BY GAIL GOLD
Would you like to recharge your spirit, soothe your mind, and rest your weary bones? Ojo Caliente might be just the thing.
Opened in 1868, Ojo Caliente is one of the oldest natural health resorts in the United States. Just 1 hour north of Sante Fe, these ancient springs are deep in myth and have been a place to gather for the healing waters. (The word “spa” is actually an acronym for the Latin phrase Salus Per Aquas, which means “health through water.”)
The northern New Mexico region is the earliest home of the ancestors of today’s Native American Tewa Pueblos. “Tewa” is the language spoken by the 8 Northern Pueblos of New Mexico. Currently, Tewa people include descendants of Taos, Picuris, Santa Clara, Ohkay Owingeh (formerly Sanb Juan), San Ildefonso, Nambe, Pojoaque, and Tesuque Pueblos.
Archaeologist Aldolph Bandelier, for whom the Bandelier National Park was named, had been an early explorer of the area. Tradition tells us that the warring tribesman would set their weapons and differences down to gather in peace at the springs and enjoy the benefits of the sacred waters, trade, and heal their wounds and ailments without conflict.
Although “modernized,” Ojo Caliente retains the same laid back atmosphere from when it was a real mud bath. Surrounded by a lush and fertile river valley, it is a beautiful site. No television, no cell phones, only whispers are allowed at the pools. Ojo is the only hot springs in the world with 4 natural soaking pools: lithia, iron, soda, and arsenic. Various other pools are filled with different types and combinations of these waters. Temperatures range from 80 to 106 degrees.
There are three original buildings that have been lovingly restored and maintained. Today they are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The historic bathhouse built in 1868, the historic hotel built in 1917, and the adobe round barn built in 1924 are beautiful treasures. Now there is Ojo Farm, where all the vegetables are grown for the dining room. Messages, facials, and yoga are offered.
A typical day is soaking in all the pools, reading, thinking, relaxing, or maybe taking a hike up the mountain. Vistas of the entire area are awaiting you. What I like best is having a very early dinner of locally sourced food in the dining room. Choices could be a grilled artichoke with lemon aioli, green chile fries, tortilla soup, roasted vegetable chile relleno, chicken enchiladas, or fajitas. Then to make a difficult choice for desert: a coconut mango tres leches or chocolate and chimayo chile walnut shortbread cookies.
Next comes a deep tissue massage. Before walking back to your room in the provided cozy robe, you can stop by the roaring outdoor fire to warm up in the brisk New Mexican night air. Looking up into the clear sky, it is very easy to spot the Big Dipper, Orion, Taurus, and Gemini. Stars twinkle, voices are hushed—you’re in the midst of a peaceful New Mexican evening. A deep sleep comes over you until the birds start chirping early in the morning and you happily repeat the relaxed routine.
Ojo Caliente is a perfect place for yourself, girlfriends, couples—anyone who wants to reconnect with nature and themselves.