Córdova , Truchas , Las Trampas , Peñasco —these are the tiny villages strung, like beads on a necklace, along the winding highway north through the mountains. This is probably the area of New Mexico where Spanish heritage has been least diluted—or at least relatively untouched by Anglo influence, for there has been a long history of exchange between the Spanish towns and the adjacent pueblos. The local dialect is distinctive, and residents can claim ancestors who settled the towns in the 18th century.
The first families learned to survive in the harsh climate with a 90-day growing season, and much of the technology that worked then continues to work now; electricity was still scarce even in the 1970s, and adobe construction is common.
These communities, closed off by geography, can seem a little insular to visitors, but pop in at the galleries that have sprung up in a couple of the towns, and you’ll get a warm welcome.
And during the High Road Arts Tour (www.highroadnewmexico.com ), over two weekends in September, craftspeople famed particularly for their wood-carving skills open their home studios.
The drive straight through takes only about an hour and a half, but leave time to dawdle at churches and galleries, take a hike, or have lunch along the way. Start the driving route by leaving Santa Fe  via North St. Francis Road and then continuing on U.S. 84/285 to the junction with Highway 503; turn right, following signs for Nambé Pueblo.