Mississippi stretches from the Appalachian foothills to the lightly toasted sands of the Gulf Coast, and is America at its most authentic, soulful and raw. Historically it's seen some of the country's worst moments, but its contributions to literature, music and art are among the best in the US. This charming, complicated destination of quaint towns, porch swings and wide-open spaces is an essential stop on any journey to the South.

The 'Magnolia State's' rich, sometimes poignant history covers everything from the Native American tribes that pre-dated European occupation to the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement. Travellers will find a wealth of antebellum mansions and plantations, monuments, battlefields and sacred Native American mounds, as well as museums that chronicle the history around them.

Culturally, Mississippi has produced incredible artists and entertainers such as Nobel Prize-winning novelist, William Faulkner, the 'King of Rock and Roll', Elvis Presley, and the 'Father of Country Music', Jimmie Rodgers. The state is also famous for the Blues, with the style of music tracing its origin to the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta. Muddy Waters, B.B. King and John Lee Hooker are among the legendary blues artists who hail from Mississippi. Culture lovers will find many blues bars and festivals when they visit, as well as many museums, houses and trails connected with renowned music and literary figures.

The sophisticated state capital, Jackson, is worth visiting for its southern hospitality and cuisine; the Gulf Coast is a must for its white-sand beaches and action-packed clubs and casinos. Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate Mississippi's more than 150 campgrounds and six national forests, which offer ample opportunities for fishing, hiking, cycling and boating.