Desert towns often have the air of an oasis around them. Historically this meant water, food and shelter from the blistering sun. Today, desert towns quench a different sort of thirst, providing travellers with cultural riches amid dramatic and unforgiving landscapes. The cool credentials of music-studio-peppered Joshua Tree in California and the arty enclave of Marfa in Texas are unassailable, but now, the real buzz is around Tucson, Arizona.
Arizona’s second city is home to some 40,000 students, many of whom choose never to leave this blessedly affordable, attractive and culturally dynamic town. Set in a flat valley framed in all four directions by distinct mountain ranges, Tucson is geographically blessed for those wanting to get out hiking, biking and mountain-climbing, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a few miles from Saguaro National Park is just 20 minutes out of town. It is a superb introduction to the awe-inspiring desert scenery (distinguished by soaring, endemic saguaro – pronounced “suh-wah-roe” – cacti) that has made Arizona prime road-trip territory. Arizona is also a state synonymous with serene, secluded wellness spas, such as Miraval, 40 minutes out of Tucson, nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains.