Swathed in the romance of pirates, voodoo and Mardi Gras, Louisiana is undeniably special. Its history is barely on nodding terms with the view that America was the creation of the Pilgrim Fathers; its way of life is proudly set apart. This is the land of the rural, French-speaking Cajuns (descended from the Acadians, eighteenth-century French-Canadian refugees), who live in the prairies and swamps in the southwest of the state, and the Creoles of jazzy, sassy New Orleans. (The term Creole was originally used to define anyone born in the state to French or Spanish colonists – famed in the nineteenth century for their masked balls, patois and distinct culture – as well as native-born, French-speaking slaves, but has since come to define anyone or anything native to Louisiana, and in particular its black population.)

Louisiana’s distinctive, spicy cuisine, festivals and, above all, its music (jazz, R&B, Cajun and its bluesy black counterpart, zydeco) draw from all these cultures and more. Oddly enough, northern Louisiana – Protestant Bible Belt country, where old plantation homes stand decaying in vast cottonfields – feels more “Southern” than the marshy bayous, shaded by ancient cypress trees and laced with wispy trails of Spanish moss, of the Catholic south.

Visitors will find that the state has an enormous amount to offer. Whether you’re canoeing along a cypress-clogged bayou, dining on spicy crawfish in a crumbling Creole cottage, or dancing on a steamy starlit night to the best live music in the world, Louisiana remains unique, a state that will get under your skin and stay there.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

King of the road: on the Civil Rights Trail through America’s south

King of the road: on the Civil Rights Trail through America’s south

This year marks 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and also the launch of a new Civil Rights Trail through the USA's south – a route…

10 Jan 2018 • Ella Buchan local_activity Special feature
An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in New York City

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in New York City

For dynamism, cultural impact and sheer diversity, New York City is hard to beat. The city is a global leader in art, architecture, music and food, and is cramm…

10 Jan 2018 • Stephen Keeling insert_drive_file Article
Why you should head to Minnesota and Wisconsin for winter thrills

Why you should head to Minnesota and Wisconsin for winter thrills

Though it may be tempting to escape to the sunshine this winter, there's a lot to be said for revelling in the snow and ice, too. And there’s plenty of beau…

27 Dec 2017 • Michelle Bhatia insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right