A spectacular lodging in Ensenada’s Wine Valley integrates luxury, simplicity and nature
by Carla White
Photography by Edgar Lima, Indómita, Aventuras Educativa
Just past the vast LA Cetto vineyards and the Domecq winery on Highway 3 (Ensenada-Tecate), it is almost startling to gaze up at the craggy hillside and realize that there are modernistic earth-colored structures clinging to the incline. Unexpected, mysterious and begging to be explored: This is Endémico, a luxury lodging billed as an ‘anti-resort’, that prides itself on being at one with nature in Ensenada‘s wine valley. Perched among the rocks overlooking the vineyards and lomas of the Valle de Guadalupe, Endémico — designed by Tijuana architect Jorge Garcia — is on a mission to expose the indigenous beauty of the region, catering to a high-end clientele who seek to combine travel with a deeper understanding of the lands that they are visiting. Key to this is Encuentro Guadalupe, which is propelling the slow food and sustainability movement in Baja, and that is associated with Endémico.
Working in conjunction with a program called Indómita, Aventuras Educativas (which roughly translates into Indomitable: Educational Adventures), Encuentro has created an experience that includes wine tasting, escorted nature hiking, as well as innovative and chic accommodations. Your journey begins in the lobby of the spectacular Encuentro, where travelers are sometimes met by renowned Ensenada photographer Edgar Lima of Indómita and Moisés Santos-Mena, Indómita’s terrestrial nature guide. The two will be quiet at first, letting you be dumbfounded by the stunning panoramic vista from this sophisticated reception area, a 180 degree view of valley vineyards and steep hills that play out below and around.
In the open expanse of the reception area and bar are shiny stainless steel fermenting tanks and other wine production equipment, which add to the room’s sleek ambiance. Encuentro’s wines are available for tasting there, and can also be taken downstairs to a sub-level cafe area that includes a subterranean cava and a presentation room that has been carved out of the earth and features some of the huge boulders that were displaced in the construction of the building.
Now comes the fun part: A guided tour that zig-zags up a nature trail from Encuentro to the eco-lofts that are much higher up on the rocky hillsides (you can also be transported via jeep or van). This hike, narrated by Santos-Mena, gives meaning to the hotel’s name, Endémico (native to a specific region). Each plant, no matter how insignificant it might appear, is given its context and importance to the ecosystem of the area; each bird is remarked upon and even the lichen that crawls over ancient stone facings is given attention. As the path winds upwards, different angles of Ensenada‘s wine valley are revealed until, with unexpected suddenness, you curve into the hillside and find yourself in a tranquil canyon that faces west, towards the sunset. Finally, you can get an up-close-and-personal look at the remarkable containers that are, in reality, hotel rooms. Each has its own deck, most with small fireplaces, and its own breathtaking view. Inside, even on a cool night, the small self-contained rooms are warm, plush and impeccable.
Meandering past the habitats, you at once feel excited by this hidden treasure in the hills of Ensenada’s wine valley and calmed by the absolute tranquility of it all. Especially when you come to the top, to the luxurious infinity pool and Endémico’s outdoor restaurant, where patrons get to enjoy light meals and breakfast.
It is easy to understand why Encuentro Guadalupe and Indómita, Aventuras Educativa have partnered. Together, they are offering a chance for people to see what is called “El Otro México,” the other Mexico. In and of itself, Baja is a different world than mainland Mexico, with its rocky and remote coasts and harshly glorious deserts. But Ensenada’s wine valley differs even more, in some ways resembling Napa Valley, with its floor carpeted in olive trees and vineyards and huge rocky outcroppings. The groups are currently offering a special promotion for residents of Ensenada (a package that includes lodging at Endémico , wine tasting, a bottle of wine and a guided tour, for $70, double occupancy required). But even without a special promotion, this unusual property is worth a visit, at least, if not a stay for a few nights!
Where is Endémico? Endémico is at kilometer 75 on Highway 3, Tecate-Ensenada, in the Valle de Guadalupe, Ensenada’s wine valley.
What to expect: Bring hiking shoes, binoculars (red tail hawks are abundant), and a camera. Rooms are small but plush, with sparkling bathrooms, and awesome views from individual decks.
When to go: Ensenada’s wine valley is wonderful at any time of the year, with typical valley coastal climates: warm in the day and chilly at night. Think about going online and checking for meteor showers or lunar cycles: This is the perfect place to enjoy them!
How to contact Endémico: (646) 151 6137
How to contact Indómita, Aventuras Educativa: Visit their facebook page, at Indómita, Aventuras Educativa. To find out more about the special package, Encuentro=Indomita + Ensenada, call (646) 155 27 75.
Edgar Lima is a professional photographer whose work appears frequently on Baja.com. He focuses on visually exploring the culture, peoples, geography and identity of Baja, particularly the Ensenada region. He is one of the leaders of Indómita, Aventuras Educativa. More of his work can be seen on his facebook page.
Want to know about other activities in Ensenada? Visit Baja.com.
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