Sedona: Enchantment Resort and Mii Amo Spa

enchantmentsmallTop spas around the world search for scenic, tranquil settings, design their buildings with understated elegance, and offer a combination of message and body treatments to sooth both body and spirit. Enchantment Resort and Mii Amo Spa, nestled in Sedona’s Boynton Canyon, goes one step farther. The resort combines its stunning location with a healing tradition more than 1,000 years old. According to the Yavapai-Apache creation story, the resort sits in the Garden of Eden.

Dining on the patio of the Enchantment’s Yavapai Restaurant, I can understand why this canyon is central to Yavapai-Apache spiritual history. Sculpted red-rock cliffs tower over the narrow canyon and cast a golden glow both at sunrise and sunset. Set against the turquoise sky and the vibrant green of juniper and pine, the rock formations morph from one life-like shape to another as the sun and cloud shadows shift during the day.

We’re facing east as the evening sky fades from blue to purple. The jagged silhouettes on the ridge take on fanciful shapes. A tall, free-standing spire that dominates the skyline becomes a slender woman.Mii_Amo_SmokingSage-588-RT

“That’s Kachina Woman,” our waitress, Suzanne Wilson, a former Fairbanks resident, tells us. “At certain times of the year, the full moon rises above her and sits in the basket on her head.”

For centuries before the first Europeans arrived in the Southwest, Native Americans made annual pilgrimages to the red-rock canyons of Sedona to renew their spirits and perform sacred ceremonies. For the Yavapai-Apache, Boynton Canyon is particularly important. According to their  creation story, a great prophet foretold of a disastrous flood that would destroy the earth. A wise man crafted a hollow cottonwood log and sealed his daughter, food, and a bird inside.

The flood came and everyone perished except the woman in the log. After many days the log came to rest in Boynton Canyon and she released the bird. When it came back with a twig, she knew it was safe to leave her sanctuary. Since she was the only human alive, she performed sacred ceremonies and with the blessings of the sun and rain gods, conceived a son. “First Woman” became the “mother” of the Yavapai-Apache, so, in essence, Boynton Canyon is their Garden of Eden.

“It’s really an interesting creation story,” Suzanne says. “It combines the creation, flood, and the virgin birth all in one. The Apache still perform sacred ceremonies in the canyon.

”The cliffs of Boynton Canyon along with Cathedral Rock, Tabletop (Airport) Mesa, and Bell Rock frame the four corners of Sedona and create the area’s  famous harmonic “vortex” of creative and healing energy. In the center, the town sits in the shadow of Thunder Mountain with luminous cliffs that radiate sunlight like powerful beacons. Whether mystic or not, the breathtaking scenery has long attracted mystics, inspired artists, and invigorated the spirits of   visitors like ourselves.

Enchantment Resort and Mii Amo Spa, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, embrace the theme that this sacred setting nourishes both the human body and soul. Located five miles out of town and bordering thousands of acres of pristine national forest, Mii Amo specializes in traditional, Eastern and mystical programs. Besides the standard massage and body treatments, the spa offers Chinese rejuvenation, Watsu, Shiatsu, Soul Seeker, Vision Quest, Resonance, crystal therapy, and Ayurvedic programs.

Travel + Leisure magazine rates Mii Amo as the number one destination spa in America. Artfully designed in pueblo style with indigenous stone, earth-toned stucco, and wood timbers, the 24,000 square-foot building blends in with the natural elements of the canyon. A native landscape of juniper and pines, not palm trees and petunias, surrounds the building. Five adobe brick towers modeled after nearby ancient Anasazi ruins accent the roofline.

The unorthodox spa treatments tempt me and I originally sign up for the Mii Amo’s signature Blue Corn Polish, but back pains convince me to switch to a deep-tissue neck, shoulder, and back massage. My masseuse, Dana, meets me in the waiting lounge and leads me to the treatment room.

“Visualize all the stress flowing out of your body,” Dana tells me as she kneads out months of kinks from my neck and shoulders.

With inspiring red-rock cliffs, intense blue skies and tranquil setting, I can feel the vortex’s healing energy working its magic — or maybe it’s Dana’s expert hands.

As a destination spa and resort, Enchantment offers more than an overnight in a scenic setting. One- to seven-day spa packages combine fitness and lifestyle programs, treatments that focus on de-stressing, spiritual exploration, and rejuvenation, and the spa’s health-centered gourmet café, rated “Best Spa Menu” by American Spa Magazine.

To take advantage of Sedona’s stunning scenery, the resort’s activity desk arranges day trips to explore the red-rock canyon country. Hiking and mountain bike trails lead from the resort property, and National Forest trails, state parks, back roads, and local viewpoints make the red-rock vistas easily accessible. Spa Finder magazine rates Mii Amo as among the best spas in the world for hiking opportunities.

For the signature Sedona “wow” experience, we join a sunset Jeep tour of the back country with A Day In the West, the oldest tour company in Sedona. David Davis, “the Professor,” plies us with equal amounts of wit, Indian legends, and local history as he drives over rutted Forest Service tracks that resemble rocky roller coasters more that roads.

With the sun low in the sky, we stop on a highpoint to watch the spectacle. To the east the red cliffs of Boynton Canyon light up with rosy hues. In the west, the clouds blaze from yellow and orange to crimson. Gradually, the mesas fade to blue and the red-rock formations turn into black silhouettes. The silence of the desert  settles over us for the night.

The red-rock canyons of Sedona earn their reputation as some of the most soul-stirring scenery in the nation. What better location for the top destination spa in the nation?

George Oxford Miller is a free-lance travel writer and photographer. He is a frequent contributor to Houston Woman Magazine.

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