Southwestern Exposure

Long a haven for artistic types, Santa Fe beguiles visitors with its creativity, audacity and sense of discovery

WORDS Michael Shulman | Photography Matt Conant
May / June 2019

Founded in 1609 by Spanish colonialists, Santa Fe translates into “Holy Faith,” and more than 400 years later, residents remain passionate about their city—the oldest state capital in the United States. Local hospitality can border on the pathological: It is not unusual for a waiter at one of Santa Fe’s finer dining establishments to eulogize a meal he enjoyed at another restaurant, or for a hotelier to rave to a guest about accommodations across town.

But in the City Different, as it is called, that difference proves to be exceptional. Alongside the signature Southwestern design—rooms painted in earth tones with contrasting shots of turquoise, garnished with Talavera pottery and striped serapes—many of the city’s exquisite features have risen from Santa Fe’s idiosyncratic personality and sense of community. From large-format art and exotic decor to equine encounters and savory moles, we investigate four experiences that capture the spirit of Santa Fe…

The Experience

When Betty Egan bought the Rancho del Monte dude ranch in 1967—and reopened it as Rancho Encantado a year later—she had no idea that her 57-acre retreat at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains would attract the likes of James Stewart, the Dalai Lama and Princess Grace of Monaco. A half-century later, the property is known as the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe, a 65-room luxury retreat packed with clever amenities. The Encantado Suite—the highest point on the property—offers majestic mountain views. A personal butler tends to an in-suite fireplace and offers a DIY s’mores kit (complete with sharpened sticks). And for guests who want to hit the historic Turquoise Trail, the resort’s partnership with Mercedes-Benz will allow you to zip along in a jaunty convertible roadster.

The most memorable experience, perhaps, is located a short but beautiful hike away from the resort, at Thunderbird Ridge. There, bordering the property of Egan’s former home (where local shamans have located two spiritual vortexes), co-founders Kelly Wendorf and J. Scott Strachan have launched a horse-assisted self-empowerment program, Equus.