Saguaro National Park © Saguaro Pictures
Visits to Arizona are generally limited to the northwestern corner of the state that encompasses one of the great natural wonders of the world, the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon. Although a major tourist attraction, it need not be the only reason to visit this ruggedly beautiful state.
Arizona has 27 State Parks and numerous natural wonders that provide access to a wide variety of activities, fauna and flora, and landscapes. The Sonoran Desert and Sagauro National Park feature typical desert scenery, with canyons, red cliffs and sandstone pinnacles, coyotes and rattlesnakes, and the giant multi-armed cacti that typify the Arizonian landscape. The Painted Desert and the magnificent sandstone spires of Monument Valley in the northeast, the spectacular Red Rock Country of Sedona, and the mountains and forests of Flagstaff, are just some of Arizona's special natural attractions.
The desert is also home of the Wild West, the land of cowboys and Indians, prospectors, gamblers and dusty towns. The character of the Old West is epitomised in the old mining town of Tombstone, the site of the famous shootout at the OK Corral, where today staged gunfights, swinging saloon doors and old wooden buildings still bring to life the harsh cowboy past for visitors.
But Arizona is not only about deserts, cowboys and natural wonders. Two of the state's biggest metropolises are in the desert: the cities of Phoenix and Tucson, offering 21st-century comforts such as luxurious resorts, shopping plazas and golf courses. And air-con, which can be a big draw! The region's continuous sunshine and dry desert air have attracted thousands of people with its restorative properties and expensive health spas, and made it one of the most popular places to retire in the US.
Outside the cities, the Native Americans who have lived in Arizona for centuries make up the majority of the population, and more than a third of the land is encompassed within Indian Reservations. Northeast Arizona is known as Indian country, where the Navajo and the traditional Hopi tribal groups reside, and is where the beautiful Canyon de Chelly, and numerous Ancestral Puebloan sites are to be found in the cliff walls and valleys. The Apache live in the southeastern mountains and were the last tribal group to concede to the US government. For those interested in Native American heritage Arizona is the ideal travel destination.