Checking In and Checking Out

Albuquerque’s Old Town Goes Luxe with New Pueblo-Inspired Beauty

by Linda Cabasin
Hotel Modern facade of Hotel Chaco. All photos by Linda Cabasin.

At the Hotel Chaco in Albuquerque, the spirit of early Pueblo architecture mixes with modern design and Native American art that stay true to regional roots.

ALBURQUERQUE, New Mexico – I visited Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos last May with my sisters to explore New Mexico’s rugged landscapes and its mix of Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo-American traditions. The just-opened, newly built Hotel Chaco in Old Town Albuquerque, with its focus on Native American culture, was perfect for kicking off our road trip. New Mexico’s Heritage Hotels & Resorts and noted architectural firm Gensler based their unique plan on buildings at Chaco Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was home to the ancestors of today’s Pueblo Indians.

Their goal was to create a luxury hotel that conveyed the grandeur of an ancient civilization – without using traditional Southwestern or Pueblo Revival architecture. I felt they succeeded brilliantly: Local materials, such as sandstone, and ancient architectural elements, such as round ceremonial kivas, combine with art by today’s Native American New Mexican artists. At places like Chaco Canyon, buildings provided shelter from the sun and cold, and Hotel Chaco’s architecture, with its recessed spaces, seems to embrace guests, offering a refuge both physical and spiritual.

I loved the hotel’s celebration of the vitality of native culture. The entrance doors show the water serpent Avanyu, and a narrow stone passageway has waterfall and fire features that conjure nature’s elements. High-ceilinged and circular, the lobby is austere except for striking art, including a towering bronze sculpture called Oneness. Off the lobby are a bar, a light-filled sitting room, and, outside, a walled garden. The circular floors of earth-hued guest rooms have their own striking details, like newly commissioned artistic interpretations of Chaco Canyon by the elevators, massive traditional pots in niches, and geodes that are part of hallway sconces.

Topping Hotel Chaco off is a rooftop restaurant and comfortably furnished outdoor terrace with sweeping views of the city and the Sandia Mountains. Sandia means “watermelon” — the color of the mountains at sunset. At any time of day, these spaces are awesome. All of this is a walk or short ride away from Old Town and Downtown’s bars, restaurants, and museums. I may have been among the first to discover Hotel Chaco with my early stay, but now the word is out.

Hotel Chaco, Bedroom.
Cozy Bedroom at Hotel Chaco.

Book It

Rates from $179 per night. There’s also a daily $30 resort fee. You can book directly with the hotel (the link is on the top right), or get in touch with Fathom Travel Desk, and we can plan your trip for you.

Checking In

A short walk from the heart of Albuquerque’s Old Town, Hotel Chaco stands a bit on its own, though Heritage Hotels’ Hotel Albuquerque is next door. Nearby empty lots are slated to become housing and the artisanal Sawmill Market as ABQ redevelops.

Hotel Vibe
Quiet and contemplative. Museum-quality Native American art, symbolic public spaces, and resolutely neutral-hued guest rooms keep things serene. But in the rooftop restaurant and terrace, you can celebrate the sun and mountains.

This Place Is Perfect For
Architecture buffs and anyone weary (and wary) of Southwestern design clichés, leisure travelers absorbing Native American culture in luxury, and business travelers who want to impress. The Hotel Albuquerque’s pool and restaurant choices, steps away from Hotel Chaco, are good for families.

But Not So Perfect For
Those who want to stay right in the center of the city’s action, since the immediate neighborhood is still being redeveloped. And the subdued color palette in the rooms is not for those who need color.

Grounds at Hotel Chaco.
Walled courtyard the hotel.

What’s on Site
A walled courtyard with native plants, stone columns, and a fountain serves as a place to soak in the sun, have a drink, or meditate. The bright sitting room has a fireplace, a library, and gorgeous art. The $30 daily resort fee includes access to Hotel Chaco’s fitness room and the pool of sister property Hotel Albuquerque. Gallery Chaco (owned by artist Rhett Lynch) and Dakkya Gift Boutique hadn’t opened during my visit, but the gallery and shop carry Native American art and regional pottery and crafts. Yoga classes are available.

Food + Drink
Breathtaking wraparound views of the Sandia Mountains come with upscale, regionally focused New American cuisine and craft cocktails at Level 5 Restaurant and Lounge, open throughout the day for sustenance or simply inspiration; the terrace is alfresco. Pastries and craft coffees in the morning and craft cocktails in the afternoon are served at the Equinox Café & Bar. Except for the well-lit bar itself, this casual area seemed a bit oddly shaped to feel truly comfortable.

Number of Rooms
108 rooms and 10 suites; some have stunning mountain views.

In-Room Amenities
To me, art is an amenity, and I loved the hand-woven Navajo rug in my (and each) high-ceilinged guest room. The colors, from cream and beige to darker brown, gray, and black, set the color scheme. Textures, whether smooth like the wood-look tile floors or rough like the throw on the bed, add variety. Beds are plush; blackout curtains and soundproofing create a cocoon-like feeling. My suite had a separate area with an (awkwardly placed) couch. Rooms have every kind of high-tech accessory and a DRE entertainment system. Spacious bathrooms feature stone sinks and great walk-in showers with a sunflower head; fancy Damana toiletries have natural ingredients. Besides a mini-fridge with seasonal housemade snacks, there are stations for coffee (by Keurig) and tea (a kettle). Good WiFi is included in the daily resort fee.

The $30 per night resort fee added to the room rate. It includes Wi-Fi, valet parking, access to Hotel Albuquerque's outdoor pool and hot tub, access to Hotel Chaco’s fitness center, daily bottled water and snacks, and valet parking. Still, it would feel better incorporated into the nightly rate.

Standout Detail
While it’s easy to adore the rooftop spaces and mountain views, the brilliant contemporary Native American art on display was a revelation to me.

Terrace at Hotel Chaco.
A view over the Old Town.

Checking Out

On the northern edge of 18th-century Old Town and its historic buildings, near some museums and restaurants. Also here are tidily kept empty lots, loft conversions, and new low-rise apartments. This is the Sawmill District, an industrial area being redeveloped (by 2019) with housing, the Sawmill Market, restaurants, and shops. For now, you’ll want to walk to Old Town or head to the nearby downtown areas. Downtown Albuquerque, anchored by Central Avenue (the old Route 66), is reviving, with fun bars and restaurants. Overall, the area was perfect for me; I root for urban revival.

What to Do Nearby
I really liked the down-to-earth, work-in-progress aspects of downtown Albuquerque (metro area of one million; the population of New Mexico is two million), and some key sites help you feel the state’s unique blend of cultures. Indian Pueblo Cultural Center provides orientation to New Mexico’s nineteen very different pueblos; try to see the native dances and visit the Harvest Café. I appreciated Albuquerque Museum’s history and art exhibits, including the spirited “Only in Albuquerque.” Catch the Route 66 retro vibe on Central Avenue downtown and take a tour or see a show at the landmark 1927 KiMo Theatre, built in Pueblo Deco style. Get the scoop on ABQ’s energized local arts scene at 516 Arts downtown; the website has a handy Arts & Culture map.

In ABQ, restaurants spring up in former gas stations, including the Standard Diner, with updated comfort food, New Mexico-style. Sidetrack Brewing Company, a brewery and taproom that’s part of the city’s growing craft beer scene, has ales, stouts, and snacks in a friendly setting just south of downtown. Head to the no-frills Cecilia’s Café for a truly New Mexican breakfast or lunch: The key question is, red or green? (Chile, that is.)

Good to Know
Even if you don’t stay at Hotel Chaco, go to the rooftop lounge for the sunset views. Ask about city and mountain views before you book, if they matter to you. At the time of my visit, my lovely suite (room 341) had views of empty lots.

Getting Around
The Albuquerque International Sunport is nine miles south of Hotel Chaco via I-25. You can walk to Old Town attractions from the hotel. If you don’t have a car for further travels, buses, and taxis, and Ubers are plentiful.

Ready to go? Email the Fathom Travel Desk and let us plan your trip for you.

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