Marfa: Arresting Oddity in Texas Wilderness

the Prada Marfa installation in Texas
El Cosmico trailer in Marfa, Texas
El Cosmico trailer in Marfa, Texas

Marfa is a contemporary art hub in West Texas on the High Plains of the Chihuahuan Desert at the junction of U.S. highways 90 and 67. This tiny but extremely vibrant town is an hour drive to the Mexico Border, an hour and a half from Big Bend National Park, and three hours from El Paso.

Blossomed into a modern cultural mecca with about 40,000 visitors a year, this Far West Texas cow town was founded in 1883 as a railroad water stop. During World War II, U.S. military used Marfa as a training facility for pilots and chemical mortar battalions.

Some historians claim that the town’s name was inspired by a character depicted in the final creation of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky “The Brothers Karamazov.” However, American etymologist Barry Popik insists that “Marfa” came from “Marfa Strogoff,” a character in the novel of French writer Jules Verne “Michael Strogoff.”

Visit Marfa, where American epic Western drama film “Giant” (1956) starring  Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson was filmed, and head to the viewing station located 9 miles east of town on US Route 67 near the site of the old airbase. There you can catch the Marfa Mystery Lights, an exciting spectacle ascribed to paranormal phenomena.

Prada Marfa is a must-see permanent art installation by artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset about 26 miles northwest of this small community of approximately 2,000 people. Get a dose of art at The Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum based upon the ideas of its founder, Donald Judd, the artist who escaped New York art scene to find artistic fulfillment in Texas wilderness. There you can explore, among other creations, Robert Irwin’s exciting 10,000-square foot installation. Other interesting cultural venues you should not miss are Ballroom MarfaRULE GalleryInde/Jacobs Gallery, and Ayn Foundation.

the Prada Marfa installation in Texas
The Prada Marfa installation in Texas

You can get your morning fuel in Marfa Burrito, which is Ramona Tejada’s home turned into one of the best burrito spots in the US, or Buns n’ Roses for one of the tastiest homemade breakfasts in town. For lunch head to Food Shark, an unconventional restaurant which serves Mediterranean treats in an old bus. The absolute place to enjoy a fancy Italian Tuscan dinner is Stellina.

For coffee and small treats choose among Frama and Do Your Thing Coffee. Lost Horse Saloon is a typical Texan dive bar where you can relax enjoying your beer while lounging in the large patio area.

Do not leave this desert oasis without buying a book from Marfa Book Company, or souvenirs from Marfa Brands. In stores, such as Cobra Rock Boot Company, Wrong Store, FredaMoonlight Gemstones, and Mirth, you’ll definitely find something to take home with you.

For your stay, you can choose among trailers, yurts, tepees, safari tents, self-camping and The Brite building in the bohemian nomadic hotel El Cosmico, or you can go with the Hotel Saint George for the ultimate comfort experience.

In close distance from Marfa, you should definitely pay a visit to several interesting sites, such as Balmorhea, Big Bend Ranch, and Davis Mountains State Parks, as well as Fort Leaton State Historic Site.