Back when Texas was still Tejas, EL PASO, the second-oldest settlement in the United States, was the main crossing on the Rio Grande. It still plays that role today, its 600,000 residents joining with another 1.7 million across the river in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to form the largest binational (and bilingual) megalopolis in North America. At first sight it’s not an especially pretty place – massive railyards fill up much of downtown, the belching smelters of copper mills line the riverfront and the northern reaches are taken up by the giant Fort Bliss military base. Its dramatic setting, however, where the Franklin Mountains meet the Chihuahuan Desert, gives it a certain bold pioneer edge, bearing more relation to old rather than new Mexico, with little of the pastel softness of the Southwest USA. El Paso is also the home of Tony Lama, makers of top-quality cowboy boots, available at substantial discounts at outlets across town.

While it’s tempting to cross the border here into Mexico, remember that escalating drug wars have turned Juarez into one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Beer and bison burgers: a foodie's guide to Denver

Beer and bison burgers: a foodie's guide to Denver

Countless cities are credited with a burgeoning food scene – but Denver, the Wild West capital of Colorado, stands out from the crowd. In 2016, a stagger…

19 Sep 2017 • Ros Walford insert_drive_file Article
19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
Where to stay in Las Vegas: a first-timer’s guide

Where to stay in Las Vegas: a first-timer’s guide

Shimmering from the desert haze of Nevada like a latter-day El Dorado, Las Vegas is the most dynamic, spectacular city on Earth. At the start of the 20th centu…

01 Sep 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month