When I boarded the plane en route to Phoenix, Arizona, I considered myself to be a true skeptic—a real non-believer. I had read the articles about the famous Red Rocks that put Sedona, Arizona on the map for their energizing vortex fields—but I always doubted the accuracy of these peculiar stories. My curiosity piqued, I joined in with the four million tourists who flock to Sedona’s amber countryside each year in search of a spiritual awakening amongst the serenity of the Red Rocks. The ideal trip for the lone traveler or a romantic getaway for two that begins at Sky Harbour Airport.
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After touching down in Phoenix, you’ll have a two-hour drive ahead of you through endless forests of saguaro cactus, aloe vera blooms and blue agave plants to Sedona. When you round the bend in the road that reveals the iconic Red Rocks bathed in the orange glow of an Arizona sunset, you’ll realize you’re about to embark on a magical adventure unlike any other in the Southwest, just like I did. (You’ll know by the warm caress of a desert breeze, majestic mountain views and gentle sway of cypress trees—trust me.)
A vista suite at L'Auberge de Sedona overlooking the Red Rocks. Photo courtesy of L'Auberge de Sedona.
Where to stay: L’Auberge de Sedona
L’Auberge de Sedona ( lauberge.com) is where you’ll first discover peace amongst the quiet waterfalls of Oak Creek and breathtaking cluster of Red Rocks. Known as the crème de la crème of resorts in Sedona, the hotel is composed of cabin-style rooms, a main lodge for weddings and a luxe indoor/outdoor restaurant and clubhouse—making L’Auberge de Sedona a leading destination on countless travel guides across North America. (The resort is also known to attract a number of A-list celebrities—Scarlett Johansson, Ryan Reynolds and Robert Downey Junior, just to name a few.)
Choose between a creek-side cabin with a private outdoor cedar shower, wood burning fireplace and a balcony overlooking the garden with the crisp scent of mesquite bark wafting through your front door. Or, stay in one of L’Auberge’s vista suites with a view of the Red Rocks outside each window, Jacuzzi style bathtub and redwood deck for gazing at the starry night sky. Legend has it that a restful sleep comes effortlessly in Sedona—made even easier by the cozy king size beds at L’Auberge—despite the exceedingly vivid dreams guests to the area often endure. (Yes—these dreams are caused by the influx of magnetic energy visitors will feel in Sedona.) The resort’s cottage-chic mix of gilded furniture and natural elements all become a part of the spiritual quest that Sedona is known for.
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After settling into your room and taking a leisurely walk around the hotel's forested grounds, a tasty meal and frosty cocktail should definitely be on your agenda. The L’Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek is the hotel’s pride and joy, with Chef Rochelle Daniel serving up the best food in Sedona. Enjoy dinner for two at a table with a fire pit center beneath the canopy of sycamore trees munching on cider pumpkin bisque, crispy brie filled pastries and braised veal cheeks with rosemary polenta. Or, try an evening of fine dining inside the restaurant, feasting on banana blinis (mini dinner pancakes tossed in a savoury seasoning) with toasted walnuts and sweet oats, tagliatelle pasta with mushroom sauce and fig jam glaze, or roasted butternut squash covered in candied quinoa, purple sage and marshmallow—all matched with a perfectly-paired Arizona wine of course.
If L'Auberge's spectacular views and mouthwatering meals don't have you completely at ease, it's time to get pampered at the spa. The Spa at L’Auberge de Sedona will enhance the sense of calm you’ll feel amongst the sprawling mountainside and dense deciduous forest (the smell of peppery juniper was a real breath of fresh air compared to my hometown.) With four treatment rooms—plus an outdoor massage table for creek-side service—the health spa offers a personalized encounter with every guest. Try an organic facial with goji berries, white tea and antioxidants, a desert sage sugar body scrub or a deep tissue massage with aromatherapy blends to really let go and unwind. These treatments all promote deep relaxation, making the Spa at L’Auberge the ideal spot to revel in the tranquility that is Sedona. (When you’re done at the spa, take a refreshing dip in the crystal clear outdoor pool with sparkling water fountains—you’ll have regrets if you don’t.)
Get the best dinner and drinks in Sedona on the next page...
Dine next to Oak Creek at L'Auberge Restaurant in the heart of Sedona. Photo courtesy of L'Auberge de Sedona.
Where to dine: Dinner at Dahl and Di Luca
A meal at Dahl and Di Luca ( dahlanddiluca.com) provides a taste of Tuscany in Sedona’s own backyard—just a ten-minute drive from L'Auberge in downtown Sedona. The restaurant itself is a sight that impresses with a live jazz pianist, crystal chandeliers and cascading lavender drapes. Chef Lisa Dahl was my curator of good taste for the night, dishing out warm seafood bruschetta, calamari fritti and Affinato di Andrea—a delicacy made from grilled mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto and radicchio and drizzled with fig marmalade to activate your taste buds.
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Dahl and Di Luca’s rich porcini and portobello mushroom soup with wild rice was my personal favourite while the arugula, radicchio, pecan and shaved parmesan salad with balsamic dressing was a close second. Order Agnello Scottadito as your main dish—an irresistible grilled T-bone lamb chop garnished with juicy lemon slices and fresh herb sprigs served over truffle-salted asparagus and roasted potatoes. For dessert? A creamy chocolate pumpkin mousse and velvety Tara Misu are the sweetest choices to end your meal.
Where to drink: Wine tasting in Sedona
Venture outside Sedona’s city limits and sample a wine tasting or two amongst the rolling hills of the Verde Valley, located twenty minutes from Sedona's downtown core. (Try Savour Arizona: Winery and Microbrewery Excursions for a personalized tour of the township). For an authentic, homegrown experience visit Javelina Leap ( javelinaleapwinery.com), an award-winning vineyard and café residing just outside Sedona in Cornville, Arizona. Start by infusing your palette with an Arizona Zinfandel containing notes of black cherry, raspberry and black truffles or give the exotic flavours of Sauvignon Blanc a whirl with its green apple and cantaloupe aromas.
Javelina Leap’s knowledgeable connoisseurs go above and beyond, teaching visitors about the idyllic grape (did you know the best grapes grow in the worst terrain imaginable?) and the proper way to do a tasting. Fun fact: The meniscus is the pink rim you’ll see if you inspect the outer edge of your glass of wine—the darker the meniscus, the older the wine will be. Sit near an actual Javelina skull (the ferocious desert pig the bar is named after) in the main space or take your drinks next door to the dining room with black walls, mood lighting and open seating for your tasting. All in all, this is a must-see vineyard by the Red Rocks where experiencing wine—not just drinking it—is what Javelina Leap is all about.
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For a more informal tasting, Four Eight Wineworks ( four8wineworks.com) is located twenty minutes outside of Sedona in Clarkdale, Arizona—an intimate saloon with stool seating and comfy lounge chairs for casual conversation. (The laidback owners of the bar like to say they’re open until 7 p.m.…ish.) What was once a bank from the Wild West, this co-op winery gives guests the opportunity to sip local brews beside a working phonograph and black and white pictures of the bank’s lively history. (The bank was once victim of a dramatic robbery—but the original wooden teller’s booth and old-fashioned safe are still intact for you to peruse). The highlight of this up-and-coming distillery? A glass of Merkin Vineyard’s Shinola Bianca—a light white containing spicy notes of garden herbs and desert fruit to complete your visit to the tasting room.
Find out how to get in shape (plus where to shop) in Sedona on the next page...
A view of Sedona's most famous landmark: Cathedral Rock. Photo courtesy of Sedona Chamber of Commerce.
Where to get in shape: Hiking in Sedona’s badlands
Sometimes a good challenge is all you need to stir a spiritual transformation. Hiking Cathedral Rock—Arizona’s most photographed hot spot—was just the test I needed. For the athletically inclined (those with a good pair of runners and average lower body strength) a climb to the top of Cathedral Rock is just like an exhilarating walk in the park alongside prickly pear cactus. Scaling the steep inclines and smooth plateaus of Cathedral Rock truly is the hike of a lifetime for anyone who undertakes it—and what awaits you at the crest makes your trip worth the exertion.
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Here’s why: A trek to the towering summit of Cathedral Rock promises the chance to enter a vortex—a mystical magnetic pocket where people claim to feel a surge of intense emotion upon arrival (comparable to the burst of energy you receive when holding a crystal). I battled a mild case of altitude sickness during my pursuit of the vortex, but at only half way up the rock, I was already overcome with a phenomenal sense of quiet that left me feeling virtually stress-free. Sitting on a slab of gritty red sandstone overlooking Sedona and breathing in the fresh mountain air while completely at peace is a moment I will never forget.
For the die-hard hikers out there, Boynton Canyon, Bell Rock, Long Canyon Meda, Chapel of the Holy Cross (yes—this concrete church really is built into the foothills) and Red Rock Crossing are all known vortexes that guarantee an invigorating jaunt, picturesque scenery and of course, the prospect of healing your mind, body and soul through deep meditation at an energy apex. Insider tip: It’s a good idea to hire a guide to help you navigate the trails and learn more about each location’s individual intricacies.
Where to shop: Take home a piece of Sedona
Retail therapy is also highly encouraged in Sedona, where visitors can bring home a token to commemorate their spiritual expedition. Start your hunt at Tlaquepaque (tlaq.com)—a 30-year-old outdoor market comprised of art galleries, gift shops and enchanting restaurants. Stop at Eco Bath and Body Shop where Sedona’s rustic scent is actually captured inside a bottle of perfume, have lunch on the terrace with El Rincon’s Mexican cuisine (their chocolate cherry chimichangas are to die for), or browse the overflowing aisles of Natural Wonders to catch a glimpse of the locally harvested artifacts and porcelain figurines. The quality of relics hidden away at Tlaquepaque makes it the best location to invest in an authentic, sentimental keepsake from the Red Rocks.
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For a less extravagant (and more affordable) shopping excursion, a trip to Uptown is a local favourite. Similar to the central strip of a major city, Uptown consists of cowboy style diners, Native American clothing stores and charming eateries with quaint outdoor seating on the outskirts of Sedona. You’ll fall in love, like I did, with Sedona Crystal Vortex (sedonacrystalvortex.com), a metaphysical boutique that showcases handmade jewellery pieces, bona fide artist paintings and countless genuine precious rocks (in addition to hosting tarot card readings and past life regression with the resident psychic).
I was instantly attracted to a clear quartz crystal—the master healer in the world of the supernatural. Considered to be the most powerful curing stone for its encouragement of energy flows, a balanced mind and freed chakras, the gem encapsulates the spiritual journey I had just experienced in Sedona by gracing me with absolute harmony whenever I grasp its glossy surface. With my new crystal in hand, I was ready for the voyage home—refreshed and revitalized with a renewed outlook on life.
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