I find myself drawn to vast expanses of rare, natural beauty that overwhelm your senses. I love driving through moonscape-like dried lava flows blanketing The Big Island's landscape for miles and miles in Hawaii. The extraordinarily dramatic, bright orange sand dunes of Namibia's desert (recently the backdrop of Mad Max: Fury Road) have captured my imagination for years. The name "Namibia" is even derived from "vast place," and it's said to have the world's oldest desert. Another spot that fascinates me is Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat at almost 4,000 square miles, located near the crest of the Andes. The deep, endless monochrome of the lava, dunes, and salt in blazing contrast to their surroundings visually just blows my mind, and I want to photograph it for days.
Namibia and Bolivia must remain on my bucket list a bit longer, but the landscape pictured above is another other-worldly spot I'd LOVE to see that's closer to home - White Sands National Park in New Mexico! New Mexico offers stunning landscapes, art, culture, history, and cuisine and is one of my favorite states! When I was a North America Product Manager for Tauck in 2017, I scouted the best of the best for the New Mexico tour that I refreshed with new hotels and activities. I hope you enjoy this list I've compiled with my recommendations for an incredibly scenic, inspiring trip in this magical state.
Four Seasons Rancho Encantado Santa Fe - I spent a glorious afternoon in 2017 touring this property and enjoying a sumptuous lunch. It's located a few minutes from downtown Santa Fe and is perfect for anyone seeking a more remote, quiet, luxurious getaway surrounded by natural beauty and hiking trails.
Inn and Spa at Loretto, Santa Fe - I was so smitten with this hotel and its central location in Santa Fe that I changed Tauck's NM tour to include this property. Do indulge in their award-winning spa.
Hotel Chaco, Albuquerque - I spent a day here in 2017 too and similarly was so moved by its masterful, even spiritual, artisan decor plus great location in a new trendy part of town that Tauck guests now stay at Hotel Chaco because of me. There's a great contemporary art gallery of local artists on the first floor, and Hotel Chaco's homemade shrubs at their bar are deliciously addictive!
Vermejo, a Ted Turner Reserve, Raton - At Vermejo guests enjoy the American West’s premier ecotourism experience, connecting with nature on over 550,000 acres of Ted Turner’s private ranch. It’s like having a national park all to yourself! Guides create outdoor activities tailored to your interests and skill level, then you can unwind with carefully chosen wines and farm-to-table cuisine.
Explore all the uniquely wonderful New Mexico hotels across the Virtuoso portfolio.
Top Santa Fe and Albuquerque Experiences
Georgia O'Keefe House & Studio Tour: Amid the southwest landscapes she immortalized at Abiquiú
Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe
Glass Blowing Art Workshop, Santa Fe: A fun, private experience great for families with young kids
Private Cooking Class: An award-winning Native American chef who's also an anthropologist will teach you about Native American cooking techniques and ingredients
Santa Fe Art Tours: Join an expert art guide through artist galleries and studios
Anthropology History Tour of Santa Fe
National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in Albuquerque
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque - This is also a super-yummy place to lunch!
Turquoise Trail: Albuquerque to Santa Fe is a route rich with artisan craftsmanship
Native American Cliff Dwellings: An insightful day trip from Santa Fe or Albuquerque
Seasonal Events: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Meow Wolf, Santa Fe Opera (once reopened)
Top Cultural Experiences in Off-the-Beaten Track Towns
Art and Culture of Ancient Pueblo People: Meet artisans and learn about their crafts and traditions like weaving and working with stones and gems
White Sands National Park in the south: Revel in this off-the-radar park with fewer visitors as you explore the world's largest gypsum dunefield
Bison and Wildlife Photography Class - in the north
Taos Pueblo tour (Note: This closes without much notice for their community activity and needs.)
Taos Wellness Adventure
Downtown Taos Orientation
Private Tour of Earthship Site - Check out the inventive architecture of these off-the-grid homes
Nine Muses Travel works with an exceptional North American tour operator who can customize private travel for you and your companions with these benefits for all my clients.
Expert guides: naturalists, adventure guides, and unique locals
Comfortable, safe, and luxurious vehicles
24/7 real-time support
Competitive rates at four and five star properties
Deep destination knowledge