A visit to Marfa to see the endearingly mysterious Marfa Lights is an incredible, quirky, and truly one of a kind experience. Not only for the lights, but for the sort of journey that must be taken if you’re planning to visit this secluded desert town.
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Marfa sees many visitors, but has only about 2,000 residents. Some Marfa travel purists complain that there are now more visitors than they’d like to see, but there is always someone talking about how they discovered something before it was cool, so take these complaints with a grain of salt.
One thing an increase of visitors hasn’t changed about Marfa is the random appearances of the town’s mysterious lights.
People pour into Marfa for concerts, campground-sponsored events, film festivals, galleries, art installations and more. Everything about these events screams “this only happens in Marfa,” but none as much as the appearance of the Marfa Mystery Lights; sightings of which have been reported since the 1800’s by local ranchers, visitors, and natives.
Some attribute the appearance of these reportedly red, white, and blue, dancing lights (which shift in intensity) to alien visitations. Fun fact, there was a huge reference to this in an episode of the Texas-based animated sitcom “King of the Hill” from believer Dale Gribble.
Others seek to completely explain away the mystery by dismissing the lights as reflections of various atmospheric elements; such as campfires. The Marfa Lights have even been attributed to the completely explainable scientific phenomena, St. Elmo’s fire. Perhaps the most compelling explanation is the one that says, “we simply do not know.”
Whatever conclusion you come to accept for the appearance of the Marfa Lights, the official viewing area is located nine miles east of Marfa’s highway 90. There will be road markers to keep you oriented along the way.
As far as finding this destination, it is seven hours from Austin and eight hours, give or take, from Houston. Planning to fly to Marfa? Plan to fly into airports in either Midland or El Paso; that is, unless you have a private jet, then Marfa has a municipal airport for you. If arriving by train, the closest you’ll get to Marfa is within 25 miles, so be prepared to make other arrangements, such as renting a car, for the completion of the trip. Driving at night in Marfa can be a challenge, and travelers driving in from the west will be stopped at a sort of border checkpoint.