Big Blue, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona© Mark SwieckiBig Blue, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
© Mark Swiecki
Remember those old Warner Brothers' cartoons, where the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote pursued each other against a backdrop of pointy saguaro cacti and rust-red cliffs? Visit the deserts of southern Arizona and you may find yourself glancing up to make sure an anvil from Acme Inc. isn't about to land on your head.

These starkly beautiful landscapes also inspired Hollywood directors, who filmed classic westerns such as Rio Bravo and Winchester '73 here. Today, you can follow in their footsteps with a trail ride into the dusty desert, where guides will point out the varied plants and animals that have adapted themselves to a life of endless sunshine and little rain.

If endless winter sunshine sounds like your definition of a perfect holiday, head to Phoenix, Scottsdale or Tucson, where you'll find countless resorts, golf courses, spas and luxury shops. Don't miss the Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson (despite the name, more of an outdoor zoo than a museum) and architect Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home, Taliesin West, in Scottsdale.

Come summer, though, Desert morning, Arizona© Nelson SirlinDesert morning, Arizona
© Nelson Sirlin
these spots can be a bit too hot even for sun worshippers—July temperatures regularly top 100F (38C). At that time of year, follow the locals' example and head to cooler northern Arizona, where you can rent a houseboat on Lake Powell, hike the forested mountains around Flagstaff or drive part of famed Route 66. Sedona draws art buffs with its many galleries, and New Age seekers with its famous red rocks (some people believe the rocks have magical properties). And don't miss the chance to delve into the state's most famous attraction: the Grand Canyon.

Arizona, home to 22 recognized native tribes, also offers many fascinating opportunities to learn more about native culture. Start at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, then visit one of the many reservations that welcome travellers.

by Laura Byrne Paquet

Stock Photos from 123RF

Stock Photos from 123RF