Santa Fe, New Mexico | Travel Guide

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

A few weeks ago we spent an extended weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico and I must say, it stood up to all the hype. This place is ultra foodie, breathtakingly beautiful, full of culture and art, and uber chill. The trip was an excuse for QT in a fun location with my parents, and we left rejuvenated and inspired. Below are a few shots from our visit, along with a bit on where we stayed, hiked, and ate: in that order. (Thanks again to my parents for making it happen!)

Related: 8 Secrets: How to Take Better Pictures on Vacation

Other Travel Guides:
US: Alaska (Juneau) | Alaska (Glacier Bay) | Utah (Arches) | Arizona (Flagstaff) | Michigan (Traverse City)
Europe: Italy (Amalfi Coast) | Italy (Rome & Naples) | Greece (Santorini)

Digs

Our house for the weekend was The Artist’s Retreat, a perfect home base for the week. It was in a neighborhood close to downtown, which we’d recommend for convenience. We’re big fans of online home or apartment rentals like Airbnb and VRBO (check out the sweet little places we found in Alaska and Rome & Naples), since they have so much personality and feel so much more homey than the typical hotel.

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks
Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Hikes

Bandelier National Monument

When we travel we prioritize two things: hiking and food (you may notice that trend in our travel guides). We did three separate hikes outside Santa Fe, each more impressive than the next. First was Bandelier National Monument, full of natural beauty, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and petroglyphs. The best part was that we got to climb ladders into said dwellings, which made us feel like big kids. (The ladders were a little scary to be honest – Alex didn’t even attempt them.)

I kept remarking that the rocks reminded me of those in Santorini (search the word “Vlychada” in this this post — do you agree?).

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

It looks easy from back here, but climbing down while suspended in mid-air without a view of your next foothold was a little unsettling.

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Tsankawi Prehistoric Site

We did another quick hike after Bandelier (located here), and we all agreed we enjoyed it even more than the first. It felt more intimate and much of the hike followed narrow channels worn in the soft rock (it almost felt engineered, like Disney Land). There were also petroglyphs and an incredible view. Don’t miss this one if you’re in the area.

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Tent Rocks

Tent Rocks was undoubtedly the most impressive hike of them all, and one of the more stunning landscapes I’ve seen in the US outside of Utah (Arches + Monument Valley). The arch-shaped formations are completely natural. Alex and I felt like we were on the set of Star Wars (pretty sure Luke Skywalker lived in here at some point). If you’ve got time for one hike in New Mexico, this is it.

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Intense hiker vibes.

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Eats

Santa Fe is a dining mecca, so it was difficult to decide on just a few restaurants (since time was limited and many of our meals were hiking to go). Here are a few highlights:

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

The best dining Santa Fe dining experience hands down was Cafe Pasqual’s. When Alex and I try new restaurants, we look for places with soul — not white table cloth fancy or uber trendy, but places that have a story and a personality. Pasqual’s has the soul we look for: high quality farm-to-table food (a combination of New Mexican and American cuisine), served up in a homey environment. Think menu items like queso fundido with sauteed shiitake mushrooms or salad of arugula, fennel, sugar snaps, and lemon-shallot vinaigrette on a golden polenta triangle, served up next to enchiladas with traditional rich, dark mole sauce. Our table shared the first two, which were crazy good. Napo’s Pupusa was my main dish, a corn masa cake with zucchini, corn, and green chili served with a roasted tomato-jalapeno salsa. Top that off with salted burnt caramel ice cream with chocolate-toasted pinenut toffee, and we were in heaven. And did I mention their agave wine margaritas? It was only photo I was able to snap; they were a perfect starter.

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Another must visit is Kakawa Chocolate House, famous for its drinking chocolate. Drinking chocolate, you say? It’s rich, velvety, and the perfect afternoon activity in our experience. They also sell fancy chocolates, which we also tried a few of: the standout was the citrus chipotle truffle.

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

The Shed offers traditional New Mexican cuisine in a homey atmosphere. I had the Christmas enchiladas (below), and they were solid; just spicy enough. This was a more casual setting and great for lunch.

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Another highlight was Izanami. It’s a Japanese small plates restaurant that’s a little outside the main part of the city at the Ten Thousand Waves spa hotel. Everything about it was soothing, from the smell of incense outside and the hushed atmosphere inside. Maybe it’s a little off the beaten path to have Japanese in Santa Fe, but this place rocked it; compared to my food experiences in Japan a few years ago, the flavors were spot on and I loved the American-French-Japanese fusion. A seemingly endless array of dishes arrived at our table; some highlights were fried Brussels spouts with sweet chile vinegar and bonito flakes, the pickle selection, the wagyu beef burger, and the dark chocolate tart with miso caramel. We went on a whim after reading a few reviews, and at the end of the night we were all believers.

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

Lastly, we had the very great honor to observe a pueblo dance. Some of the pueblos invite the community on special days to observe their dances, religious ceremonies that are passed down from generation to generation. It was a very special experience and we are so grateful to have been able to be a part. (Note: Photographs are not allowed at the dances.  This photo was not taken at that time but was captured by my mom on a separate occasion at a cultural center where photographs were allowed; we added it here for a visual.)

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide | A Couple Cooks

For the three days we had in Santa Fe, we wouldn’t have changed anything about the way we spent our time. Let us know if you’ve been and what your favorites were, or whether you’re planning a future trip!

Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide

About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is an acclaimed vegetarian cookbook author and cook based in Indianapolis. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best vegetarian cookbooks” by Epicurious.

18 Comments

  • Reply
    Puja Darshan
    April 20, 2016 at 8:39 am

    Lovely pics with an informative and helpful guide. :)

  • Reply
    vivian
    April 20, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Great post, pics, and tips! My husband and I are planning a trip to New Mexico in October that is a walking tour. 5 years ago, we went on a walking tour of Tuscany with the same company and enjoyed it very much. My only concern is the altitude. Although I walk a lot, I am not super fit and am in my 60s. Did you find the altitude had a big effect on your hiking?

  • Reply
    Nicki Fietzer
    April 20, 2016 at 9:44 am

    The rocks look just like the landscape in Cappadocia, Turkey. I didn’t know there was another place like it! So cool!

  • Reply
    Kari
    April 20, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    What a stunning place to visit!
    Kari
    http://www.sweetteasweetie.com

  • Reply
    Kathryn @ The Scratch Artist
    April 20, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    I spent my college years living in Santa Fe! Such a beautiful place and for an eastern girl like me, quite a different cultural experience. You hit some of the great spots. If you go again you MUST, MUST try the food at Geronimo. It is not only the best food in Santa Fe, but the best restaurant I have ever been to. It has more of a white-tablecloth-feel than what you mentioned being most attracted to, but it is really worth it. Thanks for sharing all of these photos…It was nice seeing those places again :-)

  • Reply
    nosogirl
    April 20, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    Thanks for the info. I’m heading to NM next month for a 10 day road trip around the state and will have 2 days in and around SF. I plan to try several of your restaurant recos.

  • Reply
    Erica
    April 21, 2016 at 7:06 am

    Never thought I’d make Santa Fe a travel destination to be completely honest, but those hiking photos totally changed my mind. It’s on the list and hopefully I’ll get a chance to go before residency!

  • Reply
    Megan
    April 25, 2016 at 10:43 am

    I absolutely love Santa Fe! The food, people, landscape, sky, vibe … it’s the best! If you make it back out there I definitely recommend eating at Harry’s Roadhouse (http://www.harrysroadhousesantafe.com/). It is hands down my favorite restaurant out there! And, I totally agree … the hike at Tent Rocks will leave anyone with 2 working eyes completely speechless! Beautiful images! :)

  • Reply
    Deborah
    June 4, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    My mother and I go to Santa Fe every year and at different seasons, Christmas Eve being the best. Cafe Pasquals is great, as well as Restaurant Martin and just a little further up the road Gabriel’s has excellent guacamole and margaritas. Beautiful view outside of the sunset. We always stay at the Inn on the Alameda. It’s one block off the plaza and just one street from Canyon Road.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      June 9, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      Thank you so much for these recommendations! We’d love to get back to Santa Fe and we’ll absolutely check these out!

  • Reply
    Parul
    November 7, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    Loved reading about your trip to Santa Fe. I’m headed there over the Thanksgiving weekend. I know your post is about two years old, but do you somehow remember how much time approximately it took to do the Slot Canyon Trail at the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument? I was wondering if we could do this first thing in the morning and then get back to Santa Fe to spend rest of the day exploring/eating/shopping. On Thanksgiving Day, I’m planning to head to Taos Pueblo and Chimayo since almost everything in Santa Fe will be closed I’m assuming.

    Cheers
    Parul
    http://girlinchief.com

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 7, 2017 at 10:18 pm

      I think we spent around 2-3 hours on the hike, so you could definitely still have an afternoon in the city! Have an excellent trip!

  • Reply
    Iliana Varona
    January 23, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    What wonderful information. Planning my trip for June 2018.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 28, 2018 at 11:45 pm

      Hope you have a wonderful trip! Would love to hear where you visit.

  • Reply
    Lorian Bartle
    March 23, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    Such wonderful pictures on this page, it’s great to see what these places look like before we visit!
    Lorian Bartle

  • Reply
    Bharat & Supriya
    May 7, 2018 at 10:40 pm

    You guys have a great blog! Loved all the visuals and eat recommendations. We already had The Shed on our minds and now adding Cafe Pasqual’s too!

  • Reply
    Losa
    September 16, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    Do you happen to know which bike you did at Bandelier? Going next month and trying to figure it out. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Alex
      September 17, 2018 at 9:40 am

      Hi! I think we just did the main loop trail. Enjoy!

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