Geographical splendour and the sort of open terrain that makes the perfect context for road trips is what primarily define the American Southwest. Here is a region that gathers together arid desert and rolling plains into one huge camera-calling whole. Much of it is dissected by the hallowed asphalt of Route 66, arguably the world’s most iconic road-trip option.

Landmarks are plentiful. Arizona is, of course, home to the unmissable global wonder of the Grand Canyon, (a portion of) Monument Valley and the hot, cacti-dotted dust of the Sonoran Desert. New Mexico deals in scenic mystery via enclaves such as White Sands National Monument, with its towering sand dunes. Oklahoma and Kansas, meanwhile, seem to stretch forever, the horizon ever distant as the Great Plains spread westwards.

But there is more to the Southwest than show-stopping geography. Texas – the largest of the 48 mainland states of the USA (only second in size to Alaska) – plays host to three of America’s most significant cities in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. There are also major urban centres in Arizona (Phoenix), New Mexico (Santa Fe) and Kansas (Wichita).

Add in intriguing places such as Roswell – New Mexico’s site of a supposed UFO crash – and you have a region designed for exploration.

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Gathering of Nations Powwow, New Mexico • Photo Credit: NM Tourist Board
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