It may have been the Portuguese Columbus who first accidentally bumped into the land masses that make up the Americas, but the continent was named for an Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci.
North America covers a surface area of 24,221,490km² (9,351,969 square miles) and sits in the northern hemisphere, between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.
At one extreme lies the bitter cold weather of Canada’s – and the world’s – most northern settlement: the Canadian Forces Station Alert perches on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island, just 834 kilometres (518 miles) from the North Pole.
At the other extreme is the tropical heat of Mexico’s southernmost state, Chiapas, where a Mayan culture that predates the Colonial era still struggles against the odds to assert itself.
And in-between lies the vast adventure playground for tourists that is the United States of America.
North America contains iconic cities, a melting pot of cultures, towering trees, undulating plains, empty deserts, vast canyons, stunning beaches and ancient reminders of civilisations that promised a very different world to the one that we live in.
Luxury travel in North America can take advantage of its remarkable hotels, fine dining and the wealth of available experiences.
The continent is a cultural treasure trove and not just in its showcase institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York or the Smithsonian in Washington DC.
This is where jazz emerged from the swamps of New Orleans, where rock and roll propelled a starry-eyed teen from Tupelo, Mississippi into fame and where a tiny neighbourhood in Los Angeles became the heart and soul of the motion picture industry.
Culture is not the only thing that is cooking: in North America a melting pot of cuisines tempt and tantalise, too.
Let’s go on a quick road trip of what could be on the menu tonight. There’s smoked, sizzling brisket from Texan barbecue pits, tacos served in the streets surrounding a Mexican zócalo, fresh seafood from a pier in Maine, bubbling creole gumbo dished up by the Mississippi in New Orleans and the finest oysters in the sophisticated bars of Vancouver.
It isn’t just the portions that are big in North America; the landscapes are huge, the scenery epic.
Lush tropical rainforests give way to arid red rocks, set adrift in a sea of sand. Down in Mexico you can plummet to the continent’s lowest point at the gorge of Copper Canyon. Head north and you will eventually find the summit of Mount McKinley in Alaska, which at 6,194 metres (20,320 feet) is its highest point.
From Bermuda’s palm-fringed white sands to the brilliant snows of the Great White North and on to the sheer immensity of the Grand Canyon, North America may have the natural power to make you feel small, but a joyous sense of self and excitement are also synonymous with this vibrant continent.
Just walking the streets of New York City may provide a buzz in itself, but hurtling down the ski slopes of Canada, walking in the footsteps of Native American civilisations, diving the coral reefs of Mexico, getting your kicks on Route 66, hiking through the wilderness of Wells Gray Provincial Park or sandboarding in Great Sand Dunes National Park – well, that’s real adventure.
Where will you go in North America – and what will you experience?
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On weekend breaks, time is short. You just want to do the best of the best: visit the best museums, have the best treatments, eat at the best restaurants.
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