New Mexico is a state like no other; between its refreshing lack of industrialisation and intriguing cultural diversity it can feel very foreign to the United States you know. Its small-scale agriculture and farming systems have changed little in centuries and in a way seem to have come full circle, with global movements like organic farming, sustainability and artisanal craftsmanship being just business as usual in New Mexico. But don’t think this equates to being backward-looking and on this luxury New Mexico road trip you’ll meet ranchers, scientists, chefs and artists that all have their sights firmly set on the 21st Century and beyond.
Day 1, 2 and 3
Your luxury New Mexico road trip begins in Albuquerque, before you climb into the Sandia Mountains as you follow the pretty Turquoise Trail on your way into Santa Fe. You’ll pass through the former ghost towns of Madrid and Cerrillos, stopping for some bison enchiladas and a wander through the artist’s galleries that now occupy the old miner’s bungalows on Main Street. The road winds down into the heart of Santa Fe and the phenomenal Inn of the Five Graces, one of the leading luxury hotels in New Mexico and the perfect antidote to the rough and tumble of ranching.
Start your time in Santa Fe with a unique culinary experience as you spend the morning at the home of Lois Ellen Frank Ph.D; a chef, James Beard awarded author and leading authority on Native American culinary anthropology. You’ll not only learn about traditional as well as contemporary Native American ingredients and techniques, but also prepare a mouthwatering lunch that you’ll enjoy together.
Back in Santa Fe that afternoon, discover this fascinating city under your own steam, visiting a couple of their world class museums, such as the outstanding New Mexico Museum of Art or the eclectic Museum of International Folk Art.
That evening scrub up for a night at the Santa Fe Opera House, an elegant open-air amphitheater that hosts some of the country’s leading performers. Enjoy a picnic dinner and tailgate as the sun goes down. For an equally enlightening but altogether different experience, head to a dark site south of Santa Fe, where you’ll spend the evening with an astronomer marveling at the planets and moon, as well as star clusters, nebulae and galaxies many light years distant.
The next morning it’s time to engage your grey matter as you pay a visit to the Santa Fe Institute for a tour of the small campus with a faculty member. Founded by scientists from Los Alamos, it’s a research institute focusing on furthering our understanding of complex adaptive systems, which to you and I means answering the ‘Big Questions’, brain twisters like: ‘How do animals make decisions?’, ‘Can law tame politics?’ and ‘Is a friend of a friend a friend?’. After this cerebral work out, rediscover your zen with a luxurious hot tub soak among the pinon and juniper trees at the nearby Ten Thousands Waves, a Japanese onsen hot spring and Santa Fe institution of a very different kind.
After lunch, you’ll be joined by an anthropologist as you leave Santa Fe and drive north to Bandelier National Monument, a must-see canyon lined with ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings. On the way you’ll stop in San Ildefonso Pueblo where’ll you’ll visit the studio of Robert and Barbara Gonzalez, highly regarded artists in their own right, Barbara is the great granddaughter of the internationally renowned potter Maria Martinez.
Day 4,5 and 6
Leaving Santa Fe, you’ll drive the High Road to Taos that takes you through high mountain pueblos with historic churches, picturesque villages, and a concentration of local artisans. Each of the small towns you’ll pass are fascinating, but perhaps the highlight is Chimayo, home to the Santuario de Chimayo, a beautiful church and site of the largest mass pilgrimage in the United States. Pay a visit to Carlos Medina, also known as the ‘chile man’ on account of his fiery chile mixes, before continuing north to the dramatic hilltop town of Truchas, where you’ll meet renowned plein air landscape painter Richard Guzman in his studio. Arriving in Taos you’re assured a warm welcome at the charming Casa Gallina.
Your focus today will be the magical Taos Pueblo, the oldest continually inhabited settlement in the United States and a World Heritage UNESCO site. You’ll be joined by the Director of Tourism for the Pueblo, giving you a unique insight into Puebloan culture, as well as allowing you unparalleled access into the homes of locals.
Finish your time in Taos with a day discovering its cultural treasures a visit to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, the Millicent Rogers Museum, or San Francisco de Asis Church. After lunch, head to the spectacular Rio Grande Gorge, where the earth opens up and plunges 800ft to the tumbling river below. Continuing across the narrow cantilever bridge that spans the gorge to reach the Greater World Earthship Development, a collections of homes (earthships) that have been designed to function entirely on collected rainwater, wind and solar power. You’ll be met by a staff member and together will visit one these otherworldly sustainable homes that have spawned a global movement.
Day 7 and 8
On your route back south to the Los Poblanos Inn, you’ll drive the Low Road that takes you through the lush farmland and orchards that run alongside the Rio Grande. You’ll want to take a detour to the small town of Abiquiu, whose surroundings are some of the most striking in New Mexico and have become inextricably linked with the artist Georgia O’Keeffe. You can pay a visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe House but we’d suggest heading to the Ghost Ranch, where O’Keeffe had a studio, for a hike to Chimney Rock.
Continue on the mountain road that takes you through the beautiful Valles Caldera National Preserve, a series of green valleys at the heart of a giant volcano that collapsed millennia ago.
Spend your final day taking in the lavender fields, cottonwood trees and lush formal gardens that surround the historic Los Poblanos Inn. Perhaps taking a gentle bike ride down the beautiful Bosques Trail, stopping for a picnic on the way, or accompanying a farmer on a stroll through the inn’s organic fields, learning about the native heirloom and landrace crops they grow here, all of which end up in their kitchens. End with a genuine ‘field to fork’ dinner that evening.