If you're heading south of Los Angeles on your California road trip, the sun-drenched Greater Palm Springs is well worth a stop. In April, it becomes a haven for Coachella attendees, but it's something of a hedonist's den all year round, with colour-box surrounds, luxurious spas and, of course, the palm trees that give the city its name.
Revel in Palm Springs' Desert Modernism
Almost every corner of Palm Springs is rendered in wonderful technicolour. During the day, turquoise swimming pools, warm desert hues and cobalt blue skies; at night, mesmerising kaleidoscopic sunsets give way to bright neon signage and pulsing nightlife.
Architects have been inspired by Palm Springs' dramatic arid surrounds since the early 1920s. The so-called 'Desert Modernism' – all clean lines, glass walls and boxy structures – was functional as well as aesthetically pleasing, protecting locals from the area’s scorching climate through its design.
A few places to check off on your trip. Head to the Parker Hotel (which has a great lemonade stand for guests), Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House, and Sunnylands, which holds birdwatching tours and free yoga classes from its desert-friendly gardens.
Scale the lofty heights of Mount San Jacinto
The towering Mount San Jacinto rises 11,000 feet above Greater Palm Springs. Its state park is made up of 14,000 acres of pristine wilderness and offers 54 miles of trails for hikers, horse riders and cyclists.
Of course, all that exercise deserves a reward. Beginning at the Valley Station base, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway takes you over 8,500 feet up the mountain, where you're met with arresting views over the city and beyond. While you're there, dine above the clouds at the Peaks Restaurant, where the menu has been meticulously crafted with locally-sourced produce in mind.
Visit Desert Hot Springs
Parts of Greater Palm Springs are built over hot aquifers, particularly in Desert Hot Springs, where natural mineral water is often found bubbling and percolating close to the surface.
Unsurprisingly, spas are prevalent here, and there's truly something for all budgets – retro-hip motels, marble clad resorts and ultra-exclusive retreats. Wherever you choose, be sure to try the drinking water – it’s won awards for its purity.
Take a detour to Salvation Mountain
A burst of colour in the dusty desert, Salvation Mountain lies just south of Coachella Valley, and is well worth the trip. One of California's most well-known public art projects, this hilled construct was the brainchild of local resident Leonard Knight. The 150-foot wide mound features murals themed around the repentance message of Christianity's Sinner's Prayer.
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