Surrounded by red sandstone rocks, Sedona, Arizona, has perhaps the most beautiful physical setting of any American city. The deep reds of dramatically shaped formations formed over millions of years by rain and wind provide a dramatic contrast to green forests and a brilliant blue sky.
Sedona’s scenic wonders have long drawn outdoor enthusiasts, artists, and most of all spiritual seekers, who believe that seven energy vortexes surround the town. On a recent trip, my husband and I learned more about those vortexes at Sedona’s Center for the New Age, which has maps of their locations as well as tarot cards, crystals, books, jewelry, and angel paraphernalia. Store clerks were happy to tell us stories of how their vibration levels have been raised at these sites.
It’s easy to poke fun at Sedona, with its UFO sightseeing tours and signs advertising the services of psychics, healers, aura photographers, and past-life regressions. But all the quirkiness is part of the city’s appeal, and goodness knows if UFOs are going to land anywhere, Sedona would be a great introduction to Planet Earth.
While I couldn’t convince my husband to get his aura photographed, we did have a grand time just browsing the stores. In one shop we overheard a clerk announcing they were out of “fairy dust and unicorn tears;” in another, we watched as a customer agonized over which crystal to buy before the stress of the decision became too much for her and she left.
The owner shook her head. “She’s blocking her energy,” she told us sadly. “The crystals were talking to her and she couldn’t hear them.”
In addition to the seven invisible vortexes, Sedona has two sacred sites that draw visitors of all faiths. We found the first, the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park, at the base of Thunder Mountain overlooking the town. Its 14 acres include a 36-foot stupa, a structure around which walking meditation is done. A nearby sign explains that the stupa’s interior is filled with sacred relics, prayers and symbols as well as earth from every continent. The entire complex is watched over by a beautifully carved wooden Buddha with an enigmatic smile.
Next we headed to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, one of the most beautiful churches in the world. Completed in 1956, the chapel rises from a cleft in a 200-foot rock that juts out from a 1,000 foot wall of stone. From below, it seems as if the chapel has grown organically out of the red standstone. Inside, the chapel itself is surprisingly small and simple, with pews where visitors can contemplate views of the surrounding hills and the city of Sedona below.
All of this beauty provides rich inspiration for the many artists who live in the area. Galleries fill the downtown streets, including the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, designed to resemble a village in Old Mexico. We spent an enjoyable afternoon wandering through its nearly 50 specialty shops that sell Southwestern-themed art, fine jewelry, Navajo rugs, wildlife bronzes, decorative garden pieces, and eye-catching, handmade clothing. And on the outskirts of town, we had a hard time tearing ourselves away from Son Silver West, a Sedona landmark for nearly four decades that sells home décor products ranging from the kitschy to the exquisite.
Next it was time to explore the countryside. Nearly two million acres of national forest land surround Sedona, with hundreds of miles of trails. Our favorite hike was in Boynton Canyon northwest of Sedona, where walls of striated red rock enclose a valley floor shaded by gambel oak trees and cottonwoods.
After walking, we rested by letting our car do the work on the 14-mile Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive that winds upwards to Flagstaff. With its many hairpin turns and switchbacks, every corner has stunning views of red cliffs and thick forests. At the top of the canyon, we visited with the Native American vendors who sell handmade arts and crafts at Oak Creek Canyon Vista Point.
Back in Sedona, we headed to Oak Creek Brewery & Grill, enjoying a wood- fired pizza washed down by Snake Charmer IPAs. Other fine dining choices in town include Cucina Rustica, which specializes in Italian dishes, and Elota Café, which serves Mexican fare with a gourmet twist. The Wildflower Bread Company is a good place for breakfast, with freshly baked specialties such as pumpking chocolate muffins and apricot pistachio roll.
We loved Sedona so much that as we neared the end of our weekend stay, we daydreamed about moving here—until we saw the real estate prices posted in a downtown window. But even a short-term visitor can soak up the beauty and good vibes in Sedona.
My favorite experience in town came on our final evening, when we watched the sunset from a hill known as Airport Vortex, one of the seven said to surround the town. As the light faded, more and more people arrived. Strangers introduced themselves and started chatting. Nobody had their noses buried in their phones. I met people from Israel, Connecticut, Germany, and Florida. All of us were united in our experience of beauty, watching as the light illuminated the red rocks all around us.
It felt like a New Age version of heaven, with all nationalities coming together to watch the sky open. I can’t say for certain it was a vortex, I’m pretty certain it raised my vibration level.
IF YOU GO
Fall is the best season to enjoy Sedona, with moderate temperatures and golden leaves on the trees. For upscale lodging, book a room at The Inn Above Oak Creek (928-282-7896; www.innaboveoakcreek.com) and Casa Sedona Inn (928-282-2938; www.casasedona.com). Sedona also has moderately priced chain hotels. Camping is available at Rancho Sedona RV Park (928-282-7255; www.ranchosedona.com).
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For more information, contact the Sedona Chamber of Commerce at (800) 288-7336 or www.sedonachamber.com.