The American Southwest has a multitude of natural wonders. The
Grand Canyon, Arches National Park and Zion National Park are
just the three most famous of dozens of natural wonders known to
everyone in the world.
The Southwest of the USA is more sparsely populated than the adjacent regions. Even the big cities have relatively sparse populations. In addition to residents of Northern European descent, the population also includes a not inconsiderable proportion of Hispanic Americans and Native Americans.
In contrast to the US east coast, the south-west of the USA was not discovered by the British but by the Spaniards and was annexed to the Spanish colonial empire of Nueva España. With Mexico's independence in 1821, all of what is now the US Southwest passed to Mexico, which was able to hold the region until the mid-19th century.
The Spanish-Mexican influence is particularly evident in southern Arizona and much of New Mexico. Various buildings from the Spanish colonial era have been preserved in both states. The churches, plazas and (usually replica) adobes give some towns in Arizona and New Mexico an almost Latin American flair and are thus clearly different from most other regions of the USA.
Utah and Nevada were taken over during the Spanish colonial period but were hardly settled; accordingly, the architectural influence from the colonial era is less pronounced here. However, the Spanish explorers left individual Spanish field names in Utah and Nevada that have endured.
There are traditionally two states in the southwest:
Arizona, nicknamed the Grand Canyon State, was incorporated into the United States in 1912 as the 48th state.
New Mexico, a relatively under-visited, impoverished state, offers well-prepared individualists who don't fear long drives or the heat, but the opportunity to experience some top-notch attractions with relative privacy.
According to other definitions, the states of California, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas are also included in addition to those mentioned.
Salt Lake City
Caverns National Park
Grand Canyon National Park
White Sands National Monument
Zion National Park
The very extensive Navajo Nation, the semi-autonomous territory of today's largest Indian people in the USA, stretches across the territory of the states of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Navajo administration has some top attractions, including Monument Valley.
Although English is the dominant language in the Southwest, historically Spanish has been particularly prevalent in regions of New Mexico and the Tucson area. A large number of indigenous tribes speak no less a number of Native American languages, although their distribution is limited to the reservation boundaries. A high level of language diversity is found particularly in the larger metropolitan areas such as Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Tucson and Albuquerque. The larger national parks and museums often also have signage and brochures in German.
The most important airports are:
Albuquerque International Sunport - Southwest Airlines hub, served by most American airlines.
Las Vegas - Another hub of Southwest Airlines. Some international flights are offered by other airlines, including to Germany.
Phoenix - Major hub of American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Phoenix is also a destination for flights from Canada, Mexico and the UK. Nearby Tucson is also served by domestic and international flight routes, albeit to a lesser extent than Phoenix.
Salt Lake City - main hub of Delta Airlines, destination of many international routes.
The major interstate highways that run through the Southwest all have California as their destination. Interstates from the East and North reach the Southwest at the following points:
Interstate 10: from Texas to Las Cruces (New Mexico)
Interstate 15: from Idaho near Salt Lake City
Interstate 25: from Colorado near Raton (New Mexico)
Interstate 40: from Texas in an unpopulated area of eastern New Mexico
Interstate 70: from Colorado in eastern Utah
Interstate 80: from Wyoming near Salt Lake City
Interstates 25, 70 and 80 are occasionally difficult or even closed in winter due to snowfall, as they run through mountains both at the transition and within the southwest.
The number of border crossings for a (legal) arrival from Mexico is surprisingly small in relation to the length of the common border. In New Mexico, the only border crossing is Columbus. Most traffic from Mexico to this state is via El Paso in Texas. Arizona has border crossings in Douglas, Nogales, Lukeville and outside of Yuma. Other border stations for traffic into this state exist but are not always open.
Southwest Airlines comes from the Southwest of the USA and is a
fairly inexpensive airline that has an extensive network within the
region. Unlike many other domestic airlines in the USA, it also
specializes in smaller traffic hubs. Since other competitors have also
jumped on this strategy, the largest cities in the region (Phoenix,
Tucson, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas) can be reached quite
cheaply. Regional flights to smaller cities, on the other hand, can cost
much more, e.g. Partly due to the fact that no scheduled airlines fly to
these small airports in the southwest.
Land transport in the region is significantly hampered by the Grand Canyon. South of the canyon, Interstate Highways 40 and 10 reliably connect the two states of New Mexico and Arizona. Essentially, I-40 follows historic Route 66 in the region. Interstates 15 and 80, like the first two, serve a similar function in Nevada and Utah. Unlike the north-west directions, traveling north-south or vice versa is a real challenge. With the exception of an Amtrak line that follows I-40 west of Albuquerque in that direction, there are no north-south passenger rail lines. The few interstate highways that connect Arizona to Utah or eastern Nevada are generally single lane, lightly trafficked, and have poor infrastructure. If you drive these routes, you should definitely start with a full tank and make sure that your vehicle is also puncture-proof.
Of course, Las Vegas should be mentioned here in the first place. The
city is peppered with numerous nightclubs and discotheques, as well as
many strip bars such as e.g.
the Sapphire (3025 S. Industrial Road, $20 admission),
the Crazy Horse Too (2476 Industrial Road, $10 admission) or
the Olympic Garden (1531 Las Vegas Blvd. South, $20 admission incl. 2 drinks)
Alcohol is prohibited in the Navajo Nation and many other Native American pueblos and reservations. If you are camping outdoors and want to put your shoes back on, you should definitely check them for scorpions beforehand.
The climate is very dry and hot according to the location between the 32nd and 42nd degrees of latitude (Rome is on the 42nd degree of latitude). Alongside the cities on the Persian Gulf, Phoenix is the city with the highest summer temperatures in the world. The most pleasant travel time in the desert areas is therefore between October and April, although it can get very cold in winter, especially at night. On clear winter nights, temperatures below zero are the norm.