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Monday, June 5, 2017

10-DAY SOUTHWEST ROAD TRIP ITINERARY

I knew that our southwest road trip was going to be special, and, indeed, it was the trip of a lifetime. The beauty of the native American landscape with its deserts, mountains, canyons, and national parks surpassed my expectations and let me experience a harmony I have never felt before.



Las Vegas (Days 1 to 3)


Based on flight prices, we decided to begin our southwest road trip in Las Vegas. You can almost always find affordable flights to Vegas, no matter where you're coming from. So, Vegas it was!

We landed at McCarran International Airport (via a direct flight from New York) and drove our rental car to the Bellagio Hotel on the Strip. It was our first time in Vegas, so we decided to stay for the whole three days to jumpstart our trip. If you would like to hear more about our experiences in Vegas here is my Viva Las Vegas! blog post.



Antelope Canyon + Horseshoe Bend (Day 4)


The drive from Vegas to Antelope Canyon, located on Navajo land east of Page, Arizona, takes about 4.5 hours. The Navajo land uses a different time zone than the neighboring areas of Utah, so don't be surprised if the time on your phone changes a few times. When you get here, you can choose between visiting lower and upper canyons or do both. You can't explore them on your own—you are required to pay for a tour guide that costs about $30 each per person. A longer photography tour is more expensive. From our experience, there is no need to book a tour in advance, especially if you are not sure how long your drive is going to take.

We decided to see the lower canyon, as it is less crowded with tourists due to its narrowness. According to the online reviews, guides will sometimes let you go down on your own after you pay the fee. We were accompanied by a lovely Navajo tour guide who taught us about Native American history and how the canyons were formed. Walking through the canyon felt peaceful and magical. I wish we had reserved more time to explore this unique geological monument, formed over hundreds of years as water ran through the sandstone, forming a slot canyon.

Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Don't forget to tip your tour guide if you enjoyed his company. After all, it's their territory, and you wouldn't be able to see it if not for their courtesy.

Horseshoe Bend is located about a twenty-minute drive from the Antelope Canyon and about 3/4 of a mile hike from the main road. You don't need to pay to see this. As you approach the edge, your breath will be taken away by the stunning view of the Colorado River making a spectacular meander around a rock promontory, creating the impressive horseshoe-shaped loop.

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Many tourists stay overnight at Page, Arizona, but we had a hotel reservation at the Grand Canyon Village, that is a part of National Park designated Federal Recreation Fee Area. By the time we were driving to the Grand Canyon for the night, it was already totally dark out. The road to the village is winding and not illuminated, so we had to drive slowly, especially because wild animals may cross by. We were lucky to see a small herd of deer passing right in front of our car. It was one of these unexpected road trip moments we will remember the most.

Grand Canyon + Monument Valley (Day 5)


The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long and up to 18 miles (29 km) wide, so if you have just one day to see it, you need to know exactly where you want to go. We decided to explore South Rim as it has some of the top rated lookout points.

A few hours we spent at the Grand Canyon Historic Village District, can be considered just a sneak peak of what this beautiful land has to offer. We are already planning on hiking the inviting blue-green waters of Havasu Creek with its waterfalls, in the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Monument Valley is a red-sand desert region located on the Utah/Arizona border (about 3.5-hour drive from the Grand Canyon). The valley, with its tall sandstone buttes is out of this world and it was a frequent filming location for Western movies. You can drive through the valley in your own car. The site is big, so even though there are probably other people driving through the valley you feel secluded. Navajo people believe that the birth of earth took place here, and indeed, it feels this way. Standing in the valley, you can and let you experience harmony that is easy to lose in a modern age.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Through Joshua Tree National Park to Palm Springs (Day 6)


On day six we woke up early to drive across Colorado and the Mojave deserts to California. We decided to drive through the Joshua Tree National Park. It was the middle of August and temperatures were skyrocketing, so we only stopped to leave the car a few times. However, we enjoyed this beautiful drive through the desert with its twisted, spiky trees. Joshua Tree Park has no automotive services, so be sure to fill up with gas before you enter. There are visitor centers (mostly open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.) with rangers present at all four entries to the park if you would have any questions or need a map.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Palm Springs welcomed us with windmill fields and rows of palms, of course. After a few days in the desert, Palm Springs offered everything we need to recuperate: that is, pools, spas, king size beds, etc. Although we stayed there just one night, we had the best time relaxing by the pool.

San Diego (Day 7)


were unable to book a room at the historic Coronado hotel, but we spent a lot of time on Coronado Island enjoying its white-sand beach. We found nice Airbnb studio in downtown, near many bar and restaurant options. San Diego is very close to the Mexican border, so finding a good taco truck is a must! San Diego seemed to be a really nice city to live in and have a family.

San Diego, California

Los Angeles and Driving Back to Las Vegas (Days 8 to 10)


My favorite part of Los Angeles was not Sunset Boulevard or Hollywood, but the Malibu and Venice beaches. As we were there in the middle of summer, Griffith Observatory and LA County Museum of Art were packed, so we decided to skip other popular tourist sites like The Getty Center.

My friend Karissa Barney recommended a really cool speakeasy called The Edison in downtown—a serious must stop bar! They have vintage-style entertainment and you feel as though you've walked into the Twenties. Karissa also recommended The Little Door restaurant if you want to splurge big time on a romantic dinner. Our favorite meal in Los Angeles we had at a random sushi place we found by a gas station on our way back frem the beach. We didn't have high expectations form the look of the restaurant, but honestly they served us the best and the freshes California rolls we have ever eaten. It's a bummer, I don't even remember the name of this tiny restaurant. Anyhow, sushi is a must when visiting LA!

Malibu, California

Venice Beach, California

I enjoyed every single moment of our road trip. Yes, it was a lot of attractions and miles to pack into ten days, and we wish we'd had more time to explore every canyon and valley. But if we had stayed longer in one place, we would not have had the chance to see other sites.

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