My velvet escape travel tip” is a guest series about what the name ‘Velvet Escape’ evokes and what that would be in the hometown of the guest writer. With this series, I hope to uncover travel tips from places around the world to help visitors have a truly local experience.

Why did I move to Santa Fe, New Mexico? It’s a question I heard frequently from hotel guests when I was a concierge. There is a long answer and a short one. The short answer is the Puye Cliff Dwellings. In 1986 while sitting on top of the mesa at the cliff-top amid the ruins of a community abandoned in 1580, I felt like I had come home.

Puye ruins
Puye ruins, courtesy of Puye Cliffs, Santa Clara Pueblo

The Puye Cliffs are the ancestral dwellings of the Santa Clara Pueblo. What’s special about Puye is the sense of history it embodies. There are two sets of cliff dwellings on the cliff-face. One extends over a mile. It is believed that over1500 people lived here at the height of settlement. It is possible to explore some of the rooms, little more than caves in the cliff-face. Stairs, that are little more than footholds in the rocks, take you to the mesa top.

For me it was more than the history, it was a sense of being one with the land. When we returned to New Mexico almost two-decades later, Puye was closed to the public because of major damage from the 2000 Los Alamos fire. Not so patiently, I waited for it to open. They reopened this spring with a new visitors center and a new much more stringent visitors’ policy. Whereas before people were free to explore on their own, now a member of the Santa Clara Pueblo guides each group and will impart some of the Pueblo’s history. You can opt for a tour of the cliff face or one of the mesa top, or you may visit both on a combined tour.

I am looking forward to going back this fall when the weather cools off a bit. I have some mixed feelings. What if that magical feeling is gone? Will it still be my ‘velvet escape’? I have to find out.

About this week’s guest writer

Billie Frank used her hotel concierge experience to start The Santa Fe Traveler, a boutique personal concierge service.

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