Texas © Brian Stansberry

One's general impression of Texas is of a place where everything is bigger and better, where the state's estimated 16-million cattle roam free, and where life is at a cowboy's pace. However, as the second largest state in the US, dotted with half a dozen huge cities, Texas is vast and varied and defies its stereotypes.

Hills, lakes, mountains, beaches, bogs, and desert stretch between its Gulf Coast and the Red River boundary north of the Panhandle. There are 23-million acres of woodlands, 125 state parks, and four national forests. Texas' large cities like Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio provide the opportunity to soak up culture at a world-class art gallery before meandering through a scenic park. Home to the largest oil industry in the US, Texas also has one of the country's biggest wine-growing regions, and has some of the nation's finest restaurants.

Historically, Native American groups like the Comanches and Apaches roamed the Texan plains and Spanish settlements only began in 1690. In the following centuries, Texas became a conglomeration of settlements of various immigrant groups, and was an independent republic for 10 years with its characteristic Lone Star flag, finally acquiring statehood in 1845.

The word Texas is a corruption of a Native American term for friend, and the hospitality of the cosmopolitan Texan people reflects this in a state that caters for everyone's interests.