In the heart of the American Southwest, Arizona is filled with natural wonders, vibrant cities and charming small towns. The Grand Canyon draws tourists from all over the world, but those venturing further into the state will find all kinds of unique spots and interesting sites. While cities and towns like Phoenix and Sedona make great vacation destinations, cross the city centers to discover Native American cliff dwellings and remnants of ancient cultures, historic ghost towns from the mining days, and a landscape perfect for outdoor adventures. Arizona is home to desert, lakes, mountains, slot canyons, saguaro cactus, buttes, waterfalls and even a downhill skiing volcano, all of which offer a world of possibilities for travelers.
Read also: Tourist Attractions in Phoenix
1 Grand Canyon
Standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, looking out over the endless ridges of colorful cliff walls and deep canyons, it’s impossible not to be inspired by this natural wonder. The walls of the canyon glow in the late afternoon sun, with hues of orange, red, yellow and everything in between. One of the biggest attractions in America, and certainly in the state of Arizona, the Grand Canyon is nothing short of spectacular. This incredible landscape is carved by the Colorado River seen in the distance far below.
Most visitors see the canyon from the South Rim, where there are numerous viewpoints along the way and walkways that run along the rim of the canyon. The North Rim offers a completely different view, but the road is closed in the winter. For those who want a closer look, it is possible to hike to the Grand Canyon or take a helicopter tour over and through the canyon.
Lodging: Where to Stay in the Grand Canyon
Sedona is surrounded by beautiful red rock mountains and buttes and has one of the most beautiful locations in Arizona. About a 1.5-hour drive north of Phoenix, Sedona is a popular day trip from the city, but the city is worth more than just a few hours. The drive into town from the south, through the village of Oak Creek, is beautiful and offers plenty of scenic pullouts.
Sedona’s Main Street (89A) is lined with interesting tourist shops, art galleries, and restaurants and is an easy place to spend an afternoon. You’ll find great hiking and mountain biking trails all around Sedona, but Jeep tours, one of the most popular things to do here, make for an even easier way to get out into the countryside. Also in the area are a number of old Native American dwellings, which you can visit on your own or as part of a Jeep tour.
Sedona is considered by many to be a very spiritual place. It is known for its energy vortexes, found in a number of locations around the city. Downtown is also home to New Age shops and unique venues, from UFO tours and aura readings to psychics and crystal sellers.
Lodging: Where to Stay in Sedona
3 Monument Valley
One of the most iconic images of the Southwest is the sandstone buttes that dominate Monument Valley. Straddling the border between Arizona and Utah, this area includes jagged rock formations, stone towers and buttes, and sand dunes. At the heart of the valley is Monument Valley’s Navajo Tribal Park, home to an impressive visitor center and a 17-mile self-driving trail along a one-way gravel road through the park. You can also take a guided tour to explore the area more thoroughly. If you don’t have time to get into the park, you can appreciate some of the views from the highway.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Monument Valley
4 Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is a beautiful area of blue water, desert scenery, and dramatic stone walls. Home to Lake Powell , one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States, this area is known for both land-based and water-based recreational activities.
The Glen Canyon Dam was built between 1956 and 1964 to block the Colorado River and create Lake Powell. There is still a 15-mile stretch of Glen Canyon downstream from Glen Canyon Dam, stretching from the dam to the Lees Ferry.
The town of Page is a good base for exploring Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and the surrounding region. The largest marina on Lake Powell, Wahweap Marina is just 7 miles north of Page. One of the biggest attractions in the area is the nearby slot canyons of Antelope Canyon. Depending on the section of the canyon, visitors can simply walk through a narrow slot canyon with beams of light penetrating through the top, illuminating the red walls or repelling into a ravine. Photos of Antelope Canyon can often be found on postcards or in art galleries. Visitors can visit Antelope Canyon on a guided tour.
Lodging: Where to Stay in the Glen Canyon
Phoenix is a great base for exploring Arizona, but it’s also a major winter destination for golfers and sunbathers, who just want to enjoy a stay at a resort or spa and spend a little time in the heat of the desert . In the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, which includes Scottsdale and Mesa, you’ll find great shopping, dining, golf courses, desert parks for walking, hiking, and biking, and some excellent attractions. Topping the list of places to visit around Phoenix are the Heard Museum and Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Phoenix: Best Areas & Hotels
6 Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam is one of the world’s greatest engineering marvels. Completed in 1935, this massive structure crosses the Colorado River, connecting Arizona and Nevada. It is 726 feet high and 1,244 feet long. Lake Mead, held back by the Hoover Dam, is the largest man-made lake in the United States. It is 70 miles long and has the equivalent of two years of flow from the Colorado River.
Visitors can drive or walk across the dam for free, but there is an additional charge for parking. Another option is to take a tour of Hoover Dam or the Powerplant. On site is the visitor centre, with information about the dam and guided tours, and a café serving some basic dishes.
Accommodation: Where to Stay at the Hoover Dam
Perched along a mountainside high above the desert floor, Jerome is an old mining town, turned ghost town, turned tourist attraction. A steep hill with hairpin bends is the main street through town and where visitors will find interesting shops and restaurants. Views from the street and some shop windows are great. Many of the old buildings have been renovated, but some still stand as ruins creating a very interesting dynamic. This town is a popular day trip from Sedona, Prescott, Phoenix, or Flagstaff. There is also accommodation for those who wish to spend the night. The town’s history can be appreciated at the Gold King Mine Museum and Jerome State Historic Park.
This city is unique to say the least and has many interesting and quirky sites. The sliding prison at Jerome was originally built around 1928. Built on a layer of clay, it soon began to slide and now sits 2,500 feet from its original location. Built in 1927, the Jerome Grand Hotel is the tallest public building in the Verde Valley and offers breathtaking views. The Bartlett Hotel was once one of Jerome’s finest hotels, but is now in ruins.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Jerome
8 Havasu Falls
Near Supai on the Havasupai Indian Reservation is the 100-foot Havasu Falls. The basins at the base of Havasu Falls have a bluish green hue, and the fall is branched, so it appears there are two falls when the river is flowing heavily. In the gorge of Havasu Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River, some 450 Havasupai Indians (the “blue-green people”) live a remote life consisting of their modest agricultural activities but now mainly dependent on the tourist industry. In this paradise-like valley, the Havasu have created a series of waterfalls and carved basins into the travertine rock to form attractive pools.
Day hiking is not allowed here. Visitors must make reservations, obtain a permit, and pay a fee. Access is via a long walk, horse or donkey, or helicopter.
Official Site: https://theofficialhavasupaitribe.com
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Havasu Falls
9 Canyon De Chelly National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument is home to spectacular Native American cliff dwellings nestled along steep canyons, with walls reaching 1,000 feet high. In the main canyon, some of the main attractions are the ruins of the White House, which were built around 1050 and discovered in 1849, and Spider Rock. The White House is the most famous of the more than a hundred cliff dwellings. The only self-guided walk in the park, which departs from the White House overlooking the South Rim, descends 600 feet to the White House ruins. Other cliff dwellings include the Antelope House and Mummy Cave (where mummies were found) in the Canyon del Muerto. Most of the ruins, which are largely inaccessible to visitors, were occupied from about AD 350 to 1300.
You can tour the site yourself by driving along North Rim Drive and North Rim Drive, stopping at the turnouts. While you can easily see nearby ruins, many lookouts also have scopes that can help you locate ruins on the far walls. From spring through fall, you can join a free ranger-led walking tour or take a private tour of the canyon.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Canyon De Chelly
In the far south of Arizona, near the border with Mexico, is one of Arizona’s most interesting cities and possibly one of Arizona’s best kept secrets. The former mining town of Bisbee is a unique little community high in the mountains.
After the mines closed here, Bisbee became a ghost town and squatters took up residence. Eventually, the city became a haven for artists and hippies. Today it is a thriving town with an eclectic mix of residents, a variety of unique shops and restaurants, and many interesting things to see and do. Dwellings, many of which are former miners’ huts, dot the hills surrounding the historic center. Many of these residences are only accessible via long staircases that lead to the center below. Views from the upper streets and hillside homes are incredible, looking out over mountains all the way to Mexico. There are a number of informal hiking trails in the hills above the town.
Bisbee is a popular day trip from Tucson and surrounding areas, often combined with a stop in Tombstone.
Lodging: Where to Stay in Bisbee
11 Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead National Recreation Area covers 177 miles of the Colorado River and includes Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. The area covers 1.5 million acres and extends into southern Nevada.
Nearby you can enjoy boating and water sports, camping, fishing and hiking. Lake Mohave is 42 miles (67 km) long, making it the smaller of the two largest lakes in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Like its counterpart, Lake Mohave is an artificial body of water, held back by Davis Dam. Willow Beach is a small resort town on the Colorado River with accommodations, restaurants, a marina, and a fish hatchery.
Tombstone offers a modern take on an old West town. Staged gunfights in the streets and characters walking through town in period costume recreate the glory days of this small Arizona town. Every shop, restaurant, and attraction is designed with tourists in mind, but you can still see some of the town’s history in the historic sites, including the famous OK Corral and Boothill Cemetery. Also of interest is the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, housed in the original courthouse, which is now a museum.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Tombston
13 Petrified Forest National Park
Large pieces of petrified wood, along with petrified plants, fish, and reptiles, have been revealed in great numbers in what is today the Petrified National Forest in the Painted Desert. The park access road allows visitors to pass many of the highlights, and short interpretive trails allow you to see several unique landmarks up close. The visitor center offers insight into the ecology and geology of the park and is a good place to start before heading out.
14 Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is a great place to experience the desert landscape around Tucson and see the famous saguaro cacti up close. The park has two sections, an east and a west section, located on the east and west sides of Tucson about 30 minutes apart. Both offer great opportunities to see the desert flora and fauna with roads and hiking trails. Hikes range from easy hikes to challenging trails leading into the high mountains, reaching as high as 8,000 feet. Visitors can visit both areas of the park on the same admission ticket or park pass.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Saguaro National Park
15 Antelope Canyon on page
Antelope Canyon on page
Seen in countless photos in galleries all over Arizona, Antelope Canyon is a gambling canyon located just outside of Page. The sculpted, twisting sandstone walls reach out around you, with shafts of light breaking through the narrow opening above you as you walk through the canyon. Visitors can explore Upper Antelope Canyon on a guided tour, but once you get to the canyon, you’ll be given plenty of free time to explore on your own and at your own pace. The canyon is within the Navajo Nation reservation boundary.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Antelope Canyon
16 Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is an International Biosphere Reserve in southwestern Arizona, on the border with Mexico. The main feature of the monument is its namesake organ pipe cactus, but the area is home to three different desert vegetation zones and some 30 different species of cacti. The organ pipes reach 23 meters in height and bloom from May to July. Due to the often extreme heat during the day, it only opens its flowers after sunset.
The area can be explored on a variety of roads and hiking trails, but the two main scenic drives of interest are Ajo Mountain Drive and Puerto Blanco Drive. You can access hiking trails from both roads.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Ajo
17 Tumacacori National Historic Park
Tumacacori National Historical Park, south of Tucson, preserves the ruins of three early Spanish colonial missions on 47 acres in southern Arizona. Founded in 1691, San José de Tumacácori and Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi are the two oldest missions in Arizona. The third mission, San Cayetano de Calabazas, was established in 1756. The site was abandoned in 1848 due to Apache raids, neglect, and a terrible winter. Tumacacori became a national monument in 1908 and the two Spanish missions, Guevavi and Calabazas, were added to the site in 1990.
Adres: 1891 East Frontage Road, Tumacacori
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Tumacacori National Historical Park