Up, up, and away the balloons go into the New Mexico sky each October. Few spectacles on Earth rival the Mass Ascension, as hundreds of balloons lift off from Balloon Fiesta Park to drift in the crisp early-morning high-desert air. This memorable tour also features an evening balloon glow with fireworks, visits to Santa Fe, Taos, Anasazi ruins and the culture and history of the Land of Enchantment.
Day 1 – Salem, OR to Albuquerque, NM
Welcome to the Land of Enchantment! We’ll arrive early afternoon into “the Duke City”, Albuquerque. We’ll check into our hotel and rest up before we depart for Balloon Fiesta Park and the spectacular Glowdeo. The Balloon glow was first held to celebrate the 75th anniversary of New Mexico’s statehood, where during the glow, balloons inflate at dusk, remain tethered and light their burners in a synchronized fashion… the “glow” effect is created by the same burner system used in flight… After the glow, enjoy the AfterGlow Fireworks Show that will dazzle and delight you! Enjoy the exclusive Gondola Club, where comfortable seating, luxurious bathrooms and a buffet style dinner await you. Marriott – Uptown Albuquerque (D)
Day 2 – Albuquerque, NM – Local Touring
We’ll depart bright and early for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Few spectacles on Earth rival the Mass Ascension of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, as upwards of 600 balloons lift off from Balloon Fiesta Park to drift in the crisp high-desert air of New Mexico. Ballooning enthusiasts from around the world converge on the Duke City each year to delight in the amazing range of balloons in every color, size and shape imaginable. The thermal currents above Albuquerque make for some of the finest ballooning conditions in the world. The famous “Albuquerque Box” effect enables pilots to ascend from the field, move with the air currents at different altitudes and in different directions, and even backtrack along their original course to land in the spot they took off from. This is easily one of the most photographed spectacles anywhere… and it is also a great place to people watch, enjoy delicious foods and shop for souvenirs at a wide range of vendor booths! You will also be able to chat with the pilots and crews as they prepare the balloons for flight. Depart Balloon Fiesta Park for a visit to the Turquoise Museum, perhaps the largest private collection in the world. A novel attraction, this small museum focuses on the beauty, mythology and physical properties of turquoise, a semiprecious but widely adored gemstone that many people understandably associate with the color of New Mexico’s skies. See one-of-a-kind showpieces and examples from more than sixty mines on four continents and enjoy an informative and entertaining presentation that will show you the difference between the Real McCoy and plastic. You’re free this afternoon for lunch in Old Town Albuquerque…a beautiful part of town founded in the early part of the 18th century and it includes San Felipe de Neri church as well as many historic buildings that form an architectural record of this city’s unique past. Relax and freshen up at the hotel before dinner at El Pinto Restaurant, known for its Southwestern charm and New Mexican cuisine. Marriott – Uptown Albuquerque (B, D)
Day 3 – Albuquerque, NM to Santa Fe, NM
This morning we’ll ride on the Sandia Peak Tram… one of the world’s longest free-span cable tramways! The 2.7-mile ride to the top will take you through four of the seven life zones found in North America. Traversing these zones is equivalent to taking a trip from Mexico City to Alaska! Once atop Sandia Peak, at an elevation of 10,378 feet above sea level, you will marvel at the thousands of square miles of breathtaking scenery and panoramic views in all directions. Enjoy a box lunch as you travel one of the Southwest’s most spectacular routes – the Jemez Mountain Trail, declared a National Scenic and Historic Byway in 1998 in recognition of its wonderful natural and historic resources. Climbing east out of Jemez Canyon, you pass by Valle Grande and the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Situated at 8,500 feet above sea level, this is one of the largest volcanic craters in the world. Next, it’s Bandelier National Monument, which is best known for its mesas, sheer-walled canyons and the ancestral Pueblo dwellings found among them. Frijoles Canyon is famous for its extensive Anasazi ruins and cliff dwellings that date back to about 1100 AD! The Anasazi farmed this canyon for over 400 years and lived in multi-story stone and mud structures or in caves carved out of the volcanic cliffs. Then we welcome you to Santa Fe and our home for the next 3 nights… Hotel Santa Fe… adorned with Native American Art and warmth, it’s within walking distance to the Santa Fe Plaza, or use the hotel shuttle. This is the heart and soul of the Southwest, “Santa Fe Style”. Hotel Santa Fe (B, L)
Day 4 – Santa Fe Taos – local touring
Depart for Taos this morning via the River Road. Enjoy lunch on your own and free time at the historic Plaza, a picturesque town nestled against the highest mountain peaks in New Mexico at 7,000 feet above sea level. The unsurpassed light of northern New Mexico has drawn artists to this picturesque city since the end of the nineteenth century and today it is home to many outstanding museums and galleries. Next we visit the Taos Pueblo at the northern edge of town. Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this Pueblo dates from the fourteenth century and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in North America. We’ll return to Santa Fe on the Camino Alto, or High Road, through the scenic grandeur of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, past villages that date from the Spanish Colonial era. You will visit the historic village of Chimayo and the Santuario de Chimayo, a venerable religious shrine built over earth that is said to have miraculous healing qualities. Chimayo is also known for the colorful and decorative textiles that it’s weavers have been producing for centuries. Enjoy the Ortega’s workshop and see the weavers at work. Dinner is at Rancho de Chimayo, a landmark restaurant featuring traditional northern New Mexico cuisine. Meals included: Hotel Santa Fe (B, D)
Day 5– Santa Fe, NM – Free Day
We’ll start the day with a historic trolley tour… it covers an eight mile loop in our open air tram that includes the most important historical areas in Santa Fe, including Canyon Road and its colorful art galleries, Santa Fe’s Museum Hill area, the historic Santa Fe Plaza, the Palace of the Governors, and other notable locations in the heart of the oldest capital city in the United States. Your afternoon is free to explore this charming town with all of it’s colorful shops and great people. We’ll meet back at the hotel early this evening for a delicious farewell dinner. Hotel Santa Fe (B, D)
Day 6 – Santa Fe, NM to Salem, OR
After a leisurely morning we depart for home with great memories of the land of enchantment and the wonderful Balloon Fiesta! (B)
“Custom Tours” were designed for groups of 24 or more… If you have a group that wants to book one of these trips… or wants us to design a tour for your groups specific needs… please don’t hesitate to call us. Our tours are designed with a “love of discovery”. Our creative itineraries can be custom-designed to your request including some “must see” attractions as well as “off-the-beaten-path” experiences.