Everything about the Big Bend area is vast—the sky, the views, the mountains, the canyons, and especially the sense of wonder. It’s a true getaway to a relatively untouched land, where the natural elements dominate the landscape, and the visitors simply marvel at its beauty.
What sets this region apart from the rest of Texas is the presence of mountains. The relatively accessible Davis Mountains in Fort Davis  are fairly impressive, featuring giant outcroppings of red rock rising thousands of feet into the West Texas sky, but the state’s magnificent mighty peaks are in Big Bend’s Chisos Mountain range. A portion of Big Bend even invokes the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, with sheer vertical drops looming right outside the car window and tight switchbacks providing an element of suspense.
Though Marfa  has recently landed on the radar of the international art community, the rest of the Big Bend area is desolate and unknown to most people outside the region. One look at a map reveals the lack of civilization, with vast areas of empty space dotted only by small towns with strange names like Study Butte, Balmorhea, and Van Horn.
It’s this desolation, however, that makes the Big Bend region so appealing. The solitude and seclusion amid a gorgeous backdrop of rugged beauty are ultimately soul-cleansing. You never realize how many utility poles, wires, and billboards surround you in everyday life until they’re removed from your environment. Only then do you begin appreciating the sight of milk-white clouds, fascinating native flora, and the endearing sound of chattering birds.
Of the hundreds of thousands of visitors who make the long trek to the Big Bend region annually, the vast majority are Texans. Though you’ll see an occasional Midwestern license plate in Big Bend National Park  or hear a German accent in Marfa , the natural beauty of the area continues to be a source of fascination and wonder for Texas residents, who find the region equally as compelling as foreigners do.
For those not making the long haul from another part of the state, this region of West Texas is best accessed by plane. Southwest Airlines offers extremely reasonable rates to the area (occasionally less than $100 one way) from most major cities in Texas. The best option for affordable rates and proximity to sites is Midland International Airport (9506 Laforce Blvd., 432/560-2200, www.flymaf.com ), where you can rent a car and be in Big Bend or Marfa  within three hours.
The other option is El Paso International Airport (6701 Convair Rd., 915/772-4271, www.elpasointernationalairport.com ), which offers a few more flights; unfortunately, it takes nearly five hours to get to Big Bend and about four hours to Marfa. There is no public transportation available to Big Bend or in the smaller surrounding communities, but the local chambers of commerce can suggest a private shuttle service to provide transportation within the region.