GETTING THERE: Southwest flies nonstop from BWI to Albuquerque, starting at $224 round trip. Connecting flights also are available on United, Delta, Frontier and American Airlines for about the same price. Santa Fe is an hour's drive north of Albuquerque and a much more attractive base, within easy reach of Bandelier and Los Alamos. Quieter Taos is a few scenic hours north. You can also fly to Santa Fe, with connections, for about $500 round trip.

WHERE TO STAY: In Santa Fe, Pueblo Bonito (138 W. Manhattan, 505-984-8001, www.pueblobonitoinn.com) is a charming B&B with kiva fireplaces and thick adobe walls, and is only a short hike from the Plaza. Besides a plain but ample breakfast buffet, there's a happy hour daily with complimentary margaritas. Rooms run $85 (January and February) to $165 (mid-May to October). At the historic El Paradero B&B (220 W. Manhattan, 505-988-1177, www.elparadero.com), rates are similar and include breakfast with a Southwestern flair. Feeling flush? Go east of the Plaza for grand lodgings like La Fonda (100 E. San Francisco St., 800-523-5002, www.lafondasantafe.com), where JFK, Errol Flynn and Diane Keaton have all stayed. Doubles from $219 a night.

At Taos's La Posada de Taos (309 Juanita Lane, 800-645-4803, www.laposadadetaos.com), spacious, sunlit, tiled rooms have their own kiva fireplaces and patios. Rates run $99 to $234 for the Honeymoon House. The sprawling Mabel Dodge Luhan House (240 Morada Lane, 800-846-2235, www.mabeldodgeluhan.com) has played host to D. H. Lawrence, Georgia O'Keeffe and a parade of other literary and artistic greats. Doubles go for $95 to $180.

WHERE TO EAT: In Santa Fe, reserve a dinner table at Cafe Pasqual's (121 Don Gaspar), a cozy corner spot off the Plaza that serves an inspired blend of New Mexican dishes and other ethnic fare. Dinner for three, including wine, was $81. Grab a burger or some barbecue at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame (319 S. Guadalupe St.), where lunch for three cost $35. Coyote Cafe (132 W. Water St.) takes traditional Southwestern cuisine in exotic new directions. Dinner for three with appetizers, wine and dessert cost $143; in fair weather, an outdoor rooftop section with a smaller menu has less pricey options. Cottonwoods, downstairs from Coyote Cafe, serves reasonably priced lunch.

At Taos's Apple Tree (123 Bent St.), candlelit tables and friendly service complement expertly seasoned dishes; dinner for two, with wine, was $60.

INFORMATION: "The Santa Fe & Taos Book," by Sharon Niederman (Berkshire House Publishers), offers a comprehensive rundown of lodgings, restaurants, shops and activities. "Compass American Guides: Santa Fe," by Lawrence Cheek, has stunning color photos and lyrical writing. For hiking info, the Santa Fe Sierra Club (505-983-2703) can provide maps and organized outings. Wild Mountain Outfitters (505-986-1152) in Santa Fe carries several hiking guides. For general info: Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-777-2489, http://santafe.org.

-- Susan Morse