It’s not surprising that Santa Fe, the city of holy faith (loosely translated) is sometimes called Fanta Se sardonically by residents of other parts of New Mexico. After all, the longtime artists’ haven and seekers’ paradise bears witness to a certain woo-woo-ness, an otherworldly layer that goes beyond its impossibly fulgent sunsets, purple-crested Sangre de Cristo mountains, piñon-peppered ridges, dramatic red-earthed arroyos, and lavender fields. It’s something one feels. As D.H. Lawrence wrote of it: “Touch the country and you’ll never be the same again.” For centuries, perhaps millenniums, people have been drawn to this terrain (and then, later, the storied, Mexican and Spanish-intoned city itself) for healing, to spur change, and to awaken their interior landscape. The area continues to hold sacred significance for Native Americans, has been a sanctum for tuberculosis patients, boasts centuries-old churches and missions built by the Spanish, and today encompasses a rich range of Zen institutes, New Age centers, and portals for spiritual questers and worshipers of every stripe.
So, I’m not astonished in the least when Lisa Ray, lead esthetician at Four Seasons Rancho Encantado, describes the spellbinding effect of the city. “I came for a weekend visit—and knew I couldn’t return to my old life,” she say as she gracefully rubs a lavender cream into my skin during a sublime facial. She’s not the first person I’ve heard make that statement during my recent trip, and incredibly, perhaps inevitably, an hour later, Tina Hay, the spa director relates a similar story. She had come to Santa Fe from Houston for a getaway during the pandemic, and like Ray, decided she needed to stay. Both, of course, ended up at Four Seasons Rancho Encantado—and as Carl Jung says: “There are no coincidences.”
Palpable Magic Above an Energy Vortex
A heart-melting luxury compound just north of the city, Rancho Encantado (Enchanted Ranch) sprawls for 57 untrammeled acres. Composed of evocative southwestern, casita-style guest rooms built around an inviting pool, with an award-winning restaurant and edged by hiking trails, the hotel’s palpable magic comes to climax in its 10,000-square-foot spa. Conceived in the shape of a wagon wheel, the gorgeous spa, with a courtyard as its nucleus, mimics the form of a dream catcher or a prayer wheel. Already sacred in shape, the spa’s profundity only gained depth when upon its blessing at the 2008 opening, a local shaman discovered an energy vortex in its round, kiva-inspired reception area. “Some of the spa’s therapists believe that this energy enhances their ability to provide guests with the ‘ultimate healing experience,'” says Hay, who has been working to “curate and relaunch unique treatment experiences to expand our spa offerings for guests as we transition out of the pandemic.” She’s added a regionally inspired collection of Lavender Pinon treatments that use fresh pine nuts infused with the soothing scent of lavender, as well as fortified the fitness program with daily hikes, a Peloton bike, and added SUP Yoga, SUP Fitness and poolside. But that’s not all.
She keeps the vortex in mind at all times. And, collaborating with Lisa Ray, who deeply connects to the energy, the two have crafted a variety of treatments built to work in concert with the vibrational vortex. For example, seasonally, they offer sound bath meditation in the courtyard, followed by a calming massage, enhanced by Heartful Vibrational Oil, a nurturing blend of rose, geranium, and basil or the Mountain Spirit Purification Retreat, which begins with a smudging ritual, then uses clay and stone from the region.
Conceived in the shape of a wagon wheel, the gorgeous spa mimics the form of a dream catcher or a prayer wheel.
Expanding the Wellness Experience
What’s next? “We are committed to expanding the wellness experiences to add a series of ongoing offerings that include sunset and sunrise mindful meditation that incorporates guided sessions through the hiking trails on property, sound bath meditation sessions, and ongoing wellness workshops ranging from skincare techniques to journaling for wellbeing for both guests and local spa-goers to enjoy,” shares Hay. “Additionally, we plan to begin offering Weekend Wellness Retreats and expand the treatment skincare lines, create a nutritious spa culinary menu, and incorporating innovative touches throughout the spa space.”
Take Home a Taste of Rancho Encantado
I first tasted Chef Jose Fernandez’s lustrous gazpacho at sunset, sitting outside Terra, the restaurant he helms at Four Seasons Rancho Encantado. Sweetened with the addition of watermelon, spiked with an umami-evoking Chimayo spice, and given the most Lilliputian bit of burn from Santa Fe chile-flecked oil, the stunning summer soup matched the exuberance of the sky over the Sangre de Cristo in the distance. My tastebuds experienced a burst of kaleidoscopic perfection, the tomato-y liquid, made thick with the traditional pureed bits of rustic bread like a dance through the high desert terrain, the external and internal worlds melding as one, a gift from this stellar chef, originally from Barcelona. Indeed, it was another Sante Fe moment.
Watermelon-Tomato Gazpacho with Chimayo Spice & Santa Fe Chile Oil
Makes 5 Servings
Ingredients: 5 ripe red tomatoes • ¼ piece of watermelon • 1 cucumber • 5 garlic cloves • 1 white onion • 1 string of celery • 2 cups day-old rustic bread • ½ cup sherry vinegar • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil • 1 teaspoon oregano • Salt and pepper to taste • 1 cup of water, more if needed
Presentation ingredients: 1 teaspoon Santa Fe Chile Oil or any other flavored good quality oil • 10 Sun Gold tomatoes or red cherry cut in half • 10 pieces of micro cilantro or any other micro spice herb • 5 small pieces of toasted rustic bread • 1 teaspoon Chimayo Chili spice or any other good quality chili spice
Instructions: Cut the tomatoes, bread, onion, celery, watermelon, and cucumbers to a 1-inch size, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, place all previously cut ingredients, add half of the extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar. Season with salt, pepper, and the oregano. Let it set for at least 30 to 40 minutes in the fridge. Even better if you let it set overnight. In a high-speed food processor, blend all the ingredients until smooth, taste for seasoning and consistency. If needed, add more water and/or ice. Let it chill overnight, if possible, taste for acidity and add more sherry vinegar if needed.
Presentation: Place the tomatoes, toasted bread, micro cilantro, chile oil, and chili powder in the serving bowl and place the cold gazpacho soup on the side. Enjoy!
Becca Hensley is Editor at Large for Insider's Guide to Spas. Based in Austin, she writes regularly about travel and spas. She believes a good story draws you in like laughter in a crowded room, and challenges you to do it justice. Her work appears regularly in Austin Monthly, Travel Channel, Toronto Star and National Geographic Traveler.