Most Beautiful Cities in the Southwest

The American southwest is a place of mind-boggling beauty

With an amazing variety of landscapes, the Southwest is a fascinating and awe-inspiring area to explore.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known as the City Different, Santa Fe embodies a rich history, melding Hispanic, Anglo, and Native American cultures whose influences are apparent in everything from the architecture and art to the food. For 400+ years, Santa Fe has improved with age. In addition to more art galleries than you could imagine, Santa Fe boasts a long list of museums and a full calendar of art exhibits and festivals. In addition to these visual experiences, you will want to experience authentic New Mexican cuisine. Make sure to try green chili in as many forms as possible, as well as a variety of moles.

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Historic Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Outdoor recreation in and around Las Cruces is as scenic as it is sporty. Hiking the Dona Ana Mountains provides plenty of places to scan the scenery, and you can tackle both by mountain bike or horseback. One of the area’s most scenic destinations is White Sands National Monument, where sugary dunes stand in contrast to colorful sunsets and varied desert hues. Be sure to wander the streets of historic Mesilla.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Las Vegas needs no introduction, but many people don’t know it’s one of the best places to visit in the Southwest for more than the glittery Strip. Outside the city, the scenery unfolds endlessly. Nearby Valley of Fire State Park houses such awe-inspiring spots as the towers at Rainbow Vista to the colorful White Domes. The 13-mile scenic drive in Red Rock Canyon is among the cluster of great Southwest road trip ideas, and hiking, camping, and geological exploration deliver all the wonders of the desert.

Tucson, Arizona

Tucson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tucson is located in the Sonoran Desert, the only place in the world the majestic saguaro cactus grows. Saguaro National Park is situated on either side of the city. These tall and ancient cacti stand like silent sentinels in the shadows of the five mountain ranges which cradle the Tucson valley and are showered with sunshine over 300 days a year. The average winter temperature is 70.

Lake Havasu, Arizona

Colorado River south of Lake Havasu © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With over 400 miles of shoreline and more than 300 days of sunshine and lots to see and do year-round, Lake Havasu is the boating Mecca of the Southwest and a popular Arizona getaway.Lake Havasu City is the off-roading, ultralight-flying, boating, and rock climbing capitol of the Southwest. One of the most interesting—and surprising—attractions in Lake Havasu is the London Bridge. It’s also one of the must-see places to see in Arizona to relax by a sparkling lake in Arizona’s warm desert.

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Near Carlsbad Caverns looking south © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The famed Carlsbad Caverns are one of the biggest Southwest tourist attractions and lend this region an air of beauty and mystery. Plan to stay late and see the bats as they take flight for the night. Take to the hiking trails in Guadalupe Mountains National Park a short distance south of the Caverns to experience the wonders of Chihuahuan Desert backcountry, cool off in the swimming hole at Sitting Bull Falls, or take the whole family to the scenic Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park.

Williams, Arizona

Williams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A small town nestled in the Ponderosa pine of northern Arizona, Williams offers outdoor adventures including fishing and hiking to horseback riding and camping. Route 66 history buffs can explore more than six blocks of historic buildings and shops. After a 59-mile drive north, the Grand Canyon will lie before your eyes. Once there, you’ll grasp why this 277 river miles long, one-mile deep, and up to 18 miles wide canyon is hailed as one of the world’s seven natural wonders. The Grand Canyon Railway offers daily trips to the Grand Canyon aboard vintage diesel powered trains and historic steam engines.

Worth Pondering…

Oh, I could have lived anywhere in the world, if I hadn’t seen the West.

—Joyce Woodson