Top 10 desert destinations

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Forget beach vacations, we’re looking at desert this week. Our favourite cities in desertland to be precise.

Most of our favourites are here in the US, but we’ve included Casablanca for romance, Dubai for glitz and Sharm El Sheikh for adventure…

Top 10 Desert Destinations

Forget the Beach

Forget beach vacations, we’re looking at desert this week. Our favourite cities in desertland to be precise.Most of our favourites are here in the US, but we’ve included Casablanca for romance, Dubai for glitz and Sharm El Sheikh for adventure…

Las Vegas
Las Vegas … what happens here, stays here

Las Vegas, Nevada

Love it or loath it, Las Vegas is the leviathan of desert destinations. It’s a city of mega hotels: Mandalay Bay, New York-New York, The Mirage, Luxor, Bellagio, and Paris – all waiting to fulfill your fantasies. Shows, world-class shopping, and some of the best restaurants anywhere are here too. It long ago ceased to be a mere magnet for North Americans. Europeans flock here too with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic each offering nonstop London flights to Las Vegas.

Four Corners

It’s the anti-Vegas. Remote and resplendent, pilots like to point it out from 35,000 feet. It’s Four Corners – where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado kiss. Back down to earth the view is more intimate. It’s steeped in Navajo culture: arts, handcrafts, and ceremony. Four Corners is also home to a great getaway-from-it-all resort called Amangiri. You get there via a winding road descending into a valley. And as you descend, leave the real world behind.

Palm Springs, California

It’s the startling contrast of vivid golf greens amidst sandy surroundings that signals Palm Springs. Glitterati and plain folk gather under the same blue sky to explore, kick back, and recharge. Embraced by the ethereal San Jacinto Mountains are galleries, boutique shops, and authentic culture. This extraordinary land is ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The prime perch to take it all in is from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Nowhere in North America do the arts, antiquity, and the high desert blend so effortlessly as in Santa Fe. Sited in the foothills of the Rockies, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, galleries and museums exhibit traditional and contemporary works – including those of Georgia O’Keefe. See what inspired O’Keefe with a visit to nearby Native American pueblos. Savor the flavors of traditional Native American fare — salmon, bison, oysters — at Amaya Restaurant in the Hotel Santa Fe.

Desert at dusk … night falls over Flagstaff

Flagstaff, Arizona

Flagstaff is near the sites that define this slice of desert: the Grand Canyon, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Meteor Crater, Wupatki National Monument. After a day in that desert you’re hungry. One place locals love is El Capitan Fresh Mexican Grill. Culinary sorts say it has the best tacos and (maybe more importantly) the best salsa in town. Shopping is a more sedate pursuit. The city’s historic district is replete with plenty of boutiques – and some first-rate booksellers.

Scottsdale, Arizona

Cheapflights believes that the world viewed whole is best. Drink in the sights, sounds, and smells of the rugged Sonoran Desert from the gondola of a hot air balloon. Scottsdale has legions of experienced, licensed pilots. Adventure whet the appetite? The city is full of great places to eat. There’s even a working olive mill and winery where you can create your own blends. Don’t leave the kids at home. There’s an award-winning zoo, and a railroad museum. Search and compare:cheap flights to Scottsdale

Tucson, Arizona

Desert destinations have one thing in common: outdoor pursuits. Take Tucson. There’s hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, biking and even caving. But if you really want to explore the ultimate out-of-doors, visit Kitt Peak National Observatory for some real-life stargazing. It reputedly possesses the greatest collection of telescopes for stellar and solar research on our humble planet. After viewing the heavens, head to Café Poca Casa for imaginative Mexican cuisine, and perhaps the area’s primo collection of Tequilas.

Casablanca … exotic city on the edge of the Sahara

Casablanca, Morocco

Romance in the western reaches of the Sahara? Play it again, Sam. Casablanca Bar conjures up Bogart and Bergman, aided by a pianist who plays songs from the film. More romance? Take the Aïn-Diab coast road that runs between the El Hank lighthouse and Sidi Bou Abderrahmane mausoleum, a small village accessible solely at low tide. Balance the old with the new. In the city, visit the Mâarif district. This is where you’ll find emerging Morocco.


More than a commercial crossroads, Dubai is a prime tourist draw. An air bridge from London puts golfers, shoppers, and sunbathers in one of the hottest (literally and figurative) destinations anywhere. December through March is the best time to visit. Revel in the warm waters just off Jumeria, site of the area’s best beaches. There are bars, clubs, and restaurants aplenty – most located in the major hotels. Earthier ambience? Dine on a dhow as it cruises The Creek. Search and compare:cheap flights to Dubai

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Relatively removed from the tumult, this Red Sea resort is one of be most sublime scuba venues in the world. Coral reefs and almost a thousand species of fish make the Little Mermaid mad with jealousy. Cutting-edge cuisine clusters in the center of the city, in the Naama Bay area. Break from traditional tourist temptations and head for Ras Mohammed, at the south-most tip of the peninsula. Sharm El Sheikh is a national park, preserving this extraordinary area the way it was.

(Images: Sharm El Sheikh by Dominic Sayers; Las Vegas by matze_ott; Flagstaff by RodneyRamsey; Casablanca by milamber)

Top 10 desert destinations was last modified: February 2nd, 2015 by Pleasance Coddington
Author: Pleasance Coddington (2497 posts)

Pleasance is a British travel writer and online content specialist in travel. She has written for numerous publications and sites including Wired, Lucky, Rough Guides and Yahoo! Travel. After working for six years on content and social media at VisitBritain, she is now the Global Content and Social Media Manager for Cheapflights.