This breathtaking historic hotel hails from the days of the Santa Fe Railway in the early years of the twentieth century. Conceptualized as the finest of luxury hotels by renowned architect Charles Whittlessey, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in the 1980s and today remains one of the most beautiful historic structures in the entire Grand Canyon National Park. With its proximity to the Canyon’s edge combined with luxurious accommodations, it’s widely considered the most elegant place to stay in the Grand Canyon itself.
El Tovar Ambiance
Originally constructed in 1901 at the behest of the Sante Fe Railway, El Tovar was designed by Chicago architect Whittlessey to evoke European-style construction – a popular architectural trend in luxury lodgings at the time. Generally thought of as the most majestic and beautiful hotel west of the Mississippi for many decades, El Tovar still evokes awe in many visitors. It’s been host to famous people for generations – from Teddy Roosevelt to Paul McCartney – and today remains the most luxurious option for Grand Canyon lodging.
Comprised of regional limestone and Oregon pine, El Tovar epitomizes rustic charm on a massive scale. It’s said to feel like a cross between a Swiss Chalet and a Norwegian Villa – an apt description that only begins to capture the grandeur of this historic hotel. Customers flock from around the globe to stay at this lodging, so be warned that reservations for El Tovar are often booked up to a year or more in advance!
El Tovar Rooms
One of the best things about El Tovar is its uniqueness; no two rooms or suites are identical, and they are each decorated in distinct ways to reflect the heritage of the room itself. For example, the Zane Grey Suite is adorned with art that reflects the author’s style and body of work. There are 78 rooms in the hotel as whole, 12 of which are two room suites.
The first tier of lodging is the basic room, available in standard or deluxe. The standard room is designed for one or two people, offering a single queen or double bed. These rooms offer all of the basic amenities and more – more like what you’d expect from a high-end hotel than a rustic Grand Canyon lodging. You’ll find satellite TV, a convenient Keurig coffee maker, a handy safe, and basics like a hairdryer and telephone. Bathrooms are modest but clean and convenient. Those traveling the summer months will be pleased to hear that all the rooms at El Tovar are air-conditioned – not necessarily a must in the evening, but very valuable during the day when the temperatures can skyrocket.
The second tier of available lodging is comprised of the twelve suites. Formed by a bedroom, a bathroom, and a sitting room, these suites are highly in demand for couples and families alike, and are priced well above standard/deluxe room rates. That said, past guests almost universally agree that the extra cost is well worth the convenience and comfort. These units have the same amenities as the standard/deluxe rooms, but feature either one king or two queen beds, so they’re better suited for traveling families or couples who like a little extra luxury in their experience. Suites often have balconies or porches (occasionally shared with adjacent units), so there’s plenty of opportunity to sit outside and enjoy the amazing Canyon views. Note that suites must be reserved over the phone.
While each of the rooms is unique, there are some aesthetic patterns that stretch across the hotel’s available units. Furniture is typically a warm wood, with sleek, modern country designs that complement that building’s history as well as its contemporary updates. Likewise, light fixtures evoke the same country modern feel. Artwork captures the awesome beauty of the Grand Canyon and its natural landmarks and iconic places. Bedding is soft and cozy, with bright accents for a pop of color amidst a crisp white. The rooms are generally well lit with natural light from the large windows. Suites tend to have more southwestern-inspired décor with a more luxurious feel to the beds and other furniture. These rooms are also more spacious, encompassing more seating and functional pieces like couches and desks. Those looking for a true El Tovar experience may lean towards the suites.
El Tovar Amenities
El Tovar is well appointed to serve the various needs of their guests. With a convenient lobby, gift shop, a lounge, a fine dining room, and a newsstand, guests will appreciate all the modern conveniences on offer from this historic hotel. In-room dining is also available, courtesy of the hotel’s restaurant.
The El Tovar dining room is internationally recognized as being among the best hotel restaurants, and has many menu items that have become classic favorites of celebrities over the years. There is a wide variety of available dishes, although the menu as a whole combines southwestern cuisine with international flair to produce a truly delicious and memorable selection. The dining room serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with different hours in the adjacent lounge. Please note that unlike the other dining establishments in Grand Canyon Village, the dress code here is business casual. Reservations are strongly recommended, especially during the busy summer months – reservations are available up to six months in advance.
The lounge at El Tovar is another delightful option for guests looking to relax. With rustic Southwestern décor and artwork provided by local artists, this comfortable space is the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring the Grand Canyon. A light menu offers top selections from the main dining menu alongside a wide variety of adult beverages, including 100 different varieties of wine! Guests must be 21 years or older to enter the lounge. Tip: if you’re there around sunset, be sure to step outside onto the veranda to enjoy the view.
There are more dining options for guests to consider at Bright Angel Lodge, especially the popular Arizona Room or the convenient Canyon Coffee Shop. Maswik Lodge (also in town) offers a Pizza Pub for those looking for more casual fare.
Like many places all throughout the Grand Canyon National Park – and Grand Canyon Village especially – parking can be a real challenge. Guests are advised to find a spot and leave their car for the duration of their trip, opting instead to use the park’s excellent shuttle bus system, which picks up and drops off quite near the hotel.
El Tovar Neighborhood
Perched just on the edge of the Grand Canyon, El Tovar is the easternmost of the lodging options in Grand Canyon Village. Situated between Kachina Lounge and the historic Hopi House (originally built as a souvenir stand, today it’s an architectural landmark), El Tovar is also quite near to the famed Grand Canyon Railway, one of the most popular non-Canyon landmarks in town. It’s within an easy distance of the Visitor Center, and is only a bit further from the marvelous Kolb Studio (a diverse bookstore / art gallery) and Lookout Studio (a historic stone building primarily used as a lookout point). El Tovar is also located in close proximity to the Rim Trail, from which you can reach many of the major Grand Canyon viewpoints like the nearby Mather Point.
Nearby hotels in the Grand Canyon Village include the Kachina and Thunderbird Lounges, the rustic Bright Angel Lounge, and the efficient Maswik Lodge (located a bit further back off the Canyon’s edge).