Taos, New Mexico: Where To Stay & What To Do by Victoria Ugarte

Taos is a place of remarkable beauty, what with its majestic mountains, high desert landscape, clear day skies and gem encrusted night skies, clean air, and yes, spectacular sunsets. But Taos is not quite America. The vibe is laid back, rustic and individual, with a strong sense of community. In this tri-coloured populated town, people enjoy a special personal freedom and can be whatever they want to be. It’s for this reason that Taos has compelled certain celebrities like Julia Roberts to make their home and raise their young families there. After a few days, it certainly spun its magic on us too.

Taos: Where To Stay

1) The Cottonwood Inn - This rustic pueblo-styled building, which quietly sits on a four-acre block at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, is located just a 10 minute drive from Taos Plaza. It has extensive mountain and mesa views, giving it a sense of seclusion and tranquility. With a gaggle of geese and pair of dogs greeting us as we got down from our car, pebbles crunching under our feet as we made our way to the front door, Innkeeper Brantly Goodwin greeted us warmly with "Welcome to the Cottonwood Inn". He was a wonderful host throughout our stay; chatty, helpful, and terriffic with restaurant recommendations.

All the rooms at the Cottonwood Inn were beautifully decorated in that charming Southwest style and with great attention to detail. Our room was huge with a spacious sitting area, kiva fireplace and a spa. The bathrooms were roomy and absolutely sparkling. Shantal, wife of Brantly, hand-makes all the exquisite guest soaps, lotions and shampoos and are also available for purchase. Every room, including the living areas, have stunning exposed beams across the ceiling. The library is stocked with some great books and magazines, making it tempting for guests just to laze around the inn and read.

Breakfast was served at the courtyard during our stay as it was September and the weather was mild. Surrounded by lush gardens where the hummingbirds flocked, Shantal would prepare the most delicious and creative breakfasts, with eggs taken from their own chickens. The inn’s ambience, Shantal’s cuisine, and Brantley’s hospitality stimulated conversation between guests so that no one was ever in a rush to leave at the end of the meal. At the end of our stay, we felt grounded, rested and recharged, and ready to tackle the drive to our next destination. It was nothing but a pleasure to stay at the Cottonwood Inn from start to finish. HCR 74, Box 24609, El Prado, NM 87529. www.taos-cottonwood.com

2) Casa Benavides -  Casa Benavides is well located in the middle of Taos, close to restaurants and Taos Plaza. All five buildings that house the guest rooms are of adobe construction, with authentic viga ceilings, private baths with Mexican tiles, and rooms individually decorated with handmade furniture, antique and local flavours. Their cooked breakfasts are are quite special, as are the afternoon teas offering home made pastries. However, one needs to be specific in requesting a room at Casa Benavides. Certain guestrooms close to US 64 get some traffic noise, while in other rooms plumbing noises make a good night’s rest difficult when guests next door decide to have a late night shower. 137 Kit Carson Rd., Taos. www.taos-casabenavides.com

3) Casa Europa Inn and Gallery - The classic New Mexican estate of Casa Europa is only a 2-minute drive from Taos Plaza and is situated in a quiet and pretty street. Originally built in the 1790‘s, this 18th century historic adobe structure offers 7 unique and spacious rooms, each room with its own solitude seating area and private bath. The fact that each guest room is quite separate  from the others make for a comfortable and tranquil stay. The expansive house features a large sitting room filled with local art, while the grounds have views of open pastures and the majestic mountains as a perfect backdrop. Although the incredible breakfasts, with delicacies such as Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes, Salsa and Goats Cheese Omelette, and French Toast Souffle, will tickle any gourmand’s palate, owners Lisa and Joe will be happy to cater to any dietary requirement if they are given notice.  Home made pastries are baked from scratch everyday and served for afternoon tea. Baby sitting services are available, and Casa Europa is also pet friendly. 840 Upper Ranchitos Rd., Taos.  www.casaeuropanm.com

4) The Historic Taos Inn - The Historic Taos Inn is nestled in Taos’ historic district, is within walking distance to the Taos Plaza, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The inn’s architecture is Spanish-colonial and its 44 rooms are located in four buildings scattered around the property. Helen’s House, the newest addition, offers the inn’s more spacious and up-market rooms. Catering to families and disabled, The Historic Taos Inn has a restaurant on the premises called Doc Martin’s which serves regional new-American fare. It is also home to The Adobe Bar, a great place to hang out, drink killer “Cowboy Buddha” margaritas, and listen to jazz, bluegrass, country, folk, and watch flamenco. Although music from the bar may be an issue when staying at The Historic Taos Inn, it ends relatively early. Traffic noise may be a bigger issue. But it’s real simple; just request a quiet room when you book. 125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos. www.taosinn.com

5) Orinda Bed and Breakfast - A 70 year old adobe hacienda that is situated just 10 minutes by foot from the centre of town, Orinda B&B, which means “Harmony of the Soul”,  gives you the feeling of being another world away. Quiet and peaceful, overlooking pastures punctuated with elms and giant cottonwoods, the mountain views from this establishment are absolutely spectacular. The rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated, feature handmade beds, original art from local artists, and have adjoining sitting areas so that you can relax and enjoy the incredible vistas whilst reading or sipping a glass of wine. The bathrooms are roomy and spotlessly clean. Bar fridges in each room offer soft drinks and bottle water and are stocked daily. The sensational breakfasts are thanks to inn-keeper John,  who happens to be a professional chef, and are served in a sky-lit dining room cum gallery, which is decorated with original local art, antiques and Navajo rugs. 461 Valverde Street, Taos.  www.orindabb.com

6) Touchstone Inn Spa and Gallery - Conveniently located just 1.6 kilometres north of Taos Plaza, the Touchstone Inn is a lovingly restored adobe structure situated amongst the tall trees at the edge of Taos Pueblo land. The rooms and common areas of the Touchstone are beautifully appointed in a refined Southwestern style, with kiva fireplaces in nearly every guest room. The ambience is relaxing, with classical guitar or piano sounds gently wafting through the building. As well as attention to detail in decor, guest amenities include a coffee maker, ice bucket, wine glasses and bottle opener in all rooms, along with exquisite toiletries, plush bathrobes and dryers in all the bathrooms. The dramatic natural surroundings are there for guests to enjoy, with a secret garden and a labyrinth waiting to be explored. The Riverbend at Touchstone offers massages and treatments in any one of the indoor spa rooms, outdoors next to the river, or near the fountain with the majestic mountains as a backdrop. Their breakfasts are outstanding and are prepared with a variety of natural and organic produce. Most dietary restrictions can be met. And with 2 other inns adjoining Touchstone, events of a maximum of 50 people can be accommodated and catered for. 110 Mabel Dodge Lane, Taos.  www.touchstoneinn.com

Things To Do In Taos:

1) Arroyo Seco: The tiny town of Arroyo Seco is located on the Taos Ski Valley Road at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, on the way Taos Ski Valley. It is both a charming rural Hispanic village and a small commercial hub, catering to refined tastes. Check out Francesca’s clothing boutique, occupying the old post office, and Antiquarius Imports, specialising in elegant home furnishings of museum quality.

2) Visit Taos Ski Valley: Just half an hours drive from Taos Plaza, Taos Ski Valley is a year-round alpine playground. At a base elevation of 9,207 feet, world-class skiing and snowboarding in the Winter gives way to horse riding, golf and hiking in the Summer. As they say in Taos, “Don’t miss the mountain!”. www.skitaos.org

3) Visit Taos Pueblo: Taos Pueblo is located nearly 5 kilometres north of Taos Plaza, is the home of the Taos Pueblo Indians, a world heritage site, and a definite “must see”. Inhabited for over 1,000 years, it is one of the oldest communities in the United States and is a part of Taos’ roots. Their native language is Tiwa. www.taospueblo.com

4) Rio Grande Gorge Bridge - Suspended 650 feet above the Rio Grande River, in the middle of the Rio Grande Gorge, is the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, the second highest suspension bridge in the United States. Called the “Bridge To Nowhere” while it was being built due to the lack of funding to develop the road on the other side, it was dedicated on September 10, 1965 as part of the US Route 64 and was awarded the “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the long span category by the American Institute of Steel Construction.

5) Earthship Biotecture - A series of radically sustainable green homes made of recycled materials, powered by the sun and the wind, catching water, treating sewage etc., we found these structures fascinating and compelled us to look at our own homes in a different way. Only in Taos! 1 Earthship Way, 2.4 kilometres past the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Hwy 64 W.

6) Millicent Rogers Museum - Art patron, Millicent Rogers, a stunning beauty, socialite and talented designer in her own right in the 1940’s and early 50’s, was a passionate collector who assembled a distinguished collection of native American silver and Turquoise jewelry, and Navajo and Rio Grande weavings, all of which are housed at the Millicent Rogers Museum. Situated  just over six and a half kilometres from Taos Plaza, the museum collection has expanded to include traditional and Hispanic religious and domestic arts, pottery, paintings, photography, and a wide range of arts and crafts from the manu cultures of northern New Mexico. 1504 Millicent Rogers Road, Taos. www.millicentrogers.org

7) Wild Earth Llama Adventures -  For those looking for a truly special outdoor experience, llama trekking is the way to go. Llama trekking is hiking (and camping, if you have more time) in New Mexico’s pristine Rocky Mountain and high desert wilderness with a team of friendly pack llamas. On the trail, you can enjoy the beauty of the wilderness around you while a naturalist guide shares information about local history, ecology and plant life, while the gentle llamas do all the hard work and carry your gear. A delicious picnic lunch is provided for you. This is a wonderful wilderness experience for all ages and fitness levels. www.LlamaAdventures.com

Other Things To Do In Taos:

Taos is best known as a premier ski resort. However, it offers a plethora of other activities, especially after the snow melts.  Below are a few activity suggestions and their relevant contacts:

Ballooning:
Eske’s Paradise Balloons www.taosballooning.com

Fishing:
Red River Stables LLC www.redriverstables.com
Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort www.sipapunm.com
Streit Fly Fishing/ Taos Fly Shop www.streitflyfishing.com
Taos Ski Valley www.skitaos.org

Golf Course:
Taos Country Club www.taoscountryclub.info
Taos Ski Valley Inc. www.skitaos.org
Valle Escondido Golf Course www.eveha.com/golf

Hiking/ Biking:
Far Flung Adventures www.farflung.com
Red River Stables LLC www.redriverstables.com
Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort www.sipapunm.com
Taos Ski Valley Inc. www.skitaos.org

Rafting/ Canoeing:
Big River Raft Trips www.bigriverrafts.com
Far Flung Adventures www.farflung.com
Los Rios River Runners www.losriosriverrunners.com

Snowmobiling:
AA Taos Ski Valley Wilderness Adventures, LLC www.aataosskivalleywildernessadventures.com

Snowboarding:
Angel Fire Resort www.angelfireresort.com
Red River Ski Area www.redriverskiarea.com
Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort www.sipapunm.com
Taos Ski Valley Inc. www.skitaos.org

Skiing:
Adventure Ski Shops www.adventureskishops.com
Angel Fire Resort www.angelfireresort.com
Cottam’s Ski & Outdoor Shop www.cottamsskishops.com
Red River Ski Area www.redriverskiarea.com
Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort www.sipapunm.com
Taos Ski Valley Inc. www.skitaos.org

Cross Country Skiing:
Adventure Ski Shops www.adventureskishops.com
Angel Fire Resort www.angelfireresort.com
Cottam’s Ski & Outdoor Shop www.cottamsskishops.com
Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski & Snowshoe Area www.enchantedforestxc.com

Snow Shoeing:
Adventure Ski Shops www.adventureskishops.com
Cottam’s Ski & Outdoor Shop www.cottamsskishops.com
Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski & Snowshoe Area www.enchantedforestxc.com
Far Flung Adventures www.farflung.com
Taos Ski Valley Inc. www.skitaos.org

Horse Riding:
AA Taos Ski Valley Wilderness Adventures, LLC www.aataosskivalleywildernessadventures.com
Equine Spirit Sanctuary www.equinespiritsanctuary.org
Red River Stables LLC www.redriverstables.com
Rio Grande Stables www.lajitastables.com/taos.htm
Roadrunner Tours Ltd Riding Stables www.rtours.com
Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort www.sipapunm.com
Taos Indian Horse Ranch www.TaosIndianHorseRanch.com
Taos Ski Valley Inc. www.skitaos.org

Massage and Spa Treatments:
Taos Spa & Tennis Club www.taosspa.com
Taos Center For Natural Healing - 219 Cavalry Rd, Taos. Ph 751 1616.



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