Exploring Arizona's Diverse Beauty: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Places to Travel

2023-08-07 00:04:47 - Drany Macley Drany Macley, the senior editor of Vytravels.com, brings extensive journalism background and over eight years of experience in travel writing and editing to the site, offering practical insights and first-hand knowledge through articles on innovative hotels, backed by a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College.

Arizona, a southwestern gem of the United States, boasts a plethora of diverse and breathtaking landscapes that entice travelers from near and far. From the iconic Grand Canyon to the stunning Desert Botanical Garden, this state is a treasure trove of natural wonders and cultural gems waiting to be explored. In this article, we will guide you through the best places to visit in Arizona, revealing the hidden gems, top cities, and must-see national parks. So pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in the great state of Arizona.


Map of Attractions in Arizona

Arizona Map© OpenStreetMap © MapTiler © Touropia


With an abundance of great museums, theaters, and art galleries, the cities in Arizona offer a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere. In addition to their cultural offerings, these cities boast a lively nightlife scene. Arizona is truly a remarkable state, and a visit to any of these cities will create lasting memories.


Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu


In 1967, Robert McCulloch made an extraordinary purchase - he bought the London Bridge and transported it piece by piece to Lake Havasu. This move put Lake Havasu on the map, and the town was later recognized as one of the best communities in America.


Aside from the captivating London Bridge attraction, Lake Havasu offers a plethora of outdoor activities. With over 300 days of sunshine per year, visitors can enjoy 60 miles of navigable waterways and 1800 miles of off-road trails. The lake also features 27 replica lighthouses, a white sand beach, and the largest skatepark in Arizona. These amenities make Lake Havasu an excellent choice for a winter vacation.





Nestled in the foothills of the Mule Mountains, Bisbee was once an incredibly prosperous mining town. Despite the decline of the mining industry, Bisbee has managed to preserve its charm and avoid becoming a ghost town. Today, it is a thriving hub of art and culture.


Strolling through Bisbee's streets, visitors will find themselves immersed in the town's unique atmosphere. The streets are lined with charming boutique stores, cozy cafes, and local art galleries, all housed in historic buildings from the mining era. With over 45 saloons, the original library, and opera house, Bisbee offers a nostalgic glimpse into the past.


Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park


Through the slow and patient forces of nature, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park came into existence. It all began with seawater, volcanic lava, and rainfall, which contributed to the formation of a travertine dam. Over time, the dam eroded, leaving behind the world's largest natural travertine bridge.


Spanning 150 feet wide and rising over 180 feet above Pine Creek, the bridge is truly a sight to behold. Surrounded by pine trees, flowing springs, and grottoes filled with ferns, the natural beauty of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park creates a magical contrast with its surroundings. Visitors can climb over the bridge or explore the four other hiking trails to fully appreciate the geological wonders of Pine Canyon.



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Tombstone, known for its Old West charm, is a famous historic site that offers a unique contemporary twist. Visitors can witness staged gunfights in the streets and encounter characters dressed in period costumes. The town perfectly recreates the glory days of the Arizona Territory, complete with various hotels, souvenir shops, restaurants, salons, and entertainment venues. Exploring the town's historical sites, such as Boothill Graveyard, Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, and O.K. Corral, allows visitors to immerse themselves in the rich history of Tombstone. Once you step foot in this captivating town, you won't want to leave.



Scottsdale© Bambi L. Dingman / Dreamstime


As part of the Greater Phoenix Area, Scottsdale basks in year-round warm weather, attracting millions of visitors each year. The city boasts a wide range of resorts, hotels, restaurants, and bars to accommodate every budget.


Scottsdale proudly promotes itself as "The West's Most Western Town." The city is sprinkled with historic sites and hosts festivals and events that celebrate its Western heritage. Cowboy competitions and horse shows are common occurrences. Scottsdale also boasts numerous impressive museums and art galleries, creating a thriving arts and cultural scene for visitors to enjoy. Additionally, the city offers a bustling nightlife with a variety of nightclubs, lounges, and trendy bars.


Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle


Situated fifty miles south of Flagstaff, Montezuma Castle is a remarkable archaeological site. Built between 700 and 900 years ago, the castle stands as a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the Sinagua people.


The castle, held together by clay mortar and mud, consists of 20 separate rooms. Although visitors are not allowed to explore the interior, they can enjoy the breathtaking views along the walking trail and learn about the castle's history through informative panels. To delve deeper into the castle's past, visitors can explore the visitor center.


Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area© M. Zysman / Dreamstime


Encompassing vast stretches of desert, the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is a haven surrounding the majestic Lake Powell. With over three thousand kilometers of shoreline, the dark waters of the lake are bordered by breathtaking red rock formations and dramatic cliff faces.


Lake Powell is a popular destination for boating and offers five marinas for visitors to dock their vessels. The area also provides an abundance of water sports and activities, such as kayaking, jet-skiing, and fishing. For those who prefer hiking, the nearby rock formations and Paria Canyon are a hiker's dream. Horseshoe Bend, with its unique curved shape, is another must-see attraction within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Spending a few days exploring this stunning area is a decision you won't regret.



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Phoenix, nestled in the heart of a desert known as "the Valley of the Sun," is a vibrant and diverse city. Home to the University of Arizona, Phoenix offers a multitude of entertaining museums and theaters, making it a cultural hub. Art lovers will find themselves captivated by the city's numerous galleries. The shopping scene in Phoenix is exceptional, and the city boasts an array of restaurants and bars that cater to a variety of culinary preferences.


Visiting Phoenix promises an unforgettable experience, with plenty of activities and attractions to keep you engaged. There is never a dull moment in this bustling city.


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In its turbulent history, Jerome has witnessed it all. Once a thriving mining town, Jerome's population dwindled until it was on the brink of becoming a ghost town. However, enough of the town remains intact, making it a popular tourist destination.


Exploring Jerome allows visitors to step back in time. The town features historic stores, old restaurants, and museums housed in restored buildings. You can even witness the famous Sliding Jail, which has moved 2500ft from its original location due to clay slick. Jerome is a perfect day trip for those visiting Sedona, Phoenix, Flagstaff, or Prescott. On-site accommodations are also available.





Located at over 5000ft, Prescott experiences distinct seasons, setting it apart from many other towns in Arizona. Surrounded by exotic desert features, ponderosa pines, and sprawling lakes, Prescott offers a wide range of outdoor activities.


Once the capital of the Arizona Territory, Prescott is an ideal destination for those seeking idyllic lakes, craggy canyons, and stargazing opportunities during camping trips. The Watson Lake Loop Trail is a must for hikers, offering a 4.7-mile journey through the beauty of the deep blue lake and the surrounding desert landscape. Prescott's downtown area is charming, with exquisite historic buildings like the Elks Theater and the old courthouse. For accommodations, visitors can choose from a range of beautifully restored bed and breakfasts.


Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend


Horseshoe Bend, located within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, is one of the most iconic sights in the United States. The park boasts an abundance of epic rock formations, scenic vistas, and a rich human history. However, Horseshoe Bend steals the show.


Formed over millions of years, the Colorado River dramatically bends 180 degrees through the park. The result is a stunning horseshoe-shaped vista, with the dark blue waters of the river flowing through the vibrant orange canyon.


To witness the best view, visitors can embark on a relatively flat 1.5-mile hike to the observation platform (which is wheelchair accessible). From there, one can peer down 1000ft to the river below, although the height may trigger vertigo. Horseshoe Bend is truly a sight to behold.


Havasu Falls

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Havasu Falls, located near the isolated village of Supai, is a mesmerizing waterfall set amidst Havasupai land in Havasu Canyon. This breathtaking waterfall drops around 120 feet into a natural swimming pool. What sets Havasu Falls apart is its stunning blue-green waters that beautifully contrast with the red canyon walls. Visitors can reach this enchanting place by opting for a helicopter ride, a horse ride, or a 13 km hike.



Tucson© Meunierd / Dreamstime


Known as the "City of the Sun," Tucson is an intriguing blend of arid mountains, cacti-filled plains, and cultural diversity. Home to the University of Arizona, the city offers a lively college town atmosphere, complete with great nightlife options. Tucson's numerous museums and vibrant arts scene highlight the city's rich history and diversity.


The city's valley location, surrounded by stunning desert landscapes, makes it an attractive destination. The brightly-colored buildings of Tucson create a charming backdrop for exploration. For those interested in the outdoors, Saguaro National Park and the nearby Santa Catalina Mountains offer incredible natural sights.


Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park


Tucson is surrounded by a serene desert landscape, offering visitors the opportunity to see giant saguaro cacti in their natural habitat. Saguaro National Park was established to preserve and showcase these rare and spectacular cacti.


The park is divided into two sections, with Tucson conveniently located in the middle for easy access. Saguaro cacti can live for up to 200 years, growing at a snail's pace of just one inch per year.


The best time to visit the park is in the morning or late afternoon, when the sun is less intense. The west side of the park has a higher concentration of saguaro cacti, but it tends to be more crowded. Camping is available in the eastern section, providing an opportunity to sleep under the desert sky.


Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater


Just outside Winslow, Arizona, lies a massive meteor crater that defies imagination. Known as the Barringer Crater, named after its discoverer, the crater was formed approximately 50,000 years ago when the Canyon Diablo meteorite struck the Arizona landscape at a speed of 26,000 mph.


With an explosive force equivalent to 20 million tons of TNT, the meteorite created a 700ft deep and 4000ft wide crater. Today, visitors can stand on the observation platform and marvel at the immense size of the hole. The visitor center also provides an opportunity to learn more about the history of the Barringer Crater.


Petrified Forest National Park

petrified forest arizona


Petrified Forest National Park offers a fascinating experience, although visitors may be surprised by its barren landscape. The park features a unique collection of fossils and petrified, sliced tree trunks.


Scattered throughout the national park, petrified wood creates an otherworldly atmosphere. Visitors can drive through the park, stopping at various spots that catch their attention. Notable attractions include the Rainbow Forest Museum, the Crystal Forest and Blue Mesa hiking trails.


The petrification of trees occurs when they are buried underground without oxygen for thousands of years. Over time, the decaying wood becomes mineralized and fossilized, creating an exact replica of the original form in a different material. Petrified Forest National Park offers an unparalleled natural experience for those intrigued by its mysteries.





Flagstaff, often referred to as the "City of Seven Wonders," is the perfect base from which to explore many of Arizona's attractions. This college town is not just a convenient stop along the way to the Grand Canyon; it offers a fresh experience free from the overwhelming influence of famous landmarks.


Flagstaff caters to the inner-traveler in all of us, providing an opportunity to discover a place that has not been overrun by social media-fueled attractions. Flagstaff is renowned as the highest point along Route 66 and the birthplace of the discovery of Pluto. Beyond these accolades, the city is surrounded by stunning natural beauty and boasts a diverse arts, culture, and dining scene. Flagstaff's claim to fame as the world's first International Dark Sky City only adds to its allure.


Antelope Canyon

places to visit in arizona antelope canyon


Antelope Canyon is a national treasure and a must-visit attraction in Arizona. Renowned for its mesmerizing wave-like sandstone walls, this slot canyon has gained fame through social media and travel magazines. Photographers and tourists flock to Antelope Canyon to capture its magical scenery and walk along the canyon floor.


The canyon is divided into two parts: Lower Antelope Canyon and Upper Antelope Canyon. Visitors can choose to explore one or both sections by booking guided tours. Upper Antelope Canyon offers easier hiking conditions but is darker, while Lower Antelope Canyon is narrower and provides more natural light. A visit to the Antelope Canyon Visitor Center will provide information and tour options. Antelope Canyon is an extraordinary place that should be on every outdoor enthusiast's bucket list.


Canyon de Chelly


Canyon de Chelly is one of the most visited national monuments in the United States. Inhabited for over five thousand years, the canyon's walls shelter ancient buildings that date back to the days of the Ancestral Puebloans.


Throughout its history, the canyon has unfortunately been a site of numerous massacres, with Spanish and US Army forces persecuting the Native Americans. Today, the site is owned and operated by the Navajo Nation, and visitors can embark on great trails and horseback tours. The canyon's most distinctive feature is Spider Rock, but its beauty can be admired from various viewpoints along the rim.


Monument Valley

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Monument Valley, famous for serving as the backdrop for numerous western movies, is an iconic attraction straddling the border of Utah and Arizona. The site is characterized by its spiked rock formations, sand dunes, and stone spires and buttes. In the heart of the valley lies Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, which includes a visitor center. Exploring this area with a guided tour offers insights into the fascinating history of the land.


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© Wollertz / Dreamstime


While the stunning red sandstone formations are the highlight of Sedona, there is much more to see and do in this picturesque town. Visitors to Sedona are consistently amazed by the enchanting beauty that surrounds them.


Sedona is considered sacred by Native Americans, drawing people seeking healing and spiritual enlightenment. Wellness shops and spas cater to these visitors, offering alternative medicines and relaxation treatments. Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to do, with opportunities for cycling, hiking, and swimming in pristine waters. The town's vibrant arts scene, coupled with numerous art galleries and great dining options, creates an unforgettable experience for visitors. Although Sedona can get busy during the summer, the breathtaking scenery more than compensates for any crowds.


Best Cities to Visit in Arizona

Arizona is not only about deserts and canyons; it is home to several cities that are worth exploring. The following cities are among the best places to visit in Arizona.


Lake Havasu City

If you're looking for a contrast to the bustling city atmosphere of Phoenix, Lake Havasu City is the perfect destination. Situated next to Lake Havasu, fed by the Colorado River, this tiny city is a haven for water sports enthusiasts and those seeking relaxation. However, what really piqued our interest and led us to this detour was the charming Little London Village.


For nature lovers and those craving a tranquil base in Arizona, Lake Havasu is a dream come true. The city, with its lakeside location, offers a refreshing change from the arid desert landscape that characterizes most of Arizona. There are numerous outdoor activities and attractions to enjoy, such as Lake Havasu State Park and the iconic London Bridge. Yes, you read that correctly—the London Bridge was actually transported from London in the 1970s, giving the London Village a distinctive English ambiance.


Whether you spend your days fishing, exploring the footpaths and green spaces around the city, or indulging in swimming and boating on the lake, be sure not to miss the picturesque Lake Havasu Lighthouses that grace the shoreline.


Best National Parks to Visit in Arizona

No trip to Arizona would be complete without a visit to its renowned national parks, particularly the famous Grand Canyon.


You'll have a wealth of options to explore, from hiking and biking trails to off-roading tours and scenic helicopter flights—it's entirely up to you. Here are the best national parks in Arizona that you must include in your itinerary.


Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon—where to begin? This park is not only one of the best places to visit in Arizona, but also in the entire United States. It consistently tops the bucket lists of countless travelers.


The South Rim and North Rim are the most popular areas to explore the Grand Canyon on foot. The North Rim, the lesser-explored side, offers a quieter experience for those seeking a more serene encounter with this natural wonder. On the other hand, the bustling South Rim boasts numerous hiking trails to suit all levels. The Bright Angel Trail, a popular route, provides stunning views of the canyon, with its well-maintained path, impressive cliff faces, and switchbacks leading to the breathtaking Plateau Point.


Of course, for a truly awe-inspiring experience, consider treating yourself to a helicopter ride over the canyon. Viewing it from above is indeed one of the most exhilarating things you can do in Arizona. And if you're wondering where to stay near the Grand Canyon, check out our guide for the best hotels and areas for every budget.


Lake Powell

If you find yourself near the Arizona-Utah border, do not miss the opportunity to visit Lake Powell. This stunning artificial lake, situated between Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon National Park, epitomizes the beauty of Arizona. Its bright blue waters and orange sandstone surroundings create a picture-perfect scene.


Spanning over 2,000 miles of shoreline, Lake Powell is a haven for water enthusiasts. You can enjoy boating and fishing, or simply bask in the tranquility of the lake. Don't forget to visit the Rainbow Bridge National Monument, the largest natural bridge in the world, located within the lake. It's a remarkable attraction that perfectly complements the natural splendor of Lake Powell.


Many visitors choose to spend a day or two staying along the shores of the lake. Whether you opt for a day trip or decide to seek accommodations like a cabin, hotel, or campsite, Lake Powell is an experience you won't want to miss.


Desert Botanical Garden

We've previously mentioned the Desert Botanical Garden in relation to Phoenix, but it truly deserves its place on this list as a remarkable attraction in its own right. Located in Papago Park, in the heart of Arizona's capital city, the Desert Botanical Garden showcases the beauty of the desert landscape in a convenient and accessible way. We highly recommend a visit, even if you're just passing through Phoenix and only have a day or two to spare.


What makes the Desert Botanical Garden so exceptional? Its expansive 150-acre garden houses over 50,000 desert plants, providing an ideal setting for experiencing the desert ecosystem. For those with limited time or unable to venture to major desert locations like Saguaro National Park, this botanical garden offers an enjoyable and educational alternative. Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of the desert landscape and its characteristic cacti and flora at Phoenix's botanical garden.


Lake Mead

Another impressive artificial attraction, Lake Mead boasts the highest water capacity of any reservoir in the United States. Situated on the border of Nevada and Arizona, this oasis-like body of water offers a perfect escape for water sports enthusiasts and those seeking a relaxing lakeside retreat.


We recommend taking a cruise on Lake Mead to truly appreciate the striking contrast between the surrounding desert and the sparkling oasis. Fishing and boating opportunities abound on the lake, while the nearby desert mountains offer scenic drives and biking trails. However, don't be surprised if you find it difficult to tear yourself away from the refreshing embrace of the lake.


If you're planning a road trip, Lake Mead is conveniently located en route to Las Vegas. It's definitely worth detouring to experience the beauty of the lake and consider combining it with a visit to the nearby Hoover Dam.


Coyote Buttes

If you have a taste for unique and breathtaking landscapes, Coyote Buttes should be at the top of your list of places to visit in Arizona.


Located in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, this area features wave-like rock patterns reminiscent of Antelope Canyon. However, unlike Antelope Canyon, Coyote Buttes allows you to experience these mesmerizing formations out in the open, surrounded by towering buttes. It truly feels like walking through a maze of natural skatepark ramps. The landscape is incredibly captivating, making Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness a must-visit spot in Arizona. However, if you're short on time, prioritize a visit to Coyote Buttes, as it offers the most exciting and unique sights within the park's expansive 100,000-acre protected lands.


Hoover Dam

Once the tallest dam in the world, the Hoover Dam still retains its powerful and nostalgic allure. Although it may no longer hold the grand title it once did, it remains one of Arizona's top attractions, captivating visitors with its sheer magnitude and strength. In fact, it is said that the dam could withstand the force of Niagara Falls—a testament to its remarkable engineering.


You can admire the Hoover Dam from a distance or choose to delve deeper by visiting the Hoover Dam Visitors Center, where you can book a guided tour. These tours typically grant access to the dam's tunnels, a thrilling elevator ride to the top, and exclusive entry to functional rooms within the structure itself. So, whether you're interested in architecture or simply want to witness a national historic landmark up close, a visit to the Hoover Dam is well worth it. Plus, it can easily be combined with a trip to Las Vegas, as the dam straddles the Nevada-Arizona border.


Jerome State Historic Park

If you have a penchant for history, Jerome State Historic Park is an absolute gem worth visiting in Arizona. This state park encompasses a couple of acres surrounding Douglas Mansion, which has been transformed into a charming mining museum.


As you explore the grounds, you'll be treated to two floors of informative exhibits and delightful outdoor gardens. The museum strikes a perfect balance between showcasing general mining stories and the town's unique history. Through various mediums, including captivating cinematic videos, you can learn about region-specific minerals, different mining processes, and the intriguing tales of those who once inhabited the area.


The park pairs exceptionally well with a visit to Montezuma Castle or makes for an engaging day trip if you're staying in nearby Flagstaff. Be sure to jot down a visit to Jerome State Historic Park on your Arizona itinerary—it's an activity that promises both enjoyment and enlightenment.


Chapel of the Holy Cross

The Chapel of the Holy Cross stands as one of the most unparalleled and unique places to visit in Arizona. We couldn't possibly omit this extraordinary Catholic church from our list.


Though it may not fall under the category of outdoor attractions, the exterior of the Chapel of the Holy Cross is a sight to behold. Nestled between two sandstone buttes, this church boasts a modern and chic design with its large, plain glass windows. It's a departure from the typical church architecture one might expect.


Visitors are welcome to enter the church to explore its interior or, if inclined, attend a service. Conveniently located near Sedona and a plethora of other attractions, including captivating hikes and outdoor adventures, spending a little extra time to visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross is well worth it.


Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Situated on the outskirts of Tucson, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum deserves its own place on this list as a captivating attraction that combines elements of a natural history museum, a zoo, and a botanical garden.


Encompassing a vast 98 acres, this museum offers visitors an immersive experience in the wonders of the desert. From aquarium exhibits to live animal showcases and stunning flora displays in the botanical garden section, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum provides a diverse range of attractions. Additionally, an art gallery adds an extra touch of cultural enrichment to the experience.


Prepare to spend a full day at the museum, as it provides the opportunity to explore multiple tourist attractions in one go. It's an absolutely perfect outing for families or anyone curious about the remarkable biodiversity and captivating landscapes of the Arizona desert.


The Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park is a hidden gem that you should not overlook when planning your visit to Arizona. Located just north of Flagstaff, it can easily be incorporated into a trip to Lake Powell or Monument Valley.


The park's key highlight is the gorge overlook, where you can marvel at the breathtakingly sheer drop of this lesser-visited canyon. Be mindful of your steps, as there are minimal barriers for better immersion in the unspoiled beauty of the park. Many find the Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park to be a peaceful alternative to more crowded canyons like the Grand and Antelope Canyons, offering a serene experience in nature's embrace.


If you're driving from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, or Monument Valley, make sure to allocate time to stop at the Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park. The gorge outlook provides a perfect opportunity to enrich even the busiest of day trips.


Gold King Mine Museum and Ghost Town

The Gold King Mine Museum and Ghost Town stands out as the quirkiest attraction on our list, transporting visitors back in time to experience the fascinating life of a miner.


The museum presents an engaging depiction of an Old West mining camp, complete with a collection of vintage vehicles and mining equipment. Car enthusiasts are particularly drawn to this museum, as it showcases an impressive variety of automobiles, even for those lacking extensive knowledge in the field.


However, the Gold King Mine Museum has more to offer than just relics. You can explore working areas such as a sawmill and a blacksmith's shop, fully immersing yourself in the mining lifestyle of yesteryear.


Allow yourself a couple of hours to fully appreciate the museum and its ghost town setting. It's like stepping into a different world—a fun yet educational experience rooted in Arizona's rich history and heritage.


In the land of breathtaking landscapes and vibrant cities, Arizona offers a plethora of options for the adventurous traveler. From the iconic Grand Canyon National Park to the hidden gems like Havasu Falls and Antelope Canyon, this southwestern state never fails to amaze. Delve into the rich history and charm of Tombstone and Bisbee, explore the stunning natural formations at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, or soak up the modern vibes of Scottsdale and Phoenix. With each destination offering its own unique allure, Arizona truly is a playground for those seeking unforgettable adventures. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to immerse yourself in the beauty of this remarkable state.


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