The tourism industry in ARIZONA has, literally, one colossal advantage – the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, the single most awe-inspiring spectacle in a land of unforgettable geology. Several other Arizona destinations have a similarly abiding emotional impact, however, thanks to the sheer drama of human involvement in this forbidding but deeply resonant desert landscape.

Over a third of the state still belongs to Native Americans, who outside the cities form the majority of the population. In the so-called Indian Country of northeastern Arizona, the Navajo Nation holds the stupendous Canyon de Chelly and dozens of other Ancestral Puebloan ruins, as well as the stark rocks of Monument Valley. The Navajo surround the homeland of the stoutly traditional Hopi, who live in remote mesa-top villages. The third main group, the Apache, in the harshly beautiful southeastern mountains, were the last Native Americans to give in to the overwhelming power of the American invaders.

Away from the reservations, Wild West towns like Tombstone give a clear sense of Arizona’s rough-and-ready, pioneer mentality; this was the last of the lower 48 states to join the Union, in 1912. The cities, however, are not nearly so much fun. In Phoenix, the capital, well over a million souls are scattered over a five-hundred-square-mile morass of shopping malls and tract-house suburbs; Tucson is rather more appealing, but can still wear thin after a couple of days.

Though the open spaces of southern Arizona can be harsh, the bleakness is balanced somewhat by the many reserves that protect its amazing flora and fauna, such as Saguaro National Park, just outside Tucson, with its giant cactuses, real-life roadrunners and rare Gila monsters.

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  • Tombstone
  • The Grand Canyon
  • Monument Valley
  • Canyon de Chelly National Monument