The pandemic took a toll on pretty much ever industry, especially food and travel. But some destinations suffered less than others: Big Bend National Park out in far west Texas became a hot spot for road trippers from Texas and beyond. To that end, National Geographic Travel included the vast natural wonder in its recent Best of the World 2023 list.
The annual list rounds up 25 global destinations "under the radar, ahead of the curve, and ready for you to start exploring," according to the article. National Geographic editors frame the list within five categories: Community, Nature, Culture, Family, and Adventure.
Big Bend landed in the Nature category, "5 wildly underrated natural escapes for 2023," and it's in good company: The list also includes the Azores, Botswana, Slovenia, and the Scottish Highlands.
According to a release, the list is themed around "travel destinations and experiences that leverage the benefits of tourism to strengthen their local communities, natural and built environments, and sense of place." Big Bend fits right into that criteria, attracting tourism to small-town communities near the park such as Marfa, Alpine, Presidio, Marathon, and Fort Davis, which all benefit from the influx of people passing through to Big Bend.
The park itself welcomed over 394,000 visitors in 2020, about 15 percent less than 2019. 2021 more than made up for that deficit, though: Big Bend welcomed a record 581,000 visitors as travelers continued to seek open spaces and natural wonders.
Apart from contributing to the local economy, the National Geographic article touts the park's locale in a "remote and arid part of west Texas," which "nurtures more cactus species than any other national park, as well as birds such as roadrunners and bright yellow Scott’s orioles, and mammals such as javelina."
So pack the car and plan your next trip out west, and don't forget some of our top tips for off-the-grid adventures in the area.