Last Updated: 14th Nov 2013

<p><img src="" class="rightwise" title="phoexix, saguaro cactus" alt="phoexix, saguaro cactus" /></p> <p>by &#8211; Ellen Nowakowski, Tour Manager, <span class="caps">USA</span></p> <p>Phoenix is often referred to as the Valley of the Sun. The tall buildings of the cityscape rise above the desert landscape and appear in stark contrast to the mountains surrounding the city on all sides. The location of this large city in the Sonoran Desert accounts for its hot temperatures and arid climate. The Saguaro cactus is a defining feature of this area. Welcome to the desert!</p> <p>Modern Phoenix owes its existence to the ancient Hohokam Indians (CE 250-1400) and the irrigation canals they used to bring river water to crops such as maize, cotton, and tobacco. Although the Hohokam vanished, following the Civil War, American colonist Jack Swilling was able to modernize the existing canals to again bring water to what would become the &#8216;Valley of the Sun&#8217;. With the water flowing again, agriculture boomed and settlement followed.</p> <p>No longer as reliant on agriculture, the diversification of business, industry, and the military has made 21st century Phoenix an important economic center, while warm weather, affordable housing, and pleasant culture have attracted immigrants from all over the country. At the center of one of the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the country, Phoenix is now the fifth largest city in the <a href="/contikipedia/articles/usa">United States</a>.</p> <p>The capital of <a href="/contikipedia/articles/arizona">Arizona</a> hosts major <a href="/contikipedia/articles/us-sports">US sports</a> teams such as Major League <a href="/contikipedia/articles/baseball">Baseball&#8217;s</a> 2001 World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks and NBA&#8217;s Phoenix Suns led by two time <span class="caps">MVP</span> winner Steve Nash. The suburb of Tempe is home to Arizona State University (the nations largest) where students from around the world enjoy the mixture of a top research university that also ranks as one of the nations leading party schools.</p> <h2>Scottsdale</h2> <p>by &#8211; Todd Geist, Tour Manager, <span class="caps">USA</span></p> <p>Scottsdale is technically a separate city to Phoenix but in the massive sprawl that has grown up around the center of Phoenix over the past decade, its difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.</p> <p>Most Contiki tours visiting Phoenix stay in Scottsdale.</p> <p>All of the dining, shopping, and nightlife options in the suburb of Scottsdale make it the ideal place for a Contiki nightstop. People pack downtown Scottsdale on the weekends to experience some of the hottest restaurants and dance clubs in the Valley. The perfect way to contrast a big night out in the city can be had the following morning observing the beauty of the Sonoran Desert from a <a href="/contikipedia/articles/hot-air-ballooning-phoenix">hot air balloon</a>!</p>