SANTA FE, N.M. — As one of those artistic cities that mashes together a variety of different — and often unlikely — cultures and styles, Santa Fe is the kind of place that you can visit a dozen times and create a different experience each time.
One of its newer additions is Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe, a boutique hotel owned by Heritage Hotels & Resorts that celebrates the history and culture of Chimayo, a tiny historic community in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. About 30 miles from Santa Fe, this village was instrumental in helping the hotel preserve the authenticity of the village's culture, and in return the hotel donates a portion of its profits to the village.
Just a block away from the shopping and restaurants of Historic Santa Fe Plaza, Hotel Chimayo immerses guests into Chimayo's rich culture.
In fact, the hotel does such an excellent job of presenting the Chimayo culture that many guests choose to visit the community. The hotel provides maps for self-guided tours, as well as offering arrangements for group tours and personalized guided tours.
The village of Chimayo is a struggling agricultural community known for its weavers, art, sacred sites and flavorful cuisine. Each of those aspects is well represented at Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe, and from the moment you walk through the heavy wooden doors, you are immersed in the magic of Chimayo. The lobby is richly decorated with handmade artwork from local artisans, creating a colorful entry into a new cultural experience.
Throughout the hotel, original craftsmanship is evident. More than 70 Chimayo artists worked to lend an authentic feel, contributing hand-carved furniture, custom weavings and the handmade crosses that are clustered above the fireplace in each room. Together, these well-thought-out appointments create a comforting, rustic feel that embraces the community's 17th-century roots while at the same time feeling fresh and new.
The hotel's 56 rooms are off the open-air courtyard, which emulates the traditional Spanish plazas of New Mexico. Inside, suites are designed in subtle, subdued colors, using muted earth tones to carry out the theme.
Although the rooms are spacious, such touches as banco seating around a wood-burning fireplace create a cozy environment. Separate living areas in many of the suites make the rooms feel more like a small vacation home rather than a hotel suite — and the 10 deluxe king suites with refrigerator, microwave and wet bar only add to this vibe.
Beyond the rooms, the hotel offers even more ways to enjoy the culture of Chimayo, and none is more enjoyable than the Low 'n Slow Lowrider Bar.
Unlike any other bar you'll visit, Low 'n Slow celebrates the "lowrider" culture of New Mexico with details right out of the auto body shop that begin with a hostess stand adorned with the familiar flames often seen painted on lowriders. (To show its devotion to lowriders, there's even an official city sign designating "Lowrider Parking Only" in front of the bar.)
Light fixtures made from hubcaps, low-slung glass-topped tables made of chain steering wheels, and bright, upholstered bench seats that look like they came from the back seat of a Chevy set the stage for a delightfully unusual environment.
Bright, colorful artwork from the book Low 'n Slow — Lowriding in New Mexico covers the walls, but the centerpiece of the room is definitely the one-of-a-kind chandelier made from mufflers and hubcaps. Created for the bar by Carmilito Muffler Shop in Chimayo, it's one of those attractions that make you stop and study them — regardless of your interest in cars.
Above the bar, Tia's Cocina serves up authentic New Mexican cuisine breakfast through dinner, with a delicious and diverse menu created by chef Estevan Garcia. Creating recipes based on the traditional dishes enjoyed in Chimayo for generations, Garcia adds a modern twist and relies heavily on the heirloom Chimayo chile to give the food its extra spice.
125 Washington Ave., Santa Fe, N.M.
Rates: Rooms and suites are $119-$189. Check the website for information about packages and specials.