Author: Lisa Crockett/Thursday, March 7, 2019/Categories: Travel News
Not far from the RV resorts, golf courses and saguaro cactus in southern Arizona lies a spectacular land, full of diverse sights and history. Fantasy now brings you up close to this fascinating area on our new Sensational Southwest tour, where we spend 24 days exploring some of America’s most amazing and spectacular scenery.
It all begins in beautiful Red Rock Country, Sedona, Arizona. Here, multi-hued red stone formations jut out of the high desert floor, with colors changing constantly due to the light. USA Weekend recently named Sedona as the top spot on their list of Most Beautiful Places in America, and they were right. We spend four nights in this beautiful part of the world.
After the Fantasy Orientation, Get Acquainted Party and Welcome Dinner, the group enjoys a guided trolley tour of many of those famous red rocks, including the Chapel of the Holy Cross – the iconic Sedona landmark built on a spur of red rock 200 feet above the ground. We browse around Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village – a unique area of shops, art galleries and fine restaurants modeled after the city of Guadalajara, Mexico. There’s wine tasting on our tour of Alcantara Estate Vineyards and a stop at Montezuma Castle National Monument, one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in our country, with 45+ rooms nestled into a towering limestone cliff. 600 years ago, the apartments were built by the Singua people, who learned how to thrive in an unforgiving desert landscape.
There’s more to do in Sedona, and Fantasy has left free time for us to experience much of it. We can choose to tour more of the rocks and canyons in the famous pink jeeps. If we’re into vortexes, we can even search for these mysterious cosmic forces which are said to emanate from Sedona’s red rocks.
It’s a short drive to the next stop – Williams, a small town nestled in Arizona’s pine country. We enjoy a delicious campground cookout, courtesy of our Fantasy WagonMasters. The next morning, it’s all aboard the Grand Canyon Railway, where we have first-class seats on lovingly restored rail cars. Our destination – one of the seven wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon! We’ll have lunch while enjoying the spectacular views of the Canyon, then return to Williams on the train, complete with entertaining musicians and cowboy characters.
From Williams, we travel east to Holbrook, stopping en-route to visit Arizona’s Meteor Crater – the spectacular result of a meteor collision approx. 50,000 years ago. Today, it is the best-preserved meteorite impact site on earth. Since we’re in the neighborhood, we just have to stop and stand on the corner in Winslow, Arizona for such a fine sight to see! The famous corner from the Eagles’ hit song Take It Easy is now a public park.
On our way to Gallup, New Mexico the next day, we stop at Petrified Forest National Park, a fascinating area covering more than 10,000 years of human history, including 800+ archeological and historic sites. Ancestral Puebloan people built Puerco Pueblo in 1200 A.D., and constructed the Agate House out of pieces of petrified wood in 1100. When we arrive in Gallup, we visit the Richardson Trading Post – family owned since it was established in 1913, and one of the most colorful and historic Indian trading posts in the world. Shopping alert! Beautiful jewelry, local pottery, a wide selection of native rugs and even Kachina dolls are all displayed and on sale!
We cross back into Arizona, stopping in Ganado at the Hubbell Trading Post, which has been buying from and selling goods to local Navajo people since 1878. They still purchase handmade crafts directly from artists in the area.
We travel on to Chinle for a visit to Canyon de Chelly (pronounced “Shay”) National Park – a place like no other. We’re taken by vehicle into the canyon by a Navajo guide. Here, people have lived in the canyons for nearly 5,000 years – longer than anyone has lived uninterrupted on the Colorado plateau. Ancient cliff dwellings are built into the canyon’s walls. Today, Navajo families live in the canyons, raising livestock and farming the lands.
Our next stop is a place we’ve all probably seen in photographs, on television and at the movies. The majestic landscape of Monument Valley, covering the northeastern corner of Arizona and the southeastern corner of Utah consists of amazing sandstone bridges, arches and towers coupled with clear blue skies and clean air.
The movie industry made its way to the Valley starting in 1939, when John Ford filmed Stagecoach, starring a newcomer called John Wayne, and returned nine more times to shoot more Western movies. In later years, Monument Valley has appeared in many blockbusters, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Chronos, Back to the Future Part III, Forrest Gump, Mission Impossible II and of course the climatic finale of Thelma and Louise.
We tour Goulding’s Trading Post and enjoy a delicious lunch at their hotel. But the real attractions here are the sunsets and sunrises over spectacular rock formations, reflecting deep red and gold colors on the surrounding mesas.
On the way to our next destination, Bloomfield, New Mexico, we stop at Aztec National Monument – part of the migration journeys of the Pueblo people. We can explore a 900-year old ancestral Pueblo great house and see the cooking methods of these ancient peoples in a reconstructed Great Kiva. We move on to Chama, where we climb aboard and enjoy lunch on the Cumbres & Toltec Narrow Gauge Railroad, a National Historic Landmark. The coal-fired steam engine carries us through steep mountain canyons, high desert and lush meadows – rare Western scenery which can only be seen from the train’s route.
Abiquiu, New Mexico is home to Ghost Ranch, and it’s our next stop. If you’re a Georgia O’Keeffe fan, this is the one you’ve been waiting for. She owned a small piece of land in the area, and many of her landscapes were painted here. We enjoy a guided tour and lunch at the Ranch, and that evening a traditional northern New Mexico dinner at the Abiquiu Inn.
We leave Abiquiu for the short drive to Taos – a.k.a. the Soul of the Southwest. Golden mesas meet endless blue skies, the sacred mountain peaks rise into the air – it’s a mecca for artists from around the world. We walk through town, marveling at the many art galleries and shops surrounding the traditional plaza, followed by a campground cookout. We’re extremely fortunate to be able to attend the San Geronimo Feast Day celebration at the Taos Pueblo – an annual event celebrating the pueblo’s patron saint.
Our last stop is legendary Santa Fe – our country’s oldest capital city. The culture and talents of Anglo, Spanish and native people combine in this beautiful and unique community set against a backdrop of the spectacular Sangre de Cristo mountains. Native Americans used to call Santa Fe “Dancing Ground of the Sun,” while founding frontiersmen referred to it as “The City Different.” We’re about to learn why.
We have an afternoon on our own to just explore Santa Fe, or we may opt to visit Los Alamos, home to the Manhattan Project. On our final day together, we enjoy a guided motorcoach tour of many of the area highlights – the Mission of San Miguel, Loretto Chapel, El Rancho de las Golondrinas and of course the famous Santa Fe plaza. It’s all followed by a traditional Fantasy Farewell Dinner, and a Goodbye Breakfast the following morning.
The inaugural Sensational Southwest tour begins on September 10, 2019, and is exclusive to FMCA members. Only a few spaces remain. In 2020, it will also depart on September 10 and will be a Good Sam member tour. And if you’re really enjoying yourselves traveling through the southwest, it’s possible to stay a little longer and participate in either of the Fantasy Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Rallies directly following the tour.
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