The Llano Estacado is a region in the Panhandle of Texas. Notoriously flat and largely rural, the Llano Estacado (also coloqially known as the South Plains) is famous for its wide-open prairielands and unmolested expanses that harken back to the days when Texas was largely unexplored frontier. Anchored in its center by the modern metropolis of Lubbock, the Llano Estacado offers a taste of what outsiders might perceive Texas as: rough, tough and unrefined, but a few cosmopolitan surprises lurk just beneath its dusty, forlorn surface.
Llano Estacado, meaning staked plain in Spanish, is a region bound on the west by the New Mexico state line, to the south by the Edwards Plateau, to the north by the Texas High Plains and to the east by the Caprock Escarpment, which separates it from the North Central Plains region. Aside from the dynamic hub of Lubbock, it is largely a cotton-producing region. The area is extraordinarily flat; travelers often experience miles of monotonous landscape flat as a tabletop and unbroken save for the occasional pumpjack or windmill. There is an abundance of cotton farms and the occasional cattle ranch, otherwise the South Plains remains largely unmolested and undeveloped grasslands. The people of the South Plains are generally laid-back, slow talking, slow to anger and quick to lend a hand. They are, however, also quick to defend their sense of identity and self-reliance. It is not advised to make light of what an outsider might perceive as "quirkiness".
Outside of Lubbock, the South Plains is one of the places in Texas where the "Texas Accent" is still quite prevalent. An outsider or foreign traveler may have to ask a local to repeat themselves a time or two to understand what they are saying due to local dialect and slang, but generally they do not mind. It is not suggested, however, to kid them about it; to the people of the South Plains (like all Texans) the way they speak is a strong element of their sense of self and is a large part of who they are, and they are proud of it.
Spanish is also spoken by a sizeable minority on the Llano Estacado, and while it would be unusual for an outsider to encounter a situation where nobody around speaks English, at least a rudimentary grasp of Spanish is certainly helpful.
The largest airport serving the Llano Estacado is the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport, a medium sized airport 5 mi (8 km) north of downtown that has daily flights to and from most of the major hub airports throughout the United States. Air travel to Lubbock will most likely require a connecting flight in Dallas or Houston, as there are few direct flights, although Southwest has nonstop flights to Las Vegas, Albuquerque, El Paso, and Austin, as well as Dallas.
The Llano Estacado is easily accessed by auto via Interstate 20 on the south and Interstate 40 on the north. U.S. highways 62, 70, 82, 84, 87, 380 and 385 also provide easy access to the area. There are several secondary state routes that serve the area as well. I-27 from Amarillo to Lubbock is the main north-south artery on the Llano Estacado. Besides these two cities, other towns on I-27 include (from south to north) New Deal, Abernathy, Hale Center, Plainview, Kress, Tulia, Happy, and Canyon.
Greyhound operates major hubs in Lubbock and Plainview, and satellite stations in most South Plains towns with significant populations. Keep in mind that bus travel, while relatively inexpensive, is also quite time consuming and arduous.
Commuter rail is nonexistent, therefore an automobile is essentially the only way to get around. Though the Llano Estacado is predominantly rural, it benefits from Texas' exemplary state highway system and remains easily navigable. It is recommended, however, that you keep a close watch on the gas gauge as you travel the area because population centers are generally spread out over a wide distance, and not all of these towns possess gas stations. The ones which do tend to close at dusk or shortly thereafter, when planning an evening drive make sure you fill up before embarking.
Convenience stores that sell gas, many open 24 hours, have become ubiquitous in most of the small towns throughout the area, somewhat easing concerns about fuel availability.
Palo Duro Canyon outside of Canyon provides a great opportunity for lovers of the outdoors with trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. You can also enjoy great nature photography, bird watching, and geocaching. During the summer this Texas State Park also offers performances of the musical drama TEXAS. Campsites offer a variety of options, including backpacking areas, equestrian sites, primitive campsites, drive-up sites with electricity and water, and a limited number of cabins. A pavilion is available for weddings, reunions, or meetings. Check the Visitor Center near the entrance for information and supplies.
Small, family owned diners and lunch counters can be found in many of the small towns that dot area, and while these hidden treasures may not be glitzy or glamorous, one can count on a filling home cooked meal for a small amount of money. Few of them advertise, so a keen eye is the best way to find them.
Also, if one is looking for traditional Mexican food, avoid the large chain restaurants and find a small one. These restaurants are usually owned and operated by a single family, with much of the food and trimmings prepared from scratch.
Stay safeSince the South Plains is largely rural, crime is virtually nonexistent outside of the major cities. The weather, however, does require some vigilance, as the region often experiences the widest weather extremes in the state. South Plains winters can be surprisingly brisk, and the areas at the far north end can receive significant snowfall during the winter months. Conversely, summertime high temperatures routinely top 100ºF (38ºC). Pack and dress accordingly. Also, during the spring months, dust storms are quite frequent and while these are not necessarily "dangerous", they can be frightening to those who have never experienced one.
The Llano Estacado is in Tornado Alley. Check the Tornado safety page for information.