With all its casinos, stage shows, and buffets, Las Vegas doesn’t appeal to everyone. Trust me, as someone who lived in Sin City for five years, I get it.
However, even if Vegas isn’t your cup of tea, don’t write it off just yet. Located near the southern tip of Nevada, it’s the perfect jumping-off point for a whole host of amazing road trips through the American Southwest.
Of all the places to visit in America, the Southwest is the most unique both in terms of landscape and culture. You can run into all kinds of things in this crazy corner of the country. A lot of old frontier towns still exist, as does parts of old Route 66. Add to that heavy influences from Native American, Mexican, and cowboy culture and you’ve got the Southwest in a nutshell!
(Red Rock Canyon, near Las Vegas)
Death Valley, California
It takes about 2 hours to get to the heart of Death Valley from Las Vegas. The best time of the year to make the trip is in late March or early April, when the valley is occasionally covered in colourful wildflowers. At other times of the year Death Valley is a desolate save for a few remnants left behind from abandoned settlements that have to be seen to be believed.
To step foot in a proper Old West ghost town, head to Rhyolite, located right before the entrance to Death Valley National Park.
(Rhyolite, Photo Credit: Flickr User Corala)
The Hoover Dam, Nevada and Arizona & Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
(En-route to Grand Canyon National Park)
You can hit up both these spots in one very long day so long as you’re prepared for lots of driving. The Hoover Dam is a remarkable site and feat of engineering that you can’t miss on your way to the Grand Canyon. Just beyond the dam you’ll get your first taste of the real American Southwest. Past the casinos and hotels, you’ll enter a huge expanse of desert broken only by the single road that cuts through it.
(The Grand Canyon)
After about 4 hours you’ll reach the South Rim of the mighty Grand Canyon. Day visitors have just enough time to take a good look around and soak in the scenery. If you stay overnight you could descent into the canyon itself the following day on a tour to views the walls of the canyon up close and get a better feel for the sheer scale of this natural wonder of the world.
(Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Albuquerque is New Mexico’s biggest city and has benefitted from a boom in tourism thanks to the hit television show Breaking Bad. However, the state capital of Santa Fe offers a little more in terms of culture and ambiance. Founded in 1610, Santa Fe is the oldest capital in the United States and retains a colourful cultural heritage. Even if you only visit Santa Fe for a few hours, take the time to sit down and have a proper meal here, as the food is to die for.
(Santa Fe, New Mexico)