Santa Fe: Immersive Art and Otherworldly Landscapes - May 15, 2019 - Atlas Obscura Trips

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe: Immersive Art and Otherworldly Landscapes

Lose yourself in the mysterious desert landscapes that have captivated artists from Georgia O’Keeffe to Judy Chicago. On this immersive art experience, we’ll go behind the scenes in artist studios, meditate inside a hand-carved cave, traverse O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch on horseback, and expand our psyches in the House of Eternal Return.

Santa Fe is perhaps best known for its unique adobe architecture and otherworldly desert landscape, but it’s also a bonafide hub for the arts. With insider access provided by our local guide, we’ll explore the flourishing art scene, intriguing cultural heritage, and magical setting that make the City Different live up to its nickname.

This trip is best for people who are...

  • Intrigued by artists and their processes, and excited to explore unique galleries, museums, and studios in Santa Fe.
  • Ready to spend a few hours walking around the city and hiking out into the desert, covering roughly 1 to 3 miles per day.
  • Curious to learn about the Native American and Spanish Colonial cultural heritage of northern New Mexico.
  • Interested in exploring the arts and culture of the American southwest! No arts background is needed—we’ll take an inviting, conversational approach that’s fun and refreshing for anyone.

Santa Fe has long been known as the place to see Southwestern-style art, architecture, and traditional crafts, but it boasts plenty of contemporary art spaces, too. With some 200 galleries and a dozen museums in the historic center, there’s no shortage of creative corners to explore.

In addition to seeing some of the city’s best and most immersive art, we’ll talk with the artists themselves about their work. We’ll also be venturing outside the city, into the rugged, unmatched beauty of the high desert. We’ll journey to nearby villages for insight into the cultural heritage of northern New Mexico, and ride out into vast open landscape that surrounds Santa Fe.


  • Immersive art: Get lost in the surreal and mind-boggling House of Eternal Return installation, with an insider introduction by one of the artists from Meow Wolf, the collective that built it.
  • Local heritage: Journey to two historic settlements to collect legendary healing earth, taste-test heirloom chiles, and see a traditional pottery demonstration.
  • Art caves: Experience the tranquility of one of Ra Paulette’s incredible hand-carved art caves.
  • Horseback riding: Saddle up and explore the stunning Ghost Ranch that inspired the works of Georgia O’Keeffe.


Elaine Ritchel has lived in some really cool places, but she is proud to call the Land of Enchantment home. She grew up in Albuquerque and has been based in Santa Fe for over four years. Elaine is a writer, museum educator, avid traveler, and former expat. She founded her art tour company, Santa Fe Art Tours, to create rich and interactive experiences with art in the City Different.

Courtesy of Tourism Santa Fe
Day 1
Welcome to Santa Fe!
  • We’ll arrive in Santa Fe and check in to our accommodations at The Parador, the city’s oldest inn. The 200-year-old Parador served as a farmhouse and later a hippie commune before being transformed by its architect owners into the charming downtown bed and breakfast it is today.
  • We’ll enjoy a welcome dinner at a vibrant restaurant known for its New Mexican cuisine, spicy red and green chile, and outstanding margaritas. 
  • With margaritas in hand, we’ll get to know our local guide and learn what makes the City Different so, well, different!
Courtesy of Michael Bergt
Day 2
Canyon Road & the Santa Fe Style
  • We’ll kick off the morning with coffee and conversation at Collected Works Bookstore. Grab a latte and join your guide for a stroll through the historic Santa Fe Plaza. Get the lay of the land and some insider tips on museums, galleries, and attractions of interest. If you’re a book nerd, plan to arrive a bit early. There’s a great selection of local literature to peruse here.
  • This morning, we’ll visit the New Mexico Museum of Art, a quintessential example of “Santa Fe Style” architecture and one of the institutions that launched the city’s reputation as an arts destination. We’ll ease into the experience with a relaxed conversation about the work on view. Then, we’ll discover pieces tucked away in the museum’s collection during a private curator-led tour.
  • After getting lunch on our own, we’ll meet back up to explore Canyon Road, Santa Fe’s historic arts district. We’ll stop at landmark galleries as well as overlooked venues and unexpected new-media art spaces that illustrate the breadth and depth of Santa Fe’s evolving art scene.
  • We’ll wind down with some light happy-hour tapas at El Farol, a local Canyon Road haunt since 1835.
  • The rest of the evening is free to grab dinner on your own and explore the area.
Courtesy of Kate Russell
Day 3
The House of Eternal Return
  • Enjoy a leisurely morning to relax at the hotel, perhaps grab brunch, and spend however the spirit moves you. (We’ll be happy to make recommendations based on your interests.) 
  • Meeting back up after lunchtime, we’ll embark on a special tour of Santa Fe artist studios. Moving beyond the historic center, we’ll discover where the magic happens and see what contemporary artists are working on, from figure painting to new-media explorations. We’ll also enjoy refreshments at one of the studios.
  • We’ll end the tour at Siler Arts District, home of the House of Eternal Return, a mind-boggling, Instagram-ready immersive installation conceived by the Meow Wolf art collective and backed by George R.R. Martin. We’ll meet with one of the Meow Wolf crew for a special introduction to the storytelling elements of the project. Then, take your time exploring the installation, where everything is interactive. Touching encouraged!
  • The rest of the evening is yours to enjoy on your own.
Courtesy of Tourism Santa Fe
Day 4
Northern New Mexico: Magic & Tradition
  • Today, we’ll journey north for a look at the generations-old traditions of northern New Mexico. We’ll travel first to Chimayo, a village just north of Santa Fe that is steeped in myth and tradition.
  • After a scenic drive, we’ll visit the Santuario de Chimayo and collect some of its legendary healing earth to take home with us. Then, we’ll meet a local artist for a demonstration of traditional tinwork and enjoy an heirloom chile tasting.
  • After exploring Chimayo, we’ll head to San Ildefonso Pueblo, home of black-on-black pueblo pottery made famous by master potter Maria Martinez. There, we’ll join a tribal member for a walk through the pueblo, a pottery demonstration, and a traditional feast day meal.
  • After the meal, we’ll make our way back to the city. The rest of the evening is free.
Courtesy of Ghost Ranch
Day 5
Ghost Ranch & Ra Paulette Caves
  • Today, we’ll head north again, this time to explore the breathtaking Ghost Ranch, the setting of one of Georgia O’Keeffe’s desert homes, on horseback. (If you prefer, you can also explore on foot.) The Ghost Ranch wranglers will share a short presentation on O’Keeffe’s work and then guide us into the landscape that inspired her. 
  • After a break for lunch, we’ll visit one of artist Ra Paulette’s intricately hand-carved art caves. The tranquility of the cave and its beautifully carved contours invites a quiet moment of reflection and wonderment. Several of Paulette's stunning caves dot the landscape of northern New Mexico, but because they are located on private property and their locations are safeguarded by locals, visiting them is a challenge. Our group will have access to one of the caves during a private visit with the cave's owner. 
  • Back in the city, we’ll take some time to clean up and regroup, and reconvene for a festive farewell dinner at TerraCotta Wine Bistro.
Day 6
Farewell & Departure
  • Today, catch flights home or onto your next destination—or, if you'd like, spend a few more days exploring Santa Fe. We will be happy to provide additional recommendations! (Taos is a pretty magical place, or you can soak in the healing waters of Ojo Caliente!)
  • Until the next adventure!
The Fine Print


  • All lodging in double-accommodation rooms at the Parador Santa Fe for the duration of the tour. (Private rooms are available for a single supplement of $400. Otherwise we'll work to place individuals of the same gender together.)
  • An experienced local guide to accompany you throughout the trip.
  • Guided tours and admission to all museums, galleries, and activities.
  • Transportation and gratuity for our drivers.
  • Welcome and farewell dinners at local restaurants.
  • Two lunches, tapas at El Farol, and studio tour refreshments.
  • Daily breakfasts at El Parador Bed & Breakfast. 
  • A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura fans and artists excited to explore the city.


Itineraries are subject to change. This particular tour has been designed with specific activities and events in mind. Schedules may change in coming months or be affected by weather during the trip. If any activity or attraction that is advertised is missed or not available, then we will always replace it with another activity or location of significant interest and value. We do expect to have the chance to see everything on this itinerary, if perhaps not in the same order. However, as always, flexibility and an adventurous spirit are key.


We'll be staying at The Parador in downtown Santa Fe. There are a variety of rooming configurations available, and single travelers should be prepared to share a room with another traveler of the same gender, depending on the composition of the group. Single travelers who would like to have a room to themselves can book private accommodations with a single supplement of $400.  


This tour is moderately active. Travelers should be reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking 3 to 5 miles over the course of each day, outside in the sun. Travelers should also be comfortable horseback riding at a beginner level. For those who choose not to ride, there is an optional shuttle tour available, as well as several hiking trails.


We’ll depart for our welcome dinner from El Parador Bed & Breakfast at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15. El Parador is located in downtown Santa Fe, roughly an hour from Albuquerque International Airport, or 20 minutes from Santa Fe Regional Airport. You’re welcome to arrive and check in to El Parador after 3 p.m. on May 15. We recommend arriving no later than 5 p.m. Our trip will conclude on the morning of May 20. Check out from El Parador is at 11 am. You can make arrangements to fly out of Santa Fe or Albuquerque or you're welcome to stick around in Santa Fe and explore the city on your own. 


The total cost of this trip is $2,480. A $500 deposit is required to hold your space. This deposit is nonrefundable after three days. The final payment of $1,980 will be due by March 31, 2019. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the trip's Terms & Conditions.


  • Flights and other transport to and from Santa Fe.
  • Airport transfers.
  • Travel insurance (recommended).
  • Additional food and drink outside of Atlas Obscura offerings, including most alcoholic beverages.
  • Applying for a U.S. visa, if applicable.

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