The Oldest Town in New Mexico Is 169 Years Older Than America Itself

Written by Sandy Porter
Updated: August 14, 2023
© Pavone
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Key Points:

  • Before the arrival of Spanish immigrants, Native American communities thrived in the region, with notable significance in Pueblo Ogapoge, established around 900 AD.
  • Pueblo Ogapoge was originally constructed on the Santa Fe Plaza site, showcasing the ancient Native American presence.
  • However, the original Pueblo was eventually deserted, and by 1425, it had been abandoned, leaving behind traces of its rich history.
"Oldest Town" infographic for Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Museums, famous artworks, a 400-year-old plaza, fabulous food, and more are in Santa Fe.

Several towns in the USA are technically older than the country itself. Think of St. Augustine, Florida, and Albany, New York. The oldest town in New Mexico is more than 160 years older than the country, too, and ranks as the second oldest city in the country — Santa Fe.

Oldest Town in New Mexico: The History of Santa Fe

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the oldest capital city in the U.S.

© Pavone

Early History of the Region

Native Americans flourished in the beforeor to the region’s habitation by the Spanish immigrants, particularly in Pueblo Ogapoge, which was built in 900 AD. Originally built on the Santa Fe Plaza site, the original Pueblo was ultimately abandoned by 1425. Nearly 200 years later, when Santa Fe formed, the city expanded outward from this plaza location, beginning with its central building the Palace of the Governors, which still stands today.

Spanish and Future Settlers Into Modern-Day Santa Fe

Founded in 1607, Santa Fe is one of the oldest cities in the nation, falling behind Saint Augustine, Florida, which was founded in 1565. Today, Santa Fe is home to roughly 88,000 people but was originally settled by a small handful of Spanish immigrants for the first two years. Between 1609 and 1610, however, an influx of folks moved in and built the town up, including the oldest public building in America, the Palace of the Governors. Santa Fe remains the oldest capital city in the United States.

Originally, the city was known as Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis. The shortened name Santa Fe means “holy faith.”

During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Pueblo Indians regained control of the land, but just 12 years later, the Spanish regained control by Don Diego Vargas.

In 1850, New Mexico became an official U.S. territory and then became the 47th state in 1912. By the 1920s, Santa Fe thrived as an Indian market and art colony, which has led to the current economic base of the city in tourism and government primarily. Since the 1970s, the city has also become a center for alternative medicine in the United States.

Not that long after Santa Fe was inhabited and founded, other cities popped up between 1615 (Taos) and Albuquerque (1706). The state maintains some of the oldest and most beautiful architecture and historic sites in the nation.

Oldest City in New Mexico: Climate of Santa Fe

Jemez Mountains in winter
Chicoma Mountain is part of the Jemez Mountain subrange of mountains in New Mexico.

©Jim Ekstrand/

Santa Fe is a primarily sunny location, seeing approximately 283 sunny days each year. Despite being in this desert state, the city is located at an altitude of 7000 feet, giving it a temperate climate year-round, with mild winters but low annual rainfall. Four distinct seasons may be found in the city, even with the occasional snowfall in the winter. Also, because of the low humidity and smoke- and smog-free skies, Santa Fe is considered one of the most healthful locations in the United States.

Oldest Town in New Mexico: Location

Located a little north of the center of the state, Santa Fe is about one hour northeast of Albuquerque.

What is Santa Fe Known For?

Palace of the Governors - oldest public building in the USA, Santa Fe
Palace of the Governors — the oldest public building in the USA— is one of the biggest tourist draws in Santa Fe.

©Zack Frank/

Home to historic sites, beautiful artwork, cultural sites, and much more, Santa Fe is largely a tourist destination. If you visit the city, you’ll likely see, hear about, or visit:

  • San Miguel Chapel — the oldest church in the US with its original walls still standing
  • The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi
  • The Palace of the Governors — the oldest public building in the country
  • The Rio Grande
  • The incredible art scene — earning Santa Fe designation as the first UNESCO Creative City
  • The chili pepper trail — try hot sauces, dried peppers, and other tasty, peppery foods
  • 19 authentic Pueblo villages
  • Incredible and abundant art markets
  • Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
  • Museum of International Folk Art
  • Ghost Ranch
  • Santa Fe Literary Festival

Wildlife You’ll See In and Around Santa Fe

Black bear
Black bears are the state animal.

©Menno Schaefer/

While visiting Santa Fe, you may well run into any of the numerous intriguing animals, birds, reptiles, or insects found in the Santa Fe, New Mexico region.

Where is Santa Fe Located on a Map?

Neatly tucked away in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe serves as the capital of New Mexico. The city is widely acclaimed for its distinctive Pueblo-style architecture and vibrant creative arts scene. The city was originally established as a Spanish colony in 1610, Santa Fe’s traditional Plaza remains at the heart of the city’s cultural heritage.

Here is Santa Fe on a map:

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About the Author

Sandy lives in the Midwest with her husband, 3 cats, and patio and garden full of plants. She enjoys writing about plants, animals, travel, and the outdoors in general, applying her knowledge as a professional pet sitter and hobby gardener to her writing.

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