Pilgrimage to Chimayo

If you are a stranger, if you are weary from the struggles in life, whether you have a handicap, whether you have a broken heart, follow the long mountain road, find a home in Chimayo.


During Holy Week in New Mexico, tens of thousands of pilgrims make their way to a small village in Northern New Mexico. Some arrive by foot, some crawl on their hands and knees, many are carried by others or come by wheelchair, and some even arrive on horseback.


When you drive anywhere in New Mexico during Holy Week, you will see them walking. This will be on freeways, country roads, and city streets. Some might be carrying a cross; others a candle; some with photos or memento of a loved one. Many walk in silence, while others will sing or pray along the way.


They are all heading to El Santuario de Chimayo, one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage centers in the U.S. and one of the most beautiful examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in New Mexico.

Those who walk this route are supported by the community. Especially on Good Friday, the State blocks off lanes of the main roads leading to Chimayo. People in the community give the pilgrims water, fruit, and encouragement. 



Though creeds and cultures may differ, the human spirit is transcendent and always finds its way to holy places

The foundational legends of Chimayo demonstrate that it belongs to all the Indo-Hispano peoples who hold it sacred

For generations, American Indians, Hispanics, and other people of faith have traveled to the site of El Santuario to ask for healing for themselves and others, and to offer prayers of petition and of thanksgiving for favors received.

Pueblo Indians have inhabited the Chimayo area since the 12th century, long before the initial Spanish conquest of New Mexico. The Pueblo and Tewa Indians used the site of El Santuario de Chimayo for healing, and many still do.

The journey to Chimayo is more diverse every year. Thousands of immigrant Mexicans find their way to the Santuario, as do groups of Protestants, Aztec dancers, New Age enthusiasts, bikers, low-riders, and those who are simply curious. Even so, faith and healing is the primary goal for most


New Mexico has been deeply, expressively Catholic ever since the conquistador Juan de Onate---accompanied by Franciscan missionaries---made his way along this same route over 400 years ago. Today, the pilgrimage looks like something you will find in Spain or Latin America.


The pilgrims who make the trek to Chimayo do so out of faith and devotion. Some, for example, will do so to honor a loved one who died. Others seek the healing potential of the sacred dirt, which they will rub on their body or treasure as a keapsake.


The walls of one of the rooms are covered with expressions of thanks for the cure of ailments. Discarded canes, braces, and wheelchairs hanging from the walls of this room are offered as proof of the miracles at El Santuario. This is one of the reasons why El Santuario is referred to as Lourdes of America, attracting over 300,000 pilgrims annually.

When visiting El Santuario, you will find altars, shrines, and quiet places to sit. Near the main church is the Santo Nino chapel, which contains a wooden statue of Santo Nino. Filling the shelves are pairs of children's shoes left by the faithful. These are intended---as they have for over one thousand years---for the Holy Child so that he may have clean shoes as he travels on his journey to provide comfort to those in need.

The name Chimayo derives from a Tewa name for a local landmark, the hill of Tsi Mayoh. The town is unincorporated and includes many neighborhoods, each with its own name (such as El Potrero de Chimayo). The town is situated in a valley, 24 miles north of Santa Fe. Hispanics make up 90% of the population.

While the chapel at Santuario is the main attraction for many visitors, the area makes for a nice drive. There rolling, juniper-studded hills, small churches, art galleries, and descansos (roadside memorials for the deceased). 

Down the street from El Santuario is Rancho de Chimayo, a restaurant that serves traditional New Mexican food (enchiladas, tamales, green chile stew, carne asada, chile rellenos, flautas ...).

The restaurant is an adobe home that the owners turned into a restaurant in 1965.

GETTING THERE: You can visit El Santuario year-round. If you will be going during Holy Week, however, don't even think of driving there. At best, only one lane will be open and it will be creep-and-crawl all the way. If you will be walking, stay mindful of where you park; take lots of water; and make plans for how you will get back. Heading north from Santa Fe on Highway 285, turn right on State Road 503 (heading toward Nambe Pueblo), just north of Pojoaque. You can also take State Road 76 east from Espanola. When leaving the town of Chimayo, you can continue east on State Road 76 and wind your way to Taos.