The Travel Guide to Santa Fe

Brook Koumbas, Galavante Tastemaker

Travel Santa Fe

The extraordinary views and painted skies are reason enough to visit this unique destination. Located in an Alpine Desert, at an elevation of 7,500 feet, the stars, sunsets, and light bring a unique sense a joy – yes joy – to all who visit.  Santa Fe is known as “The City Different” because of the great amount of culture that surrounds the area. The charm of this small city transports you to a place full of beautiful mountain ranges, wild horses and dirt roads.  There is also authentic New Mexican cuisine, world-class galleries, and an extraordinary five star inn hidden like turquoise within the hillside. This is my travel guide to Santa Fe, from a local’s perspective.

Good For

Come one, come all.  Families, couples, groups and friends and anyone who is curious to explore a fascinating and culturally rich part of the United States.

When to Go 

All year round – this is a destination for anytime of the year.  The summers are low-humidity and the winters bring you the mountains of Tao to hit the ski slopes.  Everything in between is stunning sunset perfection.


The Highlights:

  • Walk around town.  Yes this is a city, but it feels like a town where you immediately feel welcome like a local.  The art galleries, restaurants, shops and cafes make you lose track of time.
  • The art scene.  This is one of the most unique parts of the travel guide to Santa Fe. There’s a reason why Santa Fe inspired Georgia O’Keeffe, one of the greatest contemporary American artists.  Head to her  museum in downntown Santa Fe, then check out the local artists.  Galavante can hook you up with a bespoke art tour based on your interests. Textiles, pottery, watercolor, oil, large installations – this is a place that inspires the most creative of the creative.  My parents are also artists – Elizabeth and Scott Christopher.  Art is ingrained in who we are as a family.  We’d love to have you at our studio!
  • Take a Hike.  As much as there is culture, history and art, there is also a draw to get out in nature.  Santa Fe has stunning hikes; more on our list below.
  • Take a local road trip.  Even when I go home, as I spent my most of my life in Santa Fe, I look forward to driving on the open road.  There is something about the never-ending vistas and freedom you feel as you crank up the tunes and explore with your family.


The best hikes in and near Santa Fe are:

Sun Mountain
Galisteo Basin
Santa Fe Ski Area
Tesuque Creek Trail
Lamy Walks near the Amtrak Station

These are a few of my family’s favorite drives:

High Road to Taos and the Low Road Home / greatest loop in the USA
Madrid Mine Shaft on the old Route 66
Pecos River, great drive and walk along the rive if they like water (there is also the Pecos Monument)

Where to Stay

In my travel guide to Santa Fe, I have to give a shout out to the family-owned hotel in town. My choice when my husband and I are in town and want to treat ourselves for a few days is The Inn of the Five Graces.  It is an experience all onto its own. The Five Graces is a boutique style, family run, ancient adobe establishment. Internationally known exporters of exotic antiques, rugs, textiles, and architectural elements showcase their talents at the property.  Private kivas are stocked with fragrant pinion wood. They deliver fresh chocolate covered strawberries during the duvet turndown. They serve your made to order breakfast in bed or at one of the small beautiful dining areas. No doubt you will leave here feeling as though you traveled to a far off land. Your five senses are pampered in the best of ways.

And then of course, if you want to be out of the center of town and in nature, the Four Seasons is the plush, super luxury option.  They have excellent food venues and a spa that is tops in the state.  Their breakfast is amazing.  If you want to be in the center of town, Rosewood took over the Inn of the Anasazi a while back which is also a beautiful, international choice.  There is also a new Bishops Lodge to add to the travel guide to Santa Fe.

Stay Awhile 

For longer stays, which may not be a bad idea during this pandemic, the company to work with is Santa Fe Rental.  They have access to the best homes in the area. They can make it a full-service experience with concierge, private chef, daily housekeeper and other bespoke services.  One of our favorite houses is Mesa Verde, which looks like a hotel, but is a private adobe home.  It’s an elevated experience with its own art gallery, screening room, massive entertainment space and swimming pool worthy to be in a Drake video.

Out and About

Canyon Road is full art galleries and the most gourmet fine dining in town (Geronimo). Geronimo is set in a 1756 adobe home. Ten Thousand Waves is a Japanese health spa situated at the base of the ski mountain. You want to have a true New Mexican dinner at The Shed.

If you are up for a day trip take the low road to Taos and return to Santa Fe on the high road. This loop provides awe-inspiring scenery and a journey through remote mountain villages. The Taos Pueblo is UNESCO-protected with over 1000 years of tradition through the Native American tribe of Pueblo people. Definitely make the time to stop at Ojo Caliente for a soak in their mineral tubs.

Up in the Air 

Another activity during the summer months is a hot air balloon ride with pilot Johnny. Johnny has over 6000 hours of balloon flights. He runs Santa Fe Balloons. His crew picks you up in a huge pick-up truck from your hotel and takes you out to the middle of nowhere at dawn for the most spectacular ride in the sky. He navigates through the valleys of wide-open spaces. Upon descent their team greets you with champagne, lunch and certificates from your successful hot air balloon ride.

Come Anytime

Any time of year is lovely in this special mountain town. World class skiing is offered during the winter months. It never gets too hot in the summer thanks to the elevation which means zero humidity. There are the Indian and Spanish Markets during July and August. The Santa Fe Wine and Chile Festival in September is festive. Opera season is ideal.

What to Know

A few inside tips from a local: If you fly into Albuquerque take route 66 through the old mining town of Madrid into Santa Fe.  Make sure to stop at the Mine Shaft for the guacamole. Listen to the coyotes howl before bed to appreciate the natural solitude of the area.  Go to Tent Rocks and Bandelier, make sure to properly enjoy a sunset over the horizon (the cross of the Martyrs is a locals favorite). The best moments happen in Santa Fe if you allow things to unfold the way they are meant to be.  Relax and breathe; you’re in Santa Fe.

Restaurants – The Local Favorites

*note Cafe Pasqual’s is on our list too, but is currently closed due to COVID-19.

Thank you to local Tatiana Jacques for her insider list on the very best restaurants in Santa Fe.  We also love Sazon, which is on some of the top lists for restaurants in the world.  We have one word; mole.  It’s not to be missed, but you need to make reservations early to have a chance at this unique Mexican cuisine.

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