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  • Death Valley
  • Death Valley

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley doesn't do things by halves. Not only do temperatures sizzle, it's actually one of hottest places on Earth, with the thermometer hitting 51⁰C in summer down on the Valley floor. It's also the driest place in North America, with the lowest-lying spot - as well as the USA's biggest National Park outside Alaska, with 140 miles of stunning natural landscapes. That means Death Valley tours are a must if you're visiting California - just so you can say you've been there! 

This is a place that gets its name from doomed 19th-century gold prospectors, who found themselves in the Valley while trying to escape snowstorms in the Sierra Nevada mountains - and didn't survive the experience. In fact many of the Park's locations reflect the harshness of the climate and terrain, and go big on images of destruction: Furnace Creek; Coffin Peak; Funeral Mountains; Dead Man Pass; you get the idea.

But what the names fail to convey is the sheer, staggering beauty of the landscapes here. There are rugged canyons spanned by rock bridges; wind-rippled sand dunes with curving crests; endless salt flats ringed by mountains; dry, boulder-strewn lakebeds; multi-hued cliffs; twisted crystal pinnacles; even an extinct volcanic crater. And there's life here too, with plenty of indigenous wildlife, including coyotes, bob cats, pupfish and weirdly contorted Joshua trees - while each spring the land is carpeted in a riot of dazzling wildflowers.

There's more to see, including the remains of abandoned mines and ghost towns. And as if that wasn't enough to persuade you Death Valley tours are not to be missed, Star Wars fans should know that scenes from the original 1977 movie were shot here in Golden Canyon. May the Force Be With You!

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Scotty's Castle

Scotty's Castle

A hair-brained scheme if ever there was one, this Moorish-style castle was built by Walter Scott, sometime cowboy, prospector and performer, after he'd scammed a Chicago millionaire into financing it as a winter retreat. With furnishings and a pipe organ from the period when it operated as a hotel, costumed rangers re-enact life here in the late 1930s and tell the castles' story.

Moving Rocks!

There's a phenomenon that occurs on the dried lake-bed at Racetrack Playa that even scientists can't explain. Large rocks, some weighing several hundred pounds, dot the surface of this vast wilderness, but no one knows how they get there. They appear overnight, leaving long trails in the parched earth behind them - the really strange thing being that nobody has ever seen them actually move.

What a View

There are several not-to-be-missed look-out points that are a key part of Death Valley tours. Dante's View is one of the best, and from over 1600 metres up in the Black Mountains affords panoramic views over the Valley's stand-out features. Zabriskie's View is another, and although much lower, looks out over spectacular multi-coloured hills and is perfect for watching the sun rise.

Take A Hike

Although you have to be mindful of the high temperatures and staying hydrated, there are some good trails to follow and lots of off-trail possibilities if you're in search of solitude. The Gower Gulch Loop offers a hike through colourful badlands, canyon narrows and old borax mines, while at Mesquite Flat you can walk cross-country until you reach 30-metre high sand dunes.

Kaleidoscope Of Colour

Take a trip along Artist's Drive amid stunning scenery and stop at Artist's Palette, where mineral deposits have turned the hills rich hues of red, pink, orange, purple and green.

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Time Difference:
GMT- 8hours

Closest Airport:
Los Angeles International Airport (approx. 11 hours, indirect flight)

Getting around:
With Death Valley being an approximate 5 our drive away, the best way to get there is by car, which then allows you to get a first-hand experience of driving through this desert wonderland of extinct volcano creators and sand dunes rippled with colour. Car hire is available from £21 per day.

Insider Tip:
Winter in Death Valley National is a great time to visit but make sure you book ahead as accommodation books up in well in advance.

You’re going to need an ESTA:
For anyone travelling to the USA, the US authorities have imposed a requirement for passengers travelling under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), to register for Electronic Travel Authority. Just fill in the online application form which you can find at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. You will need to apply for entry via ESTA at least a minimum of 72 hours prior to travel.

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