Capture the spirit of the American Southwest on a Grand Canyon tour

There are some travel destinations where sights, people and activities add up to much more than the sum of their parts. You know when you’re in one of those special locations because you’re doing more than just seeing – you’re experiencing the spirit of the place. In the United States, there are few places more imbued with that indefinable sense of wonder than the Southwest. Delving into the landscapes, history and culture of the region on a Grand Canyon tour is sure to give you a real and memorable encounter with the spirit of the Southwest.

The Grand Canyon is certainly the leading natural attraction in the Southwest – if not the entire U.S. – but the surrounding area has even more to offer. The desert landscapes vary from austere to dramatic, and visitors can revel in all that diverse beauty by taking a Grand Canyon tour that also includes the majestic national parks of the region. While tours like those offered by Tauck often boast cost savings (as much as 40 percent over independent travel), they also give travelers the freedom to truly delve into their experience. Without the stresses of arranging everything on your own, you’re free to relax, unwind and find real understanding of the spirit of the Southwest deserts.

These are the key attractions you’ll want to visit on a Grand Canyon tour that also includes other national parks of the Southwest:

* Arches National Park – Nature is at its most fanciful in the landscape of Arches National Park, so named for the 2,000 natural rock arches within its borders. Start with a viewing of a sunrise in the “Windows” section of the park, and you’ll have the photo opportunity of a lifetime. Explore the park’s other geological wonders like Delicate Arch and Balanced Rock, and, for a bit of extra adventure, take a float ride on the Colorado River. The spirit of the desert is as much expressed through its culture as its landscape, and an excursion led by a member of the Navajo nation will provide insight into the sacredness of the land.

* Bryce Canyon National Park – The “hoodoos” this canyon is known for might have a whimsical name, but they are seriously impressive, particularly when viewed in the first light of morning. As the sun rises, watch the colors deepen, shift and change in a spectacular natural display. Bryce Canyon’s numerous horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters of eroded, colorful rock formations are easy for visitors of all ages to enjoy – hikes ranging from easy to challenging can be arranged.

* Grand Canyon National Park – The facts and figures about the Grand Canyon – 18 miles wide, 277 miles long, more than 5,000 feet deep – are impressive, but they pale when you encounter the Grand Canyon in person. Take the road less traveled and visit the North Rim, a spectacular part of the park that only sees about 10 percent of the park’s annual visitors. Relax and take in the views or get more in-depth with mule rides and ranger talks about history and geology.

* Zion National Park – The varied landscapes of Zion are all equally arresting, and so captured the imagination of Horace Albright, the first director of the National Park Service, that he was personally involved in the establishment of Zion National Park. Take at least a full day to explore the park in its grandeur, from the Weeping Rocks to the Court of the Patriarchs, where jagged peaks stand next to one another like mythical giants.

The sweeping vistas, kaleidoscope of colors and astounding natural rock formations of the Southwest are certain to make visitors appreciate the region. However, getting to know the real spirit of the desert is what will make you fall in love with it. For more information about a Grand Canyon tour that covers the best of the Southwest, visit Tauck online.