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LA to Palm springs road trip: Why it’s worth taking the desert route

Simon Calder’s Travel

If you’ve watched any number of films lately – Barbie, Don’t Worry Darling and Palm Springs to name a few – you’ll no doubt have heard of Palm Springs. This region encompassing nine resort cities in Southern California is perhaps best known for being a favourite of A-listers – the likes of the Kardashians, Harry Styles and Justin Bieber have been known to basque in its thermal spa waters. It’s where this year a swathe of new hotels, restaurants, and a swanky surf club have popped up amongst an already stellar choice of places to eat, stay and play.

But it’s what lies beneath on which Palm Springs built its reputation. During the 19th century, the Cahuilla Indian tribes, who had long been harnessing the healing powers of the thermal springs, invited visitors to bathe in them. Around the 1950s, those early bathhouses were replaced by the first spas which evolved into the luxury oases you’ll find there today.

All but one spa in the region are fed by an aquifer just east of the San Andreas fault. The exception is Séc-he in downtown Palm Springs which taps into an isolated water chamber thought to be 12,000 years old. A sacred natural source to the Agua Caliente band of Cahuillas, a tribe still around today, this is where Palm Springs’ multi-million dollar spa industry started. The 82C mineral-rich elixir bubbles up from 8,000 feet underground and washes over my .your skin at a balmy 41C in a unique ritual called ‘Taking of the Waters’. It’s so rich its consistency isn’t far off baby oil, which I discovered as I massaged it into my arms.

Laura at the Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley (Laura Sanders)

Mere steps away from where the Palm Springs legacy began, an eclectic mix of boutiques, vintage shops and eateries line Palm Canyon Drive. But just as thrilling is the journey there from Los Angeles – that is, if you take the long way around.

With car hire prices falling for the first time since before the pandemic this year (You’ll be looking at around £75 a day with Enterprise, vehicle dependent) and flights to LA starting at £215 each way with Norse, now is the ideal time to hit the highways.

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