Set amid inspiring scenery characterized by pink-veined Sandia Mountains and the high desert landscape that unfolds at its foothills, Albuquerque is a stunning southwestern gem. From a tiny Spanish settlement founded at the mouth of the Rio Grande river, to a booming railroad town that shaped up to be a diamond in the rough, Albuquerque has come a long way from its modest origins. Albuquerque boasts a mesh of historic Spanish grandeur and striking natural beauty, both of which are accommodated within its desert-dominated urban sprawl. In the shadows of its dust-colored terrain, a vast network of serpentine hiking trails wind their way along the New Mexico landscape. The Paseo del Bosque Trail is especially scenic, curving its way along the length of the Rio Grande in uninhibited riverside beauty, while another paved trail leads to the base of the Sandia Mountains. Its Old Town, a district frozen in time, is dominated by splendid 18th Century Pueblo-Spanish style landmarks set along brick-paved paths, from the sand-colored splendor of the San Felipe de Neri Church, to a host of other buildings that skirt the Plaza Vieja Gazebo. Albuquerque's enchanting desert vistas come alive at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, an annual festival where more than 500 balloons soar high above the landscape, and offer sweeping views of the surrounding panoramas.