad

Madrid has the Spanish twist to its city layout that you would expect it to have. As a Latinx-heavy community, Madrid is extremely popular for people who want to get a true taste of New Mexican culture. Part of the appeal is the fact that the entire community is historic, and the other part of that cultural appeal is the fact that it’s an incredibly artsy city that is starting to rival major cities for its artwork.

If you are an aspiring artist and want to make your headway in the industry, moving to Madrid might be a good way to make it happen. This is going to be a place where you might get inspired or just meet people who understand the beauty that you can offer up. Oh, and if you are a huge fan of spirituality, you’re going to love this desert rose.

8. Silver City

via Town Of Silver City

Not to be mistaken for the euphemism for heaven in Lucifer, Silver City is a location that was once an Apache campsite turned into a silver mining boomtown. Unlike most other mining towns, Silver City didn’t die out. Rather, it evolved. Today, it is partly a historic district with its own museum, part cultural hotspot, and part awesome community.

Young professionals love the fact that they can often find affordable housing and a decent cost of living. Older families tend to prefer this as a place for retirement. Unsurprisingly, this is a city that’s considered to be one of the best places to live out your golden years in the state. Besides, it’s hard to hate on the sheer number of boutique shops that this region offers.

9. Chimayo

via Trip101

A lot of the most noteworthy small towns in New Mexico have a spiritual or cultural attraction that makes them tourist-friendly. Chimayo is not different in that respect. While we could bring up the town’s awesome historical attractions, the truth is that this is a town that is known for its healing mud and soil. As a result, you can find a ton of spas in and around the Chimayo area.

Fans of architecture will love the Spanish influence here, but it’s not just architecture that separates Chimayo’s look from the rest of the towns here. Fans of cooking and Southwestern cuisines might recognize this town for the chili style by the same namesake. It’s the kind of chili that would make any foodie wanna grab a bite.

10. Las Vegas

via American Planning Association

I know what you’re thinking, and no, this is not a research mistake. While we all know about Las Vegas, Nevada, there’s also a Las Vegas that you can move to in New Mexico. And honestly, there is a good reason to want to move here if you are looking for affordability and a fun place to retire. Unlike Nevada’s Vegas, New Mexico’s Vegas is known for its relaxed, slow pace of life.

Oh, and there’s another cool twist to this Vegas that you might not know about. Along with being north enough to occasionally get a smattering of snow, this Vegas is also the original Las Vegas. As in, this was a city before the Nevada version ever really existed. Fans of 50s Westerns will also get a kick out of this place. You might recognize some of the street scenes here, especially if you watch old-time movies.

11. Mesilla

via Las

Looking for a town that is great to move to, and treasures a strong educational background? Look no further than Mesilla. This 2000-strong small town has one of the highest percentages of college graduates out of similar-sized towns in the state. Almost 40 percent of locals have a degree, and the biggest employers are in healthcare and education.

With that said, it also happens to be an unusually youthful population. Of course, you don’t have to be a young, single resident with a degree to love this place. Even visiting this historic town is bound to put a smile on your face. The shopping district and gourmet food in this area can’t be beaten.

12. Cloudcroft


Are you wondering whether or not I made a mistake with this photo? You could be forgiven, but no, this is not a mistake. Cloudcroft is one of the very few small towns in New Mexico to be surrounded by forests. This is a small town that is in New Mexico, but doesn’t have the full feel of New Mexico. So if you want to have a little less dryness, you might find the weather in Cloudcroft to be right up your alley.

Cloudcroft is not just a pretty foresty place filled with trails to explore, either. It also happens to be a great place for people who love crafty, eccentric goodies. Some might call this petite town a hipster haven, but the truth is that it’s more than that. It’s inclusive, diverse, and at the same time, surprisingly easy to access. The truth is that you can get a lot of interesting sights in and around the area.

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Related Questions

Is New Mexico a safe state?

New Mexico might be a beautiful state with gorgeous mountain views, but it is not the safest state to live in. According to the FBI, New Mexico has an above-average crime rate. Though there are many parts of the state that are very safe, the general trend in New Mexico is one that involves higher than average crime rates.Part of the reason is a low statewide income. Other reasons include socioeconomic strife, gang activity, and drug addiction. Thankfully, crime is on the decline for ages.

What is the minimum wage in New Mexico?

The state of New Mexico decided to address the issue of low incomes in the state by raising the minimum wage fairly recently. Currently, the state’s minimum wage is $9.00. This is expected to help pull some families out of poverty. A deeper look at public policies regarding taxes and public assistance is also expected to help people who find themselves in underprivileged situations.One of the bigger issues that people have with the state’s economy is a lack of upward mobility. If you want to make sure that you avoid being “stuck” in a low income, it’s best to take a look at schooling before you get to move to this state.

What are some of the most popular treats to try in New Mexico?

New Mexico has a very strong influence from Mexico, which means that many of the state’s more popular foods are influenced by it. Mexican hot chocolate, pumpkin empanadas, bizcochitos, spicy chocolate, and huevos rancheros are all popular. If you want to try Apache cuisine, New Mexico is the place to do it. We strongly encourage that you give Apache fry bread a try. You can find it in most Native-centric towns.

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Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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