I was proud last week to see that Santa Fe, the capital of my adopted home state of New Mexico, won National Geographic's 2017 Sense of Place honor in its World Legacy Awards, beating out Awamaki, Peru, and Adventure Canada for the category recognizing sustainability and historical preservation.
It is a prestigious distinction that will no doubt enhance the city's marketing efforts as luxury travelers increasingly seek out the authentic.
Even better, however, is its potential for raising awareness about the economically challenged state's still largely unknown destinations and the growing number of luxe options for experiencing its unique landscapes and rich mix of Native American and Hispanic cultures.
In Albuquerque, for instance, the larger stepchild city that many see only from the highway as they head from the airport to the more popular mountain destinations of Santa Fe and Taos, Heritage Hotels is preparing to open its boutique Hotel Chaco, situated in the heart of Old Town and boasting stunning views of the Sandia Mountains.
With its entire design inspired by the ancient Chacoan pueblo architecture and culture, the hotel has partnered with Heritage Inspirations to offer exclusive guided daytrips to Chaco Culture National Historical Park beginning in May.
The Pueblo Bonito site in Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Heritage Hotels & Resorts
A Unesco World Heritage Site in northwestern New Mexico, Chaco Culture was home to a thriving Pueblo culture between 850 and 1250 that designed its timber and sandstone buildings to align with the movement of the sun, moon and stars.
The hotel will offer group and private tours to the park, which is about three-and-a-half hours from Albuquerque, including guides and gourmet picnics. The hotel said it is also planning to offer overnight excursions in the near future.
Billionaire conservationist Ted Turner has also been working to up the ante on authentic ecotourism in New Mexico through Ted Turner Expeditions, which offers hiking, mountain biking and other adventure and outdoor activities from his three New Mexico ranches and his Sierra Grande Lodge & Spa hotel in the hippie hot springs town of Truth or Consequences. Guests can also rent out his private homes at two of the ranches.
And one of the New Mexico's best luxe secrets, Albuquerque's historic Los Poblanos inn and organic farm, is expanding. Situated in the heart of the city's North Valley amidst lavender fields, cottonwood trees and formal gardens, the 20-room hotel is currently undergoing a remodeling and expansion project to add rooms and turn its historic dairy barns into an expanded farm-to-table restaurant, bar, bakery and retail space.
Santa Fe, of course, has no shortage of luxury properties, including Rosewood's Inn of the Anasazi and the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado. But it will also soon boast a notable entrant, the world's first Langham branded resort.
Langham Hotels & Resorts is taking over the management of Santa Fe's famed Bishop's Lodge when a multimillion dollar renovation is completed next year. Located in the foothills of New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo Mountains, just four miles from downtown Santa Fe, the resorts sits on 317 acres and includes private stables and trails for horseback riding.