Many of Tucson ’s attractions are meant to provide easy access to, and to put a human-made frame around, the exotic natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert, one of the rarest and strangest landscapes in North America. Even the Old Pueblo’s most urban sights—art museums and galleries, historic neighborhoods, the ruins of lost civilizations—must be seen and judged within the context of how their creators, residents, and builders adapted and responded to the area’s unique, often harsh environment.
Sightseeing in and around Tucson, you’ll discover not only the arid beauty of a mythic landscape, but also a kind of living timeline of a region that has been home to many different, often contradictory cultures going back at least 12,000 years.
You’ll see the left-behind evidence of the Hohokam, desertland farmers who lived here long before the Spanish came to the New World. You’ll learn the lifeways of the Tohono O’odham, and the Apache, who fought the Spanish, the Mexicans, the Americans, and each other for the right to make a life in this forbidding land. You’ll see the remains of the Spanish, who were building whitewashed missions and ranching the region’s fertile river valleys back when Jamestown was just somebody’s crazy idea.
Everywhere you go you’ll feel and see the influence of Mexico, just an hour or so south of the city: The language, the culture, and the food of that dynamic nation infuse Tucson  and its environs quite thoroughly. And you’ll also see evidence of the American pioneers, who began moving into the valley about 150 years ago, and their generations-long efforts to create a pretty typical American city in a decidedly atypical environment.
Most of all, though, you will see the land. Its secrets may seep into your soul, and you may find yourself irrevocably changed because of it.