Escapism, serenity, inspiration—words one does not readily associate with 2020. But amidst all the uncertainty, beauty does prevail, and in Santa Fe you’ll find pockets of Covid-safe magic powerful enough to reboot even the most jaded of travelers.
Day One: Escapism At The Inn of the Five Graces
Base yourself in the historic district at The Inn of Five Graces (https://fivegraces.com/), a remarkable Relais & Chateaux boutique property whose aura of far-flung exoticism immediately transports you anywhere but here…to the Silk Road, Bali, Tibet, a passage from the Arabian Nights, a stanza in a Rumi poem, maybe a colorful dream you once had.
Named for the Eastern description of the five senses, this 24-suite hotel was opened in 1996 by Ira and Sylvia Seret, internationally-known importers of exquisite antiques, rugs, textiles, and artifacts, many of which they brought to their enchanting hotel. The couple’s youngest son, Sharif Seret, continues to inject Afghan, Byzantine, Uzbekistan, and Silk Road influences around the pueblo-style adobe property, which features a world class spa. At Seret & Sons (http://seretandsons.org/), the hotel’s store, you can purchase authentic furnishings in the Five Graces style, and take a piece of the magic home with you.
For dinner, we recommend La Choza (http://www.lachozasf.com/) for some truly authentic New Mexican food. Favored by locals, we recommend the chicken enchiladas with “Christmas chile” (red and green), the red chile posole soup, and some to-die-for crispy beef tacos. Sopapillas, doughy pillows served with honey, will sweetly round off this perfectly eclectic day.
Day 2: Japanese-inspired Serenity at Ten Thousand Waves
If day one was all about enlivening and reawakening the senses, on day two, the focus is on pure relaxation at Ten Thousand Waves (https://tenthousandwaves.com/), a hotel-spa inspired by the great mountain hot spring resorts of Japan. Located four miles outside the center of town, this sanctuary features outdoor soaking tubs, wooden walkways illuminated by the glow of lanterns, and fragrant juniper bushes and piñons in abundance.
Communal Japanese bathing rituals are on hold because of Covid, but you can still safely enjoy a wide range of spa treatments, hydrotherapy, and massages, including shiatsu and Thai massage, Japanese organic-massage facials, ashi anma foot treatments, and yasuragi head and neck treatments. Should you wish to stay the night, the spa offers fourteen hillside cottages equipped with classic Japanese ichiban decor, just a short walk along the piñon-covered hill.
Dine in-house at the property’s Izanami restaurant, which offers a casual izakaya experience, with small plates crafted from sustainably-raised wagyu beef and pork. The restaurant’s elegant design with simple furnishings and open atmosphere features a tatami room and a patio boasting views of the valley.
If you’re not eating at the spa, we recommend the locally-sourced, farm-to-table cuisine at Radish & Rye (http://radishandrye.com/), where the traditional flavors of New Mexico (corn, beans, squash and chile) are served under soft beautiful lighting, achieved thanks to movie set gels designed to “make people look beautiful”, according to the restaurant’s owners. Not only will you end your day feeling refreshed, you’ll look it, too.
Day 3: Inspiration Courtesy of The Great Outdoors and the Canyon Road Art District
With your energy restored, you should be feeling ready to take on one of the many spectacular hiking trails to be found throughout Santa Fe National Forest. From March to October, you can explore the Borrego Trail (https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/new-mexico/borrego-trail–2) which winds for 22 miles through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a short drive northeast of downtown Santa Fe. Traversing Tesuque Creek, Rio en Medio, Rio Nambe, Rio Capulin and more, the trail is dotted with historical and archaeological points of interest; you’ll be regaled by beautiful wild flowers in spring and early summer. For a more challenging option, try the Atalaya Mountain Trail (https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/new-mexico/atalaya-mountain-trail), a 6.4 mile forest hike. Always check weather conditions in advance.
Afterwards, enjoy a well-earned, hearty lunch at Jambo Café (www.jambocafe.net) which offers some of the best Afro-Caribbean cuisine in the country, thanks to Chef Ahmed Obo, a native of Lamu, Kenya. His Caribbean Jerk Chicken is outstanding; we can also recommend the Caribbean goat stew, and East African coconut lentil stew.
Wind up your visit with a stroll down Santa Fe’s famous Canyon Road (https://www.visitcanyonroad.com/businesses/galleries/), a cultural hub whose half mile is lined with more than 80 galleries, studios and designers in adobe-style buildings. Whether your tastes tend toward contemporary art, photography, traditional southwestern Pueblo pottery or Native American art, there’s something here to suit all tastes.
You’re spoiled for choice for dinner—grab a tasty bite from a food truck or splurge on the sumptuous French cuisine at award-winning Geronimo (https://www.geronimorestaurant.com/). Most dining establishments have shifted to outdoor dining or 25% capacity indoor dining—check www.santafe.org for the latest updates on Covid restrictions, and contact any restaurants individually before visiting to confirm hours of operation, closures, or changes in services.
Raquel Baldelomar is an entrepreneur, author, and journalist. She is author of Sugar Crush (HarperCollins, 2015). Her written and video journalism focuses on how travel leads to a unique kind of productivity, creativity, and wellness. She can be found at https://www.instagram.com/rbaldelomar/.