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Arizona, located in the heart of the southwest of the USA as a Western United States, bordered by Mexico to the south, California and Nevada to the west, Utah to the north and New Mexico to the east. The state is best known for being the home to the Grand Canyon, but also provides opportunities to see the history of the western expansion of the USA and get in a good game of golf.
Arizona is the sixth largest state in the country area, after New Mexico and before Nevada. Of the state's 295,000 km2, approximately 15% is privately owned. The remaining area is public forest and park land, state trust land and Native American reservations. Arizona is best known for its desert landscape, which is rich in plants such as the cactus. Less well known is the pine-covered high country of the Colorado Plateau in the north-central portion of the state, which contrasts with the desert Basin and Range region in the southern portions of the state.
Like other states of the southwest, Arizona has an abundance of topographical characteristics in addition to its desert climate. Mountains and plateaux are found in more than half of the state. Despite the state's aridity, 27% of Arizona is forest. The largest stand in the world of Ponderosa pine trees is contained in Arizona. The Mogollon Rim, a 600-metre-high escarpment, cuts across the central section of the state and marks the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, where the state experienced its second worst forest fire ever in 2002.
The Grand Canyon is a colorful, steep-sided gorge, carved by the Colorado River, in northern Arizona. The canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is largely contained in the Grand Canyon National Park - one of the first national parks in the United States.
The canyon was created by the Colorado River cutting a channel over millions of years, and is about 446 kilometres long, ranges in width from 6 kilometres to 29 kilometres and attains a depth of more than 1.5 kilometres. Nearly two billion years of the Earth's history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut through layer after layer of sediment as the Colorado Plateaus have uplifted.
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Discovery Maps provide free maps to many of the major towns. The maps can be found in major airports and hotels. The maps are not to scale and a bit cartoonish, but they do provide a good view of the town and list major tourist sites.
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Antelope Canyon is a beautiful slot canyon located on the Navajo Nation near Page, Arizona. The canyon was formed through erosion, which smoothed the sandstone walls into a graceful, flowing shape. There are two main sites: Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. Because the canyon is on the Navajo Nation, the only way to visit is by a guided tour.
The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular tourist sights in the world with over 5 million visitors a year. The Colorado River and its tributaries created the Grand Canyon by moving through the sandy soil of the desert. Most of the Grand Canyon is located within the Grand Canyon National Park within Arizona, although parts of the canyon are in Utah and in several Indian Reservations. The canyon is believed to be over 17 million years old and cutting through 2 billion of years of history. The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (443 kilometres) long and ranges in width of 4 to 6 miles (6.4 to 9.6 kilometres).
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The Havasu Canyon is a side canyon of the Grand Canyon and located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation.
The Havasu Falls are the largest series of water falls feeding into the Grand Canyon. The Navajo falls is 21 metres, Havasu Falls is 37 metres, Mooney Falls is 64 meters and Beaver Falls is 10 metres.
Although not well known across the entire world anyone who has seen the Havasu Canyon falls will agree they are some of the most beautiful falls in the world. The stunning turquoise water snakes down the narrow canyon with waterless desert on both sides. To reach the falls there is only two ways. First is to take a raft down the Grand Canyon and climb up from the Colorado river. The other way is to hike into the Havasupai Indian Reservation to the town of Supai, which has no roads to it. After that hike down to the falls and camp in the camp ground. Visiting the falls is very difficult and requires a fair amount of preparation, including a permit arranged a few months in advance. For those too out of shape to hike in and out with all their gear, there are horses and donkeys that can be hired to transport people or belongings. For people looking for off the beaten track beauty this place is hard to beat.
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Red-rock canyon walls, sandy beaches, deep blue water and an always stunning night sky. Lake Powell, straddling the border of Utah and Arizona, is no-doubt a magical destination. Power boats and wave runners zip about while houseboats slowly wend their way deep into side canyons. The second largest man-made lake in the United States attracts nearly 3 million visitors annualy. Lake Powell is 186 miles (about 300 kilometres) long and has 1,960 miles (over 3,000 kilometres) of shoreline, which is longer than the entire west coast of the continental United States. There are 96 major canyons to explore though you'll need a water craft for the majority of them since access is limited because there are few roads. Glen Canyon Nation Recreation Area, established by Congress in 1972, is the home of Lake Powell. The area is comprised of 1.25 million acres with the lake occupying only 13%, or 161,390 acres, of the total area, which leaves a lot to be explored by four-wheel drive or on foot.
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Monument Valley is located in the south of Utah and north of Arizona and once approaching it, you will instantly recognize it from many movies, commercials and other things you saw somewhere at least. The landscape surrouding it is, unlike much of southern Utah or northern Arizona actually, rather uninspiring, even a bit drab. It's a rather flat nondescript landscape, but turn around the corner and you suddenly in a totally different environment of rocks, walls and spires towering about the dry desert.
The Saguaro National Park was created to preserve the Giant Saguaro cacti, which only grow in the Sonoran Desert. The park consists of two districts: the Tucson Mountain District, about 15 miles (24 kilometres) west of Tucson, and the Rincon Mountain District, about 20 miles (32 kilometres) east of Tucson.
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Petrified Forest National Park is a United States national park in Navajo and Apache counties in northeastern Arizona. Named for its large deposits of petrified wood, the fee area of the park covers about 440 square kilometres, encompassing semi-desert shrub steppe as well as highly eroded and colorful badlands. The park's headquarters is about 42 kilometres east of Holbrook along Interstate 40 (I-40), which parallels the BNSF Railway's Southern Transcon, the Puerco River, and historic U.S. Route 66, all crossing the park roughly east–west. The site, the northern part of which extends into the Painted Desert, was declared a national monument in 1906 and a national park in 1962. About 800,000 people visit the park each year and take part in activities including sightseeing, photography, hiking, and backpacking.
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Arizona is made up of three major geographic regions - the high plateau in the northeast, desert valleys in the southwest and a mountainous range running from the southeast to the northwest.
The higher altitude regions can receive up to 750 mm of precipitation a year, including snow in the winter months. Temperatures in the summer are hot and dry, mostly between 25 °C and 30 °C In the winter, daytime temperatures can drop into the single-digits Celsius, with temperatures well below freezing at night.
The lower desert altitudes receives little rain, and can be very hot during the summer months. In July, the desert can reach temperatures well over 40 °C or even 45 °C. The hottest temperature recorded in Arizona was 53 °C at Lake Havasu City on June 29, 1994. Temperatures drop significantly at night, even below zero at night in some places. In winter months, desert temperatures during the day can reach 20 °C, but drop down to single digits at night.
Many cities have major airports, but the majority of flights into Arizona arrive in Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (IATA: PHX, ICAO: KPHX). The closest airport to the Grand Canyon with major scheduled service is Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (IATA: FLG, ICAO: KFLG).
Tucson International Airport (TUS) offers flights to/from Seattle, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, Denver, Las Vegas, San Diego, Houston, San Francisco and Phoenix.
A number of trains stop en route between the central states and California in Arizona. The trains are operated by Amtrak and include:
Arizona is well connected to the rest of the USA by the Interstate highway system, as well as smaller local roads. Highway 10 runs from Los Angeles, through Phoenix and into New Mexico. Highway 40 generally follows the route of historic Route 66, from California through Flagstaff and into New Mexico and towards Albuquerque, New Mexico.Highway 93 connects the state to Las Vegas, Nevada, and there are local highways running north to Utah and Colorado.
Bus service to Arizona is available from Greyhound. Service runs from numerous spots with the USA to a number of locations in Arizona, including Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma. TUFESA Bus Lines offers service from Mexico.
Arizona is a land-locked state and a desert, so there are few options to arrive into the state by boat.
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A number of airlines service intrastate travel.
Amtrak provides passenger rail service throughout the state, including: the The Southwest Chief stopping in Flagstaff and Winslow, Arizona; the Sunset Limited with stops in Yuma and Tucson; and the Texas Eagle.
The state is well crossed by highway, and driving often provides the best way to see many of the options. Highways are well maintained, but some of the roads in the national parks and other smaller country roads may only be passable by four wheel drive vehicle.
Car rentals are provided by a number of companies, and can be picked up at most major airports. Try not to rent a car at Phoenix airport, as there is a major surcharge. Instead, rent cars in downtown Phoenix. Note that sometimes car rentals have restrictions on where the vehicle can go, so be sure to verify with the rental company if you plan to drive out of state or into Mexico.
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
Arizona has a number of National Scenic Byways which offer a great way to explore the state crossing beautiful landscapes. Mostly, there are lots of national parks, state parks or monuments along the way and it's generally a better alternative than the faster but boring Interstate Highways.
Other than river rafting trips, pleasure trips on Lake Havasu or Lake Mead or jet boats through the rapids of the Colorado river, there is little opportunity to travel between locations by boat.
Although, like most large metro areas, Phoenix is home to a wide variety of eateries of myriad ethic and cultural influences, Arizona is best known for their great Southwestern style food, including great traditional Mexican cuisine, particularly of the northern or Sonoran variety, upscale Mexican fusion eateries, right to working neighborhood catering trucks and street-side burrito stands.
On the wilder side, cactus is also edible and can be eaten fried or in salads.
Large amounts of water are a necessity during the summer months. The amount of water suggested varies from person to person, but dehydration or exhaustion can occur if one is not vigilant; especially in areas without air-conditioning. Summer days can be so warm that most convenience stores sell fountain drink cups in sizes up to a half gallon.
There are dozens of hotel and motel chains, ranging from budget to top end. Allthough they are not the most charming accommodations, they usually have a very decent midrange service with good rooms and are generally good value. At least you know what to expect and in some cases they are either the only or the best option in the area. Some of them include:
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