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November 01, 2021

By: SA Explorer

Explorer’s Journal: Visiting Sedona, Arizona with Destination Expert Shaina

Secondary Categories: Southwest

In this edition of our Explorer’s Journal, Destination Expert Shaina Molano takes us on a virtual journey through the beautiful red-rock buttes and steep canyons of Sedona, Arizona.

Greetings from the Southwest USA!

I’m Shaina, one of SA's Destination Experts. Recently, I took trip through the iconic desert region of Sedona, Arizona.

We started our time in Sedona with a gorgeous hike through the Boynton Canyon area. Hiking alongside one of our preferred 5-star hotels in Sedona, The Enchantment Resort, we made our way up to the Subway Cave. We climbed up a slot canyon to reach a spectacular vantage point of the cave, where I was able to look down on the rest of our group – see the header photo above. The hike was relatively easy (and shaded!) and provided many viewpoints of the sweeping Boynton Canyon. After talking with some Sedona locals, it seems this region is home to one of Sedona’s many vortexes

An archaeologist’s playground

Ancient Sinagua culture rock art, and a giddy archaeologist. (Photo: Kevin Floerke)

Before working with SA Expeditions as a Destination Expert, I used to work as Andean archaeologist, researching past populations in the Andes. Now that I’m living in the Southwest, I’ve been able to learn more about the past populations in this region, which have a rich history.

While visiting the Subway Cave in Boynton Canyon, we saw archaeological evidence of the Sinagua population, who lived in the area for approximately 800 years. The populations left behind some fascinating cave dwellings, rock art (which you can see here), and ruins. We were able to walk along cliffs on the sides of the caves to see some of these older dwellings and amazing cave art.

 A “Dark Sky Community”

No camping trip is complete without a campfire – assuming regional wildfire risk is low. (Photo: Kevin Floerke)

Joined by the SA Expeditions Brand Manager, Corey Jay, we took advantage of the plentiful outdoor space surrounding the city of Sedona by camping out along one of the backroads. This provided incredible views of the nearby red rocks from our campsite, complete with a fire ring left behind by previous campers. We cooked up some fresh veggies over the campfire and warmed ourselves as the cold of the desert night crept in.

Being outside as the twilight faded also gave us an amazing opportunity to stargaze in one of the best dark sky areas in the country. Recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association as the eighth Dark Sky Community in the world, it is among the best locations worldwide to see the stars. With crystal clear conditions all weekend long we were able to see the Milky Way with our naked eyes, a perfect end to each day of adventuring.

Fine dining in the desert

Steak and potatoes cooked to perfection at Mariposa restaurant. (Photo: Kevin Floerke)

We may have camped, but that doesn’t mean we were roughing it! A short drive down the highway brought us to one of the premier restaurants in the Southwest. Mariposa lived up to the hype with a suite of superb dishes perfectly augmented by a contemporary cocktail menu. With a healthy dose of Latin American influence our South America-loving team was right at home trying the Argentinian Chimichurri, fried Peruvian Yucca, and traditional Pisco Sours. We felt transported back to the continent that started it all for SA Expeditions, as a video looped on the television screens showing Mariposa’s head chef Lisa Dahl exploring the countrysides of Chile, Peru and Argentina gathering inspiration for the recipes that dazzled our palates. The highlight for us was the Flores Del Mar, a brothy seafood plate with a delicate and perfectly balanced mix of Southwestern and South American herbs and spices.

A blending of culinary traditions is one of the many benefits of a well-traveled world, and one of the reasons we feel so passionate about sharing our favorite destinations with as many people as possible. The menu at Mariposa brilliantly encapsulates how mixing cultural influences and expanding our horizons can lead to innovations and new creations. Throw in a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape and this is one Southwest experience we can wholeheartedly recommend (note: reservations are required, the further in advance the better!).

Admiring the impressive red rocks and surprisingly green landscape. (Photo: Kevin Floerke)

Outdoor adventure and modern luxury

My getaway in Sedona was another reminder of why I love to travel, and to share travel with our clients. There was so much to see and experience, and this is just one of the many breathtaking locations the Southwest has to offer (fancy combining Sedona with the jaw-dropping Grand Canyon?). Whether you’re looking to hike, bike, and explore the outdoors or wine, dine, and unwind with stunning views of red rock canyons, Sedona is a must-see destination. Every time we visit it seems we uncover more to love.

History, culture, outdoor adventure and modern luxury are rarely so easily accessible in one place, and to experience them all in the space of a weekend reminded us just how much the Southwest has to offer. We only wish we were headed onward to more of the nearby National Parks, but that’s an adventure for another weekend! Thanks for following along!

About the author: Shaina Molano is an archaeologist by trade, and in addition to specializing in crafting custom travel itineraries for her clients, she’s a spa hound, bookworm, and dog mom to Thor the adventure husky.