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View Albuquerque's Melon Sunsets from Sandia Peak Tramway

By Michael Hanna

Albuquerque, New Mexico, is an oft cited city in American popular culture, probably more widely known as the point at which Bugs Bunny often lost his way ("I must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque"), than the location of one of the first Microsoft offices in 1977 or the crash site of TWA flight 206 in 1955. However, Albuquerque is home to a large variety of American historic landmarks and institutions - including the famous Rio Grande Zoo and the First National Bank Building. Yet towering above all these landmarks is the Sandia Peak Tramway, the world's longest single span aerial tramway, and an essential stop-off point for any visitor to the region.

First entering service in May 1966, the Sandia Peak Tramway is now over forty years old. When it was first constructed by Swiss company Bell Engineering, it was considered one of the most difficult tramway construction projects ever embarked upon, primarily due to the steep and rocky terrain of the Sandia Mountains. Located to the northeast of Albuquerque, the Sandia Mountains are largely situated within the protected area of the Cibola National Forest. Its highest point is the Sandia Crest, which stands at 10, 678 ft (3255 m) above sea level. The term "sandia" means watermelon in Spanish, and this name is generally believed to have been derived from the color of the sunset viewed from the top of the mountain range.

Popularly known in the region as simply "The Tram", the Sandia Peak Tramway allows visitors to see this spectacular sunset from the best vantage point possible. Stretching from the northeast corner of Albuquerque to the mountain's highest peak, the panoramic views are truly spectacular. To the west and south, there is a view of Albuquerque, the Rio Grande and the New Mexico deserts that lie in the background. In a northerly direction, there are clear outlines of Santa Fe and Taos in the distance, and to the south there are pine forests that stretch out across the plane.

Conveniently, the main tram terminal is situated at the apex of the Sandia Peak Ski Area, which is perfect for winter skiing holiday-makers. Although the ski area does not operate over the summer, activities continue in the area as over 26 miles of mountain bike trails are made available for use. As well as this abundance of recreation, there are also a variety of restaurants available at the summit of the Sandia Mountains, including the critically acclaimed High Finance Restaurant, which is said to offer the best view in New Mexico of any restaurant.

Visitors to the Sandia Peak Tramway will find the nearby Homewood Albuquerque Uptown conveniently placed accommodation; it offers comfortable suites in the northeast of the city and is located in close proximity to the Winrock Mall and the Colorado Shopping Center. Visitors to the Sandia Peak Tramway, therefore, will find it is well situated, so that people can enjoy the beauty of the mountain scenery without being too far away from the luxuries of the city.

Michael is a keen writer living in Edinburgh. Michael's Website: Taxis Belfast

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