When it comes to viewing wildlife, exploring otherworldly landscapes, and unplugging from everyday life, travelers frequently turn to Africa's grassy game preserves, the lush jungles of Central America and Southeast Asia, and coastal havens like Alaska and Antarctica.
But when media mogul and conservationist Ted Turner opened his Ladder Ranch and private home in New Mexico to eco-tourists through his new adventure outfit Ted Turner Expeditions (TTX) last fall, he helped rocket the American Southwest into the ranks of the world's top eco-tourism spots. We spent three days exploring Ladder Ranch, and this is our report.
What's Hot: Here, there's no sceney bar or lounge, too-avant-garde-to-eat cuisine, or in-room technology so advanced you can't figure out how to use it -- and that's what's so refreshing. The property takes guests back to basics, from the ranch house's traditional Southwestern decor to the gorgeous grounds and all the splendid flora and fauna.
Best Feature: Hands down, it's the landscape and exclusivity. Some liken a stay at Ladder Ranch to having a national park all to yourself; travelers will be hard-pressed to find another scenario in which they can roam such a vast expanse of wilderness without running into a single other soul.
The Rooms: The ranch house has three ground-floor bedrooms, including Turner's own spacious master suite. The second floor offers an additional two bedrooms -- one with a queen bed, and another with three twin beds. Rooms are decorated in traditional Southwestern style, with polished wood floors, cozy quilts, animal-skin rugs, and an earthy color palette of honey, ivory, rosy pinks, and olive greens. With its lived-in leather sofa and stone fireplace, the home's main living room is guaranteed to be a popular gathering spot.
The Food: All meals are prepared in the home's huge kitchen by a private chef, who can accommodate guests' dietary restrictions and preferences. Breakfasts include everything from fresh fruit and yogurt to omelettes, homemade breads and jams, and Southwestern-inspired egg dishes. Daily brown-bag lunches to go include artfully assembled sandwiches, fruit, trail mix, and baked goodies, while dinners back at the ranch house feature items like bison steaks and vegetable terrines.
Who Will Love It: Eco-tourists, animal lovers, and adventure seekers will find this to be an ideal getaway thanks to activity options like mountain biking, hiking, ATV rides, birding tours, and other guided adventures that bring guests face to face with wildlife -- think: elk, bison, deer, antelope, bears, and mountain lions. History buffs won't mind staying here, either, as the ranch is home to historical artifacts like petroglyphs and the ruins of a turn-of-the-century adobe home.
Who Might Not: Ladder Ranch comprises 156,000 acres, and with only one lodging option on site, a stay here is a study in isolation. While nature buffs will revel in the ranch's remote tranquility, travelers in search of a glittery urban experience will want to set their sights elsewhere.
Nearby: This isn't Turner's only New Mexico property; he also owns nearby Armendaris Ranch, where, similarly to Ladder Ranch, guests can enjoy guided hikes and ATV tours. Thirty minutes away from both ranches in the historic town of Truth or Consequences -- called T or C by the locals -- is Sierra Grande Lodge & Spa, yet another Turner-owned hotel with a restaurant, spa, and natural hot springs. With retro architecture, colorful facades, friendly shopkeepers, and a vintage vibe, T or C itself is worthy of a few hours' exploration.
Rates and Packages: The nightly rate for a stay at Ladder Ranch is $6,000 ($1,500 per person) for up to for guests, and includes all meals, non-alcoholic beverages, a designated house manager, and ranch adventures with private naturalists and guides. No packages or specials are currently on offer, but guests can expect special extras on occasions like Father's Day and Mother's Day, among others.
Getting There: The drive from Albuquerque International Sunport to Ladder Ranch is a little over two hours. Guests can rent a car at Albuquerque's airport or request a ground transfer for an additional charge.