|Entry to Ojo Caliente|
I’m not generally a spa person although I like the acronym, “Salus per Aquas” or health through water. They’re usually too intimidating and rich for my taste. But trust New Mexico to blend the funky with the fabulous at Ojo Caliente, a resort/spa 50 miles northwest of Santa Fe.
This is an old place. Hundreds of years ago, the ancestors of the Tewa tribe lived near the hot waters in the thousands, building pueblos nearby. In the 1500's, Spaniards passed through and named the hot springs “Ojo Caliente” or“hot eye”. They were impressed with the powerful chemicals contained in the waters and valued by the natives. Today, those minerals of lithium, iron, soda, and arsenic are still believed to rejuvenate and refresh the bathers.
|Porch on Historic Hotel|
Ojo claims to be America’s oldest health spa. In 1868, Antonio Joseph, New Mexico’s first territorial representative to Congress, opened a spa here with overnight lodging. Known for its curing of invalids, the sanatarium attracted the ill from around the country. The current hotel, built in 1916, is creeping up on its 100th birthday. Traces of its earlier days remain with real room keys, creaky, wooden hallways, transom windows above the doors, quilt covered beds, and small baths without showers. One is required to shower in the new facilities close to the hot waters. With no TV or radio, reading is encouraged in the room’s rocking chair.
|One of the new additions|
|Restaurant Lobby in Historic Hotel|
The trick to making the visit here more economical is to arrive during the week as prices escalate for the week-end. Historic hotel rooms are still a bargain and all stays include unlimited use of the hot pools from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.. A several day stay has more to offer than one would expect with nearby hiking trails and easy day trips to Taos and Santa Fe.
In perusing reviews of Ojo Caliente, I found one written before the renovations. It was described as “the buildings are old and solid, the air is sharp and clear, and you have to hunt to find a phone.” This description is still good for at least part of the spa. And the pinon infused air, clear New Mexico blue sky and star studded evenings have not changed. But with the additions and renovations, a larger clientele can be accommodated without sacrificing the magical setting that has drawn humans for thousands of years.
|Hammocks by the swimming pool|