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Surrounded by a vast expanse of Californian scrubby desert, the San Jacinto Mountains soar abruptly upwards from the otherwise flat terrain. Sheltering beneath these towering forms is the oasis town of Palm Springs. Just over 160 km (100 miles) east of Los Angeles, the city rose to fame in the 1950s and 60s when the likes of Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra were regularly seen in the area. With its soothing springs and relaxed pace of life, it’s not surprising that the rich and famous chose this serene haven to unwind.

Peppered with flourishing green golf courses, swaying palm trees and brightly decorated bungalows, the city provides a stark contrast to the surrounding desert landscape. You can indulge in Michelin-star restaurants, boutique hotels and spa experiences. Alternatively, explore the area by foot on one of the nearby walking trails, or from the sky on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Palm SpringsPalm Springs sings a retro-chic vibe, which is particularly evident through its elegant Art Deco architecture. Stretching through the heart of the low-rise city is Palm Canyon Drive, fringed with outlet shops, palm trees and an array of restaurants and bars.

You can explore the city’s rich history and distinct style on a guided modern architectural tour. You’ll discover celebrity hideaways and learn about the architects who created the style known as Desert Modernism. We also recommend visiting the aircraft museum, which exhibits aircraft from World War II and the Vietnam War.

A stone’s throw away is Desert Hot Springs, a mezze of bubbling hot springs found inside a palm oasis. You can bathe in the crystal-clear waters, which are heated by a natural underground aquifer.

Continue to unwind back in Palm Springs by visiting one of the many spas. Or, stretch your legs by following the short nature walk that takes you through the wilderness of Long Valley. Alternatively, test your golfing talents by teeing-off at one of the well-known courses in the area.

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National ParkTo see the city from a different perspective, ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which climbs the vertical cliffs of Chino Canyon. During your ten-minute ride you’ll ascend 2,596 m (8,516 ft), through five climatic zones, and emerge in the surreal snowy Mount San Jacinto State Park. Here you can make use of the observation decks, restaurants or designated hiking trails through the pristine wilderness.

Running alongside the city is the geologically significant San Andreas Fault. You can discover the labyrinth of canyons and cuts surrounding the fault zone on a 4x4 tour. Your guide will entertain you with tales of the American Indians indigenous to the area and help point out any wildlife you come across — look out for lizards and rattlesnakes.

Continue past the fault line and you’ll enter Joshua Tree National Park, an enormous reserve spanning 3,237 sq km (1,250 sq miles). It marks the joining of the damp and vegetated Mojave Desert with the sparse Colorado Desert.

The park’s striking landscapes are molded by the merging of these two different desert ecosystems and the harsh weather conditions it’s subjected to. The result is a spectacular collection of granite monoliths, hidden gold mines and ancient petroglyphs which you can explore on foot or by car. You might also come across unusual, desert-adapted plants and wildlife such as coyotes and Californian mountain lions.

Best time to visit Palm Springs

Like the rest of California, Palm Springs is a year-round destination. May to September are the hottest months, with temperatures often extending above 100°F. The area hosts many festivals and sporting events throughout the year, for example Coachella in April, which you may wish to avoid as it attracts a huge influx of people.

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    We've selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Palm Springs. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.