11th through 15th March 2021
Santa Fe is a town in New Mexico like none other in the entire country of United States. The combination of its culture, history, traditions and scenic landscape truly makes it an exceptional and irreplaceable destination for a versatile vacation. Insides of this post will assist in materializing your trip to this eclectic place of interest.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Given the range of activities that Santa Fe offers, there really isn’t a bad time to visit this town and the nearby picturesque locations. Typically, the summer months (June, July and August) are the most popular with hotel prices being at its peak, although if you are into hiking, I would imagine it to be a bit too warm baring a few long day hikes. Late Spring (April and May) and the Fall (September and October) are more suitable if you prefer cooler and reliable weather. The fall flora, as I imagine, could be an added incentive to experience the enhanced glory of a place already immersed in an exclusive and exquisite landscape. Winters are relatively slower with most tourists visiting the place mainly for skiing and winter sports.
We visited during the Spring Break in mid-March and the weather was quite varied from having to experience a snowstorm on one day to a gorgeous, sunny day on another, making the trip an adventurous and a slightly unpredictable one. Nonetheless, the adverse conditions were transient and did not significantly affect our trip. The snowstorms were mild and restricted to specific areas that still allowed us to explore other nearby attractions without many hurdles.
Several means of commute are available to visit Santa Fe. The Santa Fe Municipal Airport boasts direct flights from Dallas, Denver and Phoenix. Additionally, a lot more flights are available to Albuquerque International Airport which is only a 45 min to an hour drive to Santa Fe. A number of rental cars are available from the airports. The New Mexico Rail Runner is another alternative to commute between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
From Texas, depending on your location, you can either fly or drive. Drive time from San Antonio, Texas to Santa Fe is around 10 hours and is easily doable in one day especially if you start early. In fact, the drive is quite smooth and will give you all the flexibilities that come with having a car in hand throughout the trip. Moreover, it is a safer option for those skeptical about flying during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several hotel and Airbnb rental options are available in and around Santa Fe. We stayed at a three-bedroom hacienda, booked via Airbnb, located 10 mins northwest of downtown Santa Fe, just outside the Aspen Meadows of the Santa Fe National Forest. The house is part of the Bishops Lodge community and offers a gourmet kitchen, a dining area, a living area and three spacious bedrooms with comfortable beds and a full-bath for each. Master Bedroom had a huge Jacuzzi tub to end your day with a rejuvenating bath, although it will exhaust the limit of the warm water in the bathroom for a little while. Wifi was complimentary and worked very well. Each bedroom also offered bathrobes and slippers, linens, closets, TV and a private patio. The house can very comfortably sleep 6. Living area overlooks a patio with an outside kitchen and distant mountain views. Tenants of the hacienda also can use the clubhouse pool for a small fee. The pool however is open only from May through October. Overall, the hacienda provided a very comfortable 4-night stay. Customer service was only available through the phone and would take a minute to respond to your calls.
THINGS TO DO
1. Pueblos: Pueblos are small old Native American communities that live in adobe houses and practice and maintain old traditions such as dances, artistic craftwork, feast days and cultural ceremonies. Visitors are typically welcome to witness any of these activities if visited on scheduled days. However, entering houses is prohibited. Even if you aren’t able to experience the events, mere visiting the area and the surrounding landscapes itself is worth the experience. The Santa Fe area features 8 northern New Mexico pueblos that one can visit. However, to maintain the safety of the residents, all of the pueblos have been closed till date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Santa Fe is surrounded by the gorgeous Santa Fe National Forest that offer numerous hiking options at all levels. The most popular being:
- Nambe Lake Trail: This trail is one of the most popular hikes in the area and a fan favorite. It is a total of 6.5miles in length and rated as a difficult hike on alltrails.com, although I thought it has a moderately difficult climb for most of the trail and gets to a harder and a steeper climb towards the last mile or so. It starts at the parking lot of the Santa Fe Ski Area and is most crowded between May and October months. Look for the signs for Windsor trail (not Nambe). The trail features beautiful aspen and pine trees along the way and views of Mt. Baldy. The endpoint of the trail leads you to the pristine view of the Nambe lake surrounded by pine trees. In the month of March when we visited, the trail was fully covered in snow and shoe crampons were a must to hike this trail. Inspite of it, unfortunately we had to turn back at around 0.2miles from the lake as the snow got deep enough to prohibit proceeding without snowshoes. Nonetheless, the hike was absolutely worth it.
- Bandelier National Monument: The park is a pleasant surprise, situated just a few minutes from the scientific research town of Los Alamos, comprised of unusual trails, narrow canyons, old-age cave dwellings, pteroglyphs and pictographs of the ancient ruins of the Southwest. There are about 70 miles of hiking trails in this park, with the three most popular trails being the Main Loop Trail, Falls Trail and Tsankawi Ruins Trail. The main loop trail (renamed as Pueblo Trail) and the falls trail are paved trails. The Main loop trail is a 1.4mile loop easy trail to witness the partially reconstructed remains of the Tyounyi Village comprising of underground kivas, agricultural sites and eroded cliffs with cavates(small human-carved caves) that can be experienced via climbing the wooden ladders along the way. The hike can be extended to another half a mile to lead you to a 140-foot ladder to the alcove house. The falls trail is another 1. 5mile easy paved trail within the park that leads to a 90-foot waterfall in Frijoles Creek. The Tsankawi Ruins trail is a 1.5mile easy trail located about 12 miles outside of the main section of the park. This is a rocky trail on the top of mesa and should be hiked with caution with good shoes. In the winter with the snow, it can get slippery. Ladders are a required part of the trail. The trail offers scenic view of the surrounding canyons over the Rio Grande with many petroglyphs, cave dwellings and curving pathways along the way.
- Other Popular Hikes:
–Jemez Falls Trail : Popular 0.7mile easy trail leading you to Jemez Falls within the Valles Caldera National Preserve.
–Kasha Kutuwe Tent Rocks: This park features short trails that take you through the exquisite conical sandstone formations that aren’t to be missed during your visit to Santa Fe. However the park remained closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic during our visit.
–Atalaya Mountain Trail . It’s a 6.4mile moderately difficult hike with incredible views by taking you to the summit of Atalaya Mountain.
–Picacho Peak Trail: This hike is also very popular as it is only a 4mile round trip moderately difficult climb to one of the highest hills in the area for epic Santa Fe views. Recommended to hike this trail between June and October.
–Deception Peak and Lake Peak Trail : The hike is 6.6mile round trip but is a strenuous hike suggested mostly for seasoned hikers used to rough terrains. As the name suggests it features a lake and dazzling views. Recommended only between June and October.
–Pecos National Historic Park : Visit this park for historic strolls, picnicking and hiking. While the par offers multiple hiking options, The ruins trail, picnic area and the visitors center are the only areas currently open to visitors.
3. Scenic Drives:
- One of the most prevalently driven scenic drives in New Mexico is the Scenic Byway via the High Road from Santa Fe to Taos and back to Santa Fe via the scenic low road. Spend one full day through this drive, to visit some of the popular attractions along the way, while cruising through some curvy roads of Truchas, rural mountainous towns and stunning scenery and landscapes. Top places to stop on the way:
-Nambe Pueblo and hiking to Nambe Falls (closed during pandemic)
-Santa Cruz Lake
-Cordova, a very small village that is home to traditional wood carvers.
-Picuris Pueblo (closed during pandemic)
– Ski at Sipapu Ski resort (https://www.sipapu.ski/)
– Tiny Ancient Church at Talpa called Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Lagos del Rio Chiquito
-San Francisco De Asis Mission Church
-Taos Art Musuem
-Taos Pueblo (Closed during pandemic)
-Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
- If you are driving from Albuquerque, a scenic drive that maybe worth exploring is the turquoise trail that is about 50 miles to Santa Fe along highway 14 for some breathtaking views, historic towns and restaurants on the way.
4. Abiquiui: Abiquiqi is a beautiful village located in Rio Arriba County, an hour away from Santa Fe. It features a multi-purpose destination from Lake vacations to historic explorations to outdoor adevntures. The artist Georgia O’Keefe lived here, and her studio can be visited to behold her admirable paintings of New Mexico. Several other places to visit in this village include the Plaza Blanca, the Abiquiqi lake, the Echo Amphitheatre, the Ghost Ranch, The Monastery of Christ, poshuouinge Ruins, the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm and the St Thomas Chapel. Details about visiting these places are well described here.
Sadly, a lot of these areas were closed during the pandemic, although a drive through to some of these attractions, itself was well worth it with its unique canyons, rock formations and spectacular vistas along the way.
5. Skiing: There are several skiing options within drive for an hour or two from Santa Fe that offers skiing at all levels, elevations and spectacular views of the Rockies. The closest one being the Santa Fe Ski Resort that boasts one of the highest ski areas in the country. Details about each of the ski areas are provided on the following websites
6. Exploring Santa Fe Town: For culture, art and history lovers, a couple days of your trip can be dedicated to mere discovering the town of Santa Fe. The town offers a plethora of fun and fascinating places to visit through its eclectic and charming lanes, adobe buildings and traditional and contemporary art scene. The canyon Road, Santa Fe Plaza, The Cathedral Basilica St Francis of Assisi, The Georgia O’Keefe Museum, the Loretto Chapel and its wooden staircase without the central column, Meow Wolf art installations and the liquid light glass studio are some of the most commonly visited attractions within the city.
Day 1: Drove to Santa Fe from San Antonio. On the way stopped at the Rosewell UFO museum which mind you was completely worthless.
Day 2: Hiked the Nambe Lake Trail
Day 3: Drove the Taos Scenic Byway and back.
Day 4: Hiked Two trails at Bandelier National Monument (Main Loop Trail and Tsankawi Trai)l and drove to the four points of interest at Abiquiui.
Day 5: Drove back to San Antonio
SantaFe offers all kinds of culinary options with of course the Northern Mexican cuisine being the most popular and exclusive for the region. The red and green chilies are the highlight of the Mexican cuisine and will come with anything savory you may order on the menu. Chilies are an integral part of a lot of the food in Santa Fe and will even come with cheeseburgers and breakfast dishes. Be sure to order the ‘Christmas style’ to try both types of chilies. The Native American Style sopaipillas is a favorite desert in the area and it comes in huge portions!
Finding vegetarian options in Santa Fe was not too difficult although as always, meat items are definitely more common on the menus.
During the time of our visit, New Mexico had just opened up its businesses with limited hours due to the pandemic, and a lot of restaurants closed by 5 or 6pm, therefore takeout was the most convenient option.