The Turquoise Trail, New Mexico: Where To Stay & Eat by Victoria Ugarte

The Turquoise Trail is the drive from Albuquerque to Santa Fe along the New Mexico Highway 14. This has been a major trading route since 2000 BC and was especially known for the old mines that dotted the countryside, where explorers first sought gold and found turquoise. This scenic country drive, with vast mountain vistas and rugged rock formations, will take you through the rustic towns of Cerillos and Madrid (pronounced Maa’-drid locally), both quaint and well worth visiting.

Cerillos: Cerillos is a few miles north of Madrid on Highway 14. This picturesque town still has unpaved streets that thread through an Old West town that remains unchanged since the 1880’s. You’ll feel like you’ve just stepped back in time. There are a small variety of museums, historic sites, and outdoor getaways which you may want to take advantage of while you’re here, especially if you’re travelling with kids.

Madrid: Nestled in a narrow canyon in the Ortiz Mountains lies Madrid (pronounced Maa’-drid locally), an old coal-mining town that started in the 1850’s. What saved it from becoming a ghost town was the colony of artists who decided to settle here and make it their home. Now a thriving creative community boasting more artists per capita than anywhere in the world, it is also especially popular with bikers, giving it a funky, come-as-you-are kind of charm. Madrid offers the traveler 40 shops and galleries that sell a variety of wares; contemporary and traditional art, native jewelry, pottery, wood carvings, women’s boutique clothing and second-hand goods.

Cerillos & Madrid : Where To Stay

Cerillos and Madrid are more “passing-through” towns than destinations in themselves. Nevertheless, if you choose to spend the night in the area, Madrid does have some accommodation in the town itself and on the outskirts of both Madrid and Cerillos.

El Rancho de las Golondrinas: For a scenic side trip as you’re heading north towards Santa Fe on NM14, take the country road 45 northwest through Cerillos Hills to El Rancho de las Golondrinas (Spanish for “Ranch of the Swallows”) in La Cienega. Once a working ranch in the 19th century, the 200-acre property is now a Spanish Colonial living history museum, hosting family-oriented festivals throughout the year that celebrate traditional arts and crafts, farming and ways of life. A great opportunity to experience life from another time. 334 Los Pinos Road, Santa Fe, NM. There are guided tours available at El Rancho de las Golondrinas from April through October. All groups must have museum guides. For more information, go to:

Ghost Town Lodging in Madrid is a small yet comfortable B&B which features a secluded courtyard and private parking. 2864 State Hwy 14, Madrid, NM.

The Java Junction B&B is a quaint Victorian B&B/ gift shop/ coffee shop that is smack bang in the heart of Madrid. It serves the best coffee in town and offers burritos, brownies, cookies and pastries from the areas’ bakeries. 2855 State Hwy 14, Madrid, NM.

Madrid Casita is a private lodging that is situated on site of “Winch House”, a historic cottage which is close to one of the mines. It offers a tastefully decorated and clean casita, with a full kitchen, Queen bed, complementary tea and coffee, and surrounded by a lovely sculpture garden. 2785 Highway 14, Madrid NM.

Hacienda Dona Andrea will be more up your alley if you are looking for a more rural experience. Situated between Madrid and Santa Fe in the Ortiz Mountains, Hacienda Dona Andrea was awarded “Top Lodging” by Travel Guide in 2011 by Sunset Magazine. It has nine delightful guest rooms, each with fireplace, patio and own bathroom. Breakfast is a basket with fresh treats from the local bakeries and seasonal fruit. The hacienda has spectacular mountain views and boasts a restaurant named “La Cocina de Rosa” that offers Spanish and Mexican traditional dishes. 78 Vista del Oro, Cerrillos, NM.

High Feather Ranch B&B is located on 65 private acres slightly south of Santa Fe, near the town of Cerillos. It’s a tranquil oasis that offers King size beds, fireplaces, private patios, whirlpool baths, down pillows, 300 count Egyptian cotton sheets, and gourmet breakfasts. Outside, there are 65 golden acres for horseriding or bushwalking, spectacular views, and star-encrusted night skies. It’s got all the peace and quiet you can handle. In fact, you may never want to leave. 29 High Feather Ranch, Cerillos, NM.

Cerillos & Madrid: Where To Eat

San Marcos Cafe in Cerillos is hard to find. In fact, blink and you’ll miss it. But despite the minimal signage, do give this quaint cafe a try as some of their specialties will blow you away. Look for the clump of trees near the mile marker “39” on the Turquoise Trail (past the NM State penitentiary with the windmill to your right). The cinnamon buns  are huge and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, the New Mexico Crepe (scrambed eggs with ground beef and chili) will set you up nicely for the day, the Carne Adobada (marinated meat) is sublime, and if available, don’t miss the chipotle/ pecan soup. In fact, be adventurous and try a dish that the owner has posted up for the day on the specials board. And when you’re all done, take a moment to stroll outside amongst the peacocks, turkeys and chickens. A real experience. 3877 SR-14, Cerillos, NM.

The Hollar in Madrid derives its name from the Southern derivation of “hollow”, as in the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, and that is the impression this restaurant gives you as you walk in off the main street: a hidden spot tucked away in the woods. But don’t let the sleepy and rustic ambience fool you. Chef Josh Novack dishes up some fine Southern cuisine with a fresh, light touch, serving it up with a great selection of wines and beer. We chose a warm goats cheese for lunch. It came beautifully presented and brimming with goodness from fresh local produce, and it was absolutely delicious. We enjoyed it with a glass of chilled white wine as we sat back under the shade of the tree on the front courtyard, watching the world go by.  You’ll find The Hollar on the main strip in Madrid, on 2849 State Highway 14, Madrid, NM.

The Java Junction serves the best coffee in Madrid, hands down. You can’t miss it as it’s in the middle of town, opposite the Mine Shaft Tavern and the Old Coal Mine Museum. It’s upbeat, friendly, and offers burritos, brownies, cookies and pastries from the area’s bakeries. 2855 State Hwy 14, Madrid, NM.

The Mine Shaft Tavern in Madrid was built in 1946 and remains one of the most historic bars in Santa Fe, retaining much of its yesteryear charm. In fact, rustic doesn’t quite cut it at The Mine Shaft as much as “raw”. Serving New Mexican and home-style American fare, the food is tasty and as “American Southwest” as you can get. You can blame the crowds and plethora of personalities on the Hollywood movie “Wild Hogs”, a scene of which was filmed at the tavern. The music is great on a Sunday afternoon (blues, rock, folk and soul), and the margaritas, freshly squeezed, are the best for miles. The toilets are pretty funky and the museum is a tad “ho-hum”, but hey, nothing’s perfect in this world. Worth the experience.  2846 Stte Hwy 14, Madrid, NM.

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