New Mexico is known for gorgeous lighting with epic sunsets of red, orange and purple blazing through the sky. Vast open spaces dotted with cedar trees, juniper, and sage brush in varying shades of green framed by mountains make you feel as though you’re in a painting. Adobe architecture against bright blue sky, and the smell of burning piñon set the mood to be swept away. It’s no wonder so many artists have chosen the state as a geographical muse.
Taos is a quirky remote northern town with a population of about 6000 people 7000 ft above sea level. You have to either drive Route 68, take the scenic High Road, or fly into their tiny airport via a small plane. The town is situated at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Rio Grande River cuts through offering beautiful views and a fun ride for those who like to play outside. Sustainable homes known as Earthships, historical sites like the Taos Pueblo where people have lived for hundreds of years, a plaza for shopping, cute neighborhoods to explore, a wealth of outdoor activities, and food worth the drive north from Santa Fe are part of what Taos has to offer.
Here are five things to do while you’re there.
El Monte Sagrado Hotel is the place to stay. A sparkling ceiling with a spiral motif captivates you as you walk in the lobby and from there it just gets more interesting. The unique and eclectic atmosphere of El Monte Sagrado makes other hotels seem completely boring by contrast. The magic is in the little details that went into design and a tranquil natural setting. Even basic rooms are gorgeous with comfortable cowhide furnishings, turquoise studded skulls above the fireplaces, patios, and sunken bathtubs surrounded by smooth white stones. The whole place radiates a soothing and artful energy. Lush, green grounds with waterfalls and meandering pathways create an almost meditative ambiance and a grotto-like pool offers a great place to unwind after an active day in the mountains.
As with the rest of this property, the spa is remarkable. A gold Buddha statue greets you at the door setting a calming tone, and you can sip tea in the atrium-like relaxation area. Ask for the room with the adobe fireplace and skylight. A soothing fire glows as you watch birds fly overhead during your treatment. Premium shea butter and local scents like juniper and sage smell divine and soothe your skin after being in the desert.
Farm to fork food made from scratch served in dreamy surroundings is what you’ll find at The Love Apple. Whether you dine al fresco with twinkling white bistro lights overhead in the courtyard or inside the cozy restaurant, you get delicious healthy organic comfort food that was prepared with intention. An inspired menu changes with the seasons. Vegetarians will find exquisite options like peach and goat cheese salad with homemade corn muffins while omnivores can choose antelope and other fare you don’t normally see on a menu.
Start your day River Rafting the Rio Grande for a quintessential Taos experience. Los Rios River Runners is the oldest and most experienced rafting company in Taos, so you feel like you’re in capable hands. They offer several options to suit your comfort level including the difficult Taos Box, moderate Race Course, and calming Floats. Duckie boats, or inflatable kayaks are available for those who’d rather go solo. Special trips like a Native Cultures Feast Float and Sunset Dinner Floats are offered seasonally.
Located in Arroyo Seco, a cute little village about seven miles from downtown Taos at the base of the Sangres, Taos Cow offers unbelievably good homemade ice-cream. After you get a cone, sit by the creek that runs through town, or wander around the shops and galleries.
Head into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on horseback with Big Al Johnson for spectacular high altitude views. Big Al is a big hearted Texan cowboy full of entertaining stories and an immaculate horse camp. There’s a covered wagon on display and wooden horses to practice your technique. It’s a perfect ride for children and beginners.
Images #1 and #2: Shutterstock
Leah DeAngelis is Editor of Best Travel Gear.