The red rocks and other geologic formations in Sedona are much older than the mystical movement that now dominates the cultural space, somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 million years older. But the New Age narratives that are integral to the contemporary experience of the place aren’t to be entirely written off. However you approach Sedona — from the scientific to the metaphysical — it’s a profound experience of place: place in time, eternal place (outside time), undeniably beautiful and unique in all the world. Because my work involves defining, and perhaps redefining, what constitutes luxury, I am always on the lookout for human-constructed places that nail the view, a key component of true luxury. Sedona offers two such hotels for the curious traveler: Enchantment Resort and L’Auberge de Sedona.
While the dramatic red buttes and mesas of Sedona are its yang poster child, there’s also a creek that runs through, and past, the town: Oak Creek is Sedona’s yin counterpart — a refuge, a retreat, an interior view in contrast to the bald externality of the rocks, from which juniper trees seem to magically grow. And while you can choose one or the other, Sedona offers both, which is the defining feature that makes this place so special — luxurious, if you will.
Back to these two magnificent constructed spaces within this awesome natural place. Enchantment and L’Auberge are both world-class hotels in terms of all the usual defining features travelers will recognize: on-point, impeccable service; good food (Sedona is not known for its restaurants, but these two properties serve some of its best); all the creature comforts like plush bedding and up-to-date technology; and all the services like spa treatments, room service, and appealing pools. But as with all great places one visits, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and this holds true for the deservedly storied town of Sedona and these two destination hotels.
I flipped a coin to determine which hotel to discuss here first because they are equally compelling, their pros and cons best determined by who you are and why you want to be in Sedona. (That said, both places, polar as they are, offer access to the “other” experience in short order.) And if you have a whole week, you might choose to spend half your time and one and half at the other, which is what my family and I recently did. I review each property thoroughly in separate stories (L’Auberge de Sedona here and Enchantment Resort here), but I also want to offer a basic comparison/contrast of ambiance, both interior and exterior, for anyone considering a visit who doesn’t know these two hotels or is a Sedona newbie altogether.
L’Auberge de Sedona (no relation to Auberge Resorts founded by Mark Harmon) is the American Southwest version of a French auberge set on the banks of Oak Creek. It is paradoxically elegant and rustic, and it is an aural immersion the 24/7 infinity loop of the rushing creek water. (I was deeply to relived to find the water still rushing after prolonged drought in the state of Arizona.) Everything you see, do, smell — and dare I say, think — is coerced by this fact. This is the kind of place for travelers who love to be cocooned in nature, tucked into it as opposed to looking out. It’s a lush, dense, forested property, always an eyewash in a state that is mostly desert. There’s a new set of cottages built up higher on the ridge for views of the red rocks that are visible just beyond the forest (intended as a “best of both worlds sort of concept”), but I say if you’re going to set up camp by the creek, then get as close as you possibly can. Read the full review here.
Enchantment Resort (and its separate spa resort within, Mii Amo, currently under renovation) could not be more different, aesthetically or philosophically. Enchantment is all about the red rocks and their energy-laden vortexes, an unparalleled visual extravagance. One’s field of view here is wide, tall and deep — overwhelmingly, in all directions. If you are driving to Boynton Canyon, and you don’t know Enchantment is there, you’ll be gobsmacked by its gentle integration into the landscape. There’s a gate at the back of the property that you can open with your room key, and it leads to a path straight back into the heart of the canyon, a walk that can be as short or long as you want. And where L’Auberge is all about the aural, Enchantment is a visual tour de force. There’s too much to take in at any point in the visual field, but that ends up feeling like a comfort than it does overwhelm — something akin to visual white noise, maybe. That I don’t really have the language for it is, perhaps, a good thing.
One feels appropriately small in both landscapes, Boynton Canyon and Oak Creek, and either will set you right in terms of the relationship of self to nature. I suppose that’s one reason so many people flock here. Come for the energy, and leave energized, whether spiritually, psychologically, or physically — it’s all on the menu in the magical place. You just have to show up ready.