The Mystery & Meaning of Chaco Canyon
The American Southwest is an archaeological site of great mystery, with the American Indian archaeological record one of the richest in the world. It is a gateway to mythological lands of natural power and extraordinary beauty.
From naturally occurring energy centers to sublime landscapes and spiritual retreat centers, the southwest is a magnet for all things divine.
Experience the American Southwest's scenic and sacred landscape as we journey through time with Gregg Braden to the home of the ancient Chacoans. To allow for a unique, intimate experience, space will be limited on this exclusive tour with Gregg!
Day 1 / Wednesday, September 9
Check into your five star hotel near Albuquerque, N.M. We have chosen the beauty and comfort of the Regency Hyatt Tamaya Resort & Spa, nestled in the native beauty of Santa Ana Pueblo for our lodging, complete with pueblo-style accommodations, luxury amenities, outdoor pools, a fitness center, restaurants and a tranquil spa in the high desert of Northern New Mexico. This evening we will have introductions, orientation and a welcome dinner.
Day 2 / Thursday, September 10
This day is free for you to explore and enjoy your beautiful resort.
A remarkable combination of luxurious amenities with the culture and history of the Tamayame people creates an outstanding resort experience at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa.
From authentic tribal experiences to the most indulgent of natural herbal spa treatments, Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa is a destination unlike anything you’ve experienced. Challenge yourself to a round of championship golf, surrounded by a sacred mesa and breathtaking scenery. Ride horses through the same terrain explored by the Tamayame for centuries or take in astounding views of the colorful Sandia Mountains.
Whether you are looking for outdoor adventure or simply want to relax, you’ll find it at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa.
Enjoy a group dinner followed by a special seminar presentation to prepare for our visit to Chaco Canyon. (Breakfast and dinner included; lunch on your own)
Day 3 / Friday, September 11
Morning free with breakfast included; later today visit the Acoma Pueblo, the ancient Sky City. Strategically built atop a 357-foot sandstone mesa for defensive purposes, the pueblo was built sometime between 1100 and 1250 A.D.
Acoma is, along with the Hopi town of Oraibi, the oldest inhabited settlement in the United States. A federally recognized Indian Tribe, the Acoma Pueblo now has a land base covering 431,664 acres and is home to 4,800 tribal members. Both the San Estéban del Rey Mission and the pueblo itself have been proclaimed National Historic Landmarks.
Today’s Acoma people continue the traditions of their ancestors who they trace to the former inhabitants of older ruins to the north and west of their present-day pueblo. Some also practice their ancient religion while others converted to Catholicism long ago when the first Spanish settlers arrived in the 1500’s.
The name “Acoma” means “People of the White Rock” in the Puebloan Kersan dialect. The pueblo, covering some 70 acres, is actually comprised of several villages including Acomita, McCartys, Anzac and Sky Line. Today, fewer than 50 of the 3,000 Acomans live at the pueblo, the remaining residents choosing to live in the nearby villages. The Acoma Pueblo is known for its amazing pottery and a permanent exhibit, One Thousand Years of Clay, is housed in the Visitors Center located at the base of the mesa along with native food and crafts shops.
After our 90 minute guided tour of the Pueblo, we will share a group lunch at The Yaak’a (corn) Restaurant which serves native Acoman and New Mexican fare.
After lunch, explore the beautiful Sky City Cultural Center and Haak’u Museum which offer more insight on Acoma's living history and culture. The Haak’u Museum exhibits some of the most stunning Pueblo pottery and Southwest Indian art created by renowned Native American artists. Permanent exhibits in the main hall take us on a historical journey of Acoma Pueblo, while special exhibits display Indian artifacts and historical Native American pottery. In the Ts’ikinum’a Theater, experience Acoma’s history and culture through intriguing videos. Potters still craft the Pueblo’s distinctive and highly sought-after thin-walled pottery, which is available throughout the pueblo.
Return to the Tamaya resort for a group dinner.
Day 4 / Saturday, September 12
(Breakfast included) Early morning departure to Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which contains the most sweeping collection of ancient ruins north of Mexico. Breakfast at the hotel, a box picnic lunch on site and dinner at your hotel included.
The Chacoans built their complexes along a 9 mile stretch of canyon floor, with the walls of some structures aligned cardinally and others aligned with the 18.6-year cycle of minimum and maximum moonrise and moonset. The canyon itself runs along one of the lunar alignment lines, suggesting the location was originally chosen for its astronomical significance.
See immense complexes known as "Great Houses" which embodied worship at Chaco. There are several core traits of the Great Houses, but most apparent by far is their sheer bulk; complexes averaged more than 200 rooms each, and some enclosed up to 700 rooms.
Today we will visit the major excavated sites in the park on the Canyon Loop Drive, including Una Vida, Hungo Pavi, Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, Pueblo del Arroyo, and Casa Rinconada. Walk the Petroglyph Trail (1/4 mile) from Pueblo Bonito to Chetro Ketl, where you can view hundreds of petroglyphs lining the cliff wall. Be sure to bring your binoculars.
Una Vida & Petroglyphs
Una Vida is a Chacoan “Great House,” a large pre-planned and multi-storied public building with distinctive masonry, formal earthen architecture, and a great kiva. Una Vida exists today in a near-natural state of preservation.
Hungo Pavi is an unexcavated Chacoan Great House containing over 150 rooms, a great kiva, and an enclosed plaza. It is a good example of what Chacoan sites look like without excavations -covered with a protective blanket of wind-blown sand and native vegetation.
See characteristics of Chacoan architecture -features that are both typical and unique. Chetro Ketl is the second largest Chacoan Great House. It covers more than 3 acres, and contains a great kiva and elevated kivas. As builders constructed second and third stories, they created an elevated plaza that stands 12 feet above the valley floor.
This is considered the most important site in the canyon. You will recognize several unique characteristics of Chacoan Great House architecture and learn about the enduring legacy of Chacoan culture.
Pueblo Bonito is the most thoroughly investigated and celebrated cultural site in Chaco Canyon. Planned and constructed in stages between AD 850 and AD 1150 by ancestral Puebloan peoples, this was the center of the Chacoan world. That world eventually covered a vast area of the present-day Southwest, including the San Juan Basin of New Mexico, and portions of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. For over 300 years, Chacoan Culture united many diverse peoples within its sphere of influence.
Casa Rinconada and Small Villages
Learn about the diverse types of Chacoan architecture and building styles and the placement of these buildings in the Chacoan world. While the grand public buildings like Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl were in use, smaller, more typical villages existed alongside. This site will introduce you to the diversity of architecture that existed at the center of Chacoan culture.
Pueblo del Arroyo
Situated in the center of the Chacoan world, Pueblo del Arroyo typifies the great pueblo architecture found throughout the Chacoan site, although it lacks a great kiva and earthen mounds.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park hosts the densest and most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest. Containing the most sweeping collection of ancient ruins north of Mexico, the park preserves one of the United States' most important pre-Columbian cultural and historical areas.
There is evidence of archaeoastronomy at Chaco represented for example by the "Sun Dagger" petroglyph at Fajada Butte, where it is suggested that at least twelve of the fourteen principal Chacoan complexes were sited and aligned in coordination, and that each was oriented along axes that mirrored the passing of the Sun and Moon at visually pivotal times. Two whorl-shaped etchings near the top of Fajada Butte compose the "Sun Dagger" petroglyph and are symbolically focal. Fajada Butte bears five other petroglyph spirals that are conspicuously lit by contrasts between sunbeams and shadows during equinoxes or solstices.
Many Chacoan buildings may have been aligned to capture the solar and lunar cycles, requiring generations of astronomical observations and centuries of skillfully coordinated construction. The sites are considered sacred ancestral homelands by the Hopi and Pueblo people, who maintain oral accounts of their historical migration from Chaco and their spiritual relationship to the land.
It has also been theorized that Chaco Canyon is connected to other ancient Hopi sites by the summer solstice sunrise line (60°) which when extended into Arizona, intersects the Homol’ovi ruins, part of the posited “Orion Zone.” In this proposed astral-terrestrial pattern, Chaco Canyon corresponds to Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens.
Chaco Canyon National Historical Park has recently been designated a dark skies park, recognized as a place free of artificial light pollution, resulting in exceptional night-time beauty. It shares the designation with just 11 other sites in the country and five more around the world. It's the only national park to feature its own observatory, where visitors can look upon the same star-studded skies that the Chacoans did one thousand years ago.
We will overnight in Farmington, where we will enjoy a group dinner upon arrival.
Day 5 / Sunday, September 13
Early morning bus departure after breakfast for our second day at Chaco Canyon, with a stop at Aztec National Monument. A short trail winds through this massive site offering a surprisingly intimate experience. Along the way discover roofs built 880 years ago, original plaster walls, a reed mat left by the inhabitants, intriguing T shaped doorways, provocative north-facing corner doors, and more. The trail culminates with the reconstructed and completely enclosed great kiva, a building that inherently inspires contemplation, wonder, and an ancient sense of sacredness.
As we return to Chaco Canyon we will take one of four backcountry hiking trails to access more remote Chacoan sites, passing ancient roads, petroglyphs, stairways, and spectacular overlooks. This will be a daylong hike with a box lunch provided. For those who do not wish to or cannot hike, alternative ranger guided short walks will be offered. Late afternoon departure for Tamaya Resort where we will share a group farewell dinner with Gregg.
Day 6 / Monday, September 14
Check out and departure on your own.