Air-conditioning itself in the middle of the spectacular life-filled topography of the American Southwest, with its grand canyons, wind-sculpted cliffs, eerily hushed deserts, forests of towering saguaro cacti and astonishing diversity of birdlife (there are 16 species of hummingbird alone), is Tucson, Arizona. This city has survived the discipline of a Spanish fortress, the embarrassing millinery and trigger-finger lawlessness of the Wild West, and an exasperating century of drunken student mischief, and has somehow managed to emerge with a vibrant legacy of Hispanic and traditional Indian cultures.
Tucson's ethnic pleasures can be enjoyed in the form of exquisitely hand-crafted turquoise jewellery, a mouthful of chile rellenos (cheese-stuffed, deep-fried chiles) or mole (chile sauce flavoured with chocolate, usually found swamping chicken), the brilliant white facade of the historic Mission San Xavier del Bac, two-stepping lessons in a country & western juke joint, or the roar of the crowd at a U of A Wildcats basketball match. And if you need further convincing that a visit is worthwhile, you can also indulge all of your regular holiday vices in this urban oasis, whether it's hitting a hiking trail or hitting the tequila slammers. Besides, if Jojo can Get Back to Tucson on Paul McCartney's say-so, so can you.
Facts for the traveller
Off the beaten track