The Mystery & Meaning of Chaco Canyon

Daily Itinerary


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 / Sunday, September 25

Check into your 5-star hotel near Santa Fe with views of the spectacular Northern New Mexico countryside and Sangre de Cristos mountains, complete with delightful guest rooms decorated in a Spanish-Pueblo style featuring hand designed furnishings, luxury amenities, indoor and outdoor pools, fitness center, restaurants, and a tranquil spa.

This evening we will have introductions, orientation and a welcome dinner.

Day 2 / Monday, September 26

This day is free for you to explore and enjoy your beautiful resort. Our hotel is located on the Pojoaque Pueblo, one of the six Northern Tewa speaking Rio Grande Pueblos. Archaeological studies of the area have dated inhabitation of the historic Pojoaque Pueblo area as early as 500 AD with a large prehistoric population in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Pojoaque has always maintained a strong cultural identity and was known by its Tewa speaking neighbors as "Po-suwae-geh" the water drinking or gathering place.

A remarkable combination of luxurious amenities with the culture and history of the Pojoaque people, creates an outstanding resort experience. The Pueblo of Pojoaque has historically been a point of rest and refreshment for the traveler or neighboring villager. Located at the convergence of the Pojoaque Creek and Tesuque River, it is a true oasis in the middle of the stunningly beautiful surrounding desert.

Escape the stresses of daily life with a rejuvenating spa treatment where indigenously influenced treatments, aromatherapy, and expertly trained therapists merge to provide a uniquely restorative experience. Challenge yourself to a round of championship golf, surrounded by the breathtaking scenery of the Sangre de Cristos mountains. Take time to view over 400 one of a kind works of art representing every Native Tribe within New Mexico throughout the property.

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 / Tuesday, September 27

Morning free with breakfast included; later today visit Bandelier National Monument, with a box lunch served on site, followed by time exploring Bandelier, containing some of the most unusual and interesting ancient ruins in the Southwest, steep narrow canyons with plentiful wildlife, mountains rising to 10,200 feet, many acres of unspoilt backcountry and a colorful section of the Rio Grande valley. Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years. Petroglyphs, pictographs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities.

Bandelier's Frijoles Canyon contains a number of ancestral pueblo homes, kivas (ceremonial structures), rock paintings, and petroglyphs. Some of the dwellings were rock structures built on the canyon floor; others were cavates produced by voids in the volcanic tuff of the canyon wall and carved out further by humans. Walk the predominantly paved, "Main Loop Trail" from the visitor center to access these dwellings. A trail extending beyond this loop leads to Alcove House, a shelter cave produced by erosion of the soft rock and containing a small, reconstructed kiva accessible by ladder.

The visitor center at Bandelier National Monument features exhibits about the site's inhabitants, including Ancestral Pueblo pottery, tools and artifacts of daily life. Two life-size diroamas demonstrate Pueblo life in the past and today. Also featured are contemporary Pueblo pottery pieces, 14 pastel artworks by artist Helmut Naumer Sr, and wood furniture and tinwork pieces created by the CCC during the Depression.

Return to our hotel for a group dinner followed by an evening of specially arranged musical entertainment.

Day 4 / Wednesday, September 28

Chaco Canyon(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.

Petroglyphs_Chaco_CanyonToday 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
Chaco_Canyon_Una_Vida_petroglyphs_NPSUna 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
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.

Chetro Ketl
Chetro KetlSee 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.

Pueblo Bonito
Pueblo BonitoThis 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
Casa RinconadaLearn 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
Chaco-Culture-NHP-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.

Fajada_ButteThere 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.

Casa_Rinconada_-_Equinox_Sunrise_at_the_Cliff_NotchIt 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.

nightskiesChaco 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 / Thursday, September 29

Aztec National MonumentEarly 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 our Santa Fe hotel where we will share a group farewell dinner with Gregg.

Day 6 / Friday, September 30

Check out and departure on your own.