Welcome to Sedona, Arizona. Population 10,000. Whether you are into natural scenery, adventure sports, spiritualism or just fast food, there is something in this little town (and this post) for you.
My very first trip overseas, fully self-funded and independent was three weeks in the US southwest with one of my oldest and dearest friends Kate. The Contiki itinerary was packed with places and sights that needed no introduction to us. So the half day stop in the town of Sedona for a Red Rock Jeep Tour was neither here nor there. I didn’t know what I would see there, but I figured it must have had some merit if Contiki were putting it on their itinerary. If not, it was only an afternoon stop on the long desert road between Phoenix and The Grand Canyon! I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised. With no preconceived notions, Sedona quickly became a standout of the trip. So what is it about the landscape, mysticism and fast food chain in this desert town that may interest you?
Let’s geek out for a minute on some impressive geological facts! Sedona is first and foremost home to a series of impressive red rock formations. The town is located on the southern slopes of the Colorado Plateau that was formed by upheavals of the earth during prehistoric times, and the earth is still rising here by a few millimetres every year! The resulting exposed rock has been carved and sculpted by the forces of nature such as wind, water and ice. In Sedona, tall formations of rock are left behind, and a little further north the Colorado River etches out the Grand Canyon. The natural rock sculptures of Sedona show off a timeline of the areas geological history. Their different layers reveal to scientists that for instance, this current desert location was, in fact, a sea approximately 250 million years ago. The red colour is due to the presence of iron and looks its best when illuminated by the warm light of sunrise and sunset. Each formation has its own name, usually at least a rough descriptor of its shape, such as Bell Rock and Snoopy Rock. These fascinating rock forms are the key attraction of this desert town, and there is no doubting why.
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For anyone with an interest in spiritualism or just those with an open mind, Sedona and its rock formations are said to be the locations of vortices (vortexes as the locals prefer). These are energy centres revered by believers for their inspirational, healing and balancing capabilities, and are supposed to be excellent sites for achieving a greater spiritual awareness through meditation. Sedona was the chosen location of the Harmonic Convergence in 1987. The event saw 5000 people descend on the small town to meditate during an unusual astrological event in which eight planets of our solar system were aligned in a specific configuration. This was the beginning of the tourist influx into Sedona, and now there are specialist tours and facilities on offer to anyone with this special interest.
The golden arches turn teal
The smart cookies in Sedona realised after the Harmonic Convergence of the late 1980’s that the area’s natural beauty had serious tourism potential. So the local government instituted strict codes to minimise how the built environment of the town would detract from the beauty of the natural landscape. The code includes height restrictions and a colour palette that blends with the environment. When fast food giant McDonald’s moved into town, they fought the City of Sedona to put their famous golden arches on their building despite being outside the local colour restrictions. McDonald’s lost and the teal arches of the Sedona outlet became national news and a tourist attraction in their own right.
Seeing the sights
Hiking, mountain biking, jeep rides, horseback and helicopter are just some of the many ways you can see Sedona, requiring varying degrees of time, physical activity and risk. On the ground, a guide will help you get the best out of the fascinating geology or in locating a vortex. Afterwards, you can relax in the tranquillity of your surrounds in a spa, gallery or holiday resort. Sedona has become a haven for the rich and famous to take time out on their million dollar ranches. Therefore local facilities are generally good quality, but with the price tag to match. You may want to time your visit to take in (or avoid) one of a variety of festivals celebrating yoga, jazz and film among others.
The natural history and landscape of Sedona are a must see in the southwest. It is easy to get stuck on the glorious Grand Canyon, but this lesser known site is worth a look. Whether like me you can appreciate the natural history of the region, or you are happy to admire the colours and shapes without the geeky, geology stuff, this place offers a scenic retreat bound to inspire. There are so many ways to enjoy the fresh air and arid landscape in search of your duende. Find more inspiration for your Southwest journey with this 10-day road trip itinerary.
Peace, love & inspiring travel,