Today we left our hotel quite early to get early tickets for the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde. Fortunately, we got tickets for the 9 am tour of the Cliff Palace, the biggest cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde. The way down to the Cliff Palace led us over steep stairs.
Construction of Cliff palace took place in the 1200s when many of the Ancestral Puebloans moved from the mesa top to the overhanging cliffs. Many people believe that the cliff dwellings were built as a defense, but in fact the dwellings were built due to environmental changes. Materials used for construction were sandstone, clay and timber. And it is the timber which allowed to date the construction of the Cliff palace relatively precisly. The buildings of the Cliff palace served different functions: there were living spaces, storage buildings and kivas (ceremonial places).
After the Cliff palace tour we did the Mesa Top Loop. The loop brought us to different sights on the mesa top. We saw different pithouses which were the first permanent houses of the Ancestral Puebloans (before this they lived as nomads). The loop also provided us with excellent views on the cliff dewellings.
We then did another guided tour, this time of the Balcony House. It is smaller than cliff palace, but better preserved. In addition, it is more adventurous to visit Balcony house as you have to climb a 10m ladder to enter and you have to exit through a tunnle and several ladders.
We then visited the museum not far from Balcony House to learn more about the Ancestral Puebloans.
In the early afternoon we left Mesa Verde and drove to Monument Valley. We arrived there in the late afternoon and had quite a good light for taking pictures.
We stayed at the Goudling Campground for the night, which can really be recommended. The campground provides excellent facilities and has not only an indoor pool, but also wirless internet :-).