Eco-Friendly Escape

Eco-Sensitive Bliss: The Courtyard at El Monte Sagrado     Photo: courtesy, El Monte Sagrado

Morocco is an inferno. At least, that's how it feels from my cushion next to the fire as the masseuse pretzels my legs into "healing" Thai massage positions. When the contortions are over, I slide my eyelids open, prop my elbows on gold pillows, and look out the window. No camels. No bazaar. Instead, steep peaks meet clear skies, and gnarled cottonwoods tower over a low-slung cluster of adobes with signs that read TEXAS, BALI, and MOROCCO. But instead of North Africa, I'm at El Monte Sagrado resort. No matter—both places have a knack for suspending reality.

El Monte Sagrado, 36 suites and casitas circling a luscious green "sacred circle" east of downtown Taos, is all about suspended reality. Half its mission is to propel the notion of luxury escapism to new heights; the other half is to serve as a model of sustainability. On the luxury side: Merge scrambled eggs with the sublime while breakfasting under a priceless Warhol, a Picasso, and multiple Basquiats, part of owner Tom Worrell's private collection. Get fully buffed with the spa's High Altitude Adjustment massage or High Desert body polish. Then, after a couple of hours of hiking and yoga, the rich-with-cinnamon Mexican chocolate cake in the De la Tierra restaurant doesn't seem like a vice.

On the sustainability side, the resort, finished in July 2003, is a 3-D manual on living right. Worrell built El Monte Sagrado to showcase his other business, Dharma Living Systems, which designs eco-friendly wastewater-treatment systems. So as you listen to the splash and trickle of water running from one goldfish-stocked pond to the next, remember: All the nonpotable water is recycled effluent.

BONUS: For unsustainable culinary debauchery, hit Antonio's (505-758-9889), a cozy Mexican restaurant on Taos's south side, for chiles rellenos with walnut-and-brandy cream sauce.

DETAILS: One-bedroom casitas at El Monte Sagrado (800-828-8267, www.elmontesagrado.com) start at $345 per night; two-bedroom suites start at $1,495.

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