Vast forests, pristine rock formations, rushing rivers: hardly any other region in the USA has as much unspoiled nature as Idaho. Come with us on an exploration tour to the most beautiful corners of the magical Gem State!

Idaho facts

Capital: Boise
Area: about 216,000 km²
Population: about 1.8 million
Location: Northwest of the USA
Nickname: The Gem State
Hotspots: Hells Canyon, Craters of the Moon National Preserve, Shoshone Falls
Time zone: UTC - 7 (Mountain), UTC - 8 (Pacific)

Idaho: location & population

The landlocked state of Idaho is located in the Northwestern United States and has six other states as neighbors: Washington and Oregon to the West, Nevada, and Utah to the South, Wyoming to the East, and Montana to the Northeast. In the North lies a border with Canada that is about 70 km long.

With only about 1.8 million inhabitants spread over an area of more than 216,000 km², Idaho is one of the most sparsely populated regions in the USA. According to the 2020 Census, however, the Gem State is currently among the top ten fastest-growing states.

About 83 % of Idaho's population is white, with about a quarter of them being of German descent. Hispanics are the second-largest population group at about 12 %, and Native Americans make up about 1.7 % of the population today. They live primarily on Idaho's four recognized Indian reservations: the Nez Perce Reservation, Coeur d'Alene Reservation, Duck Valley Reservation, and Fort Hall Reservation.

The largest cities in Idaho

Idaho's population is mainly concentrated in the North and South of the state. Only isolated, smaller towns are located in the mountainous center.

The five cities with the most residents in Idaho are:

City Population
Boise 236,000
Meridian 118,000
Nampa 110,000
Idaho Falls 65,000
Caldwell 60,000

Nature and climate

Idaho has a diverse relief consisting of plains, canyons, and the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. The northern part of the state visually resembles the hilt of a pan and is therefore also called the "Panhandle." Here, near the city of Lewiston, where the Snake River and Clearwater River meet, lies the state's lowest point at 224 m above sea level.

The mighty Snake River runs from there along Idaho's west side, serving as a natural border with the states of Oregon and Washington. Along its way, the river cuts some of the deepest canyons of the USA into the landscape.

The southern part of the state is dominated by the broad, crescent-shaped alluvial plain of the Snake River, which covers about a quarter of Idaho's area. In the center of Idaho rise the mountain massifs of the Rocky Mountains, with Borah Peak at 3,859 m being the highest point.

During the warmest months of the year, July and August, temperatures throughout Idaho can climb above the 30 °C mark. In winter, however, the maritime influence of the Pacific Ocean is clearly noticeable in the western part of the state. Heavy precipitation can occur, but temperatures are less severe than in the Midwestern plains, which lie at the same latitude. In the city of Lewiston, for example, temperatures drop to a maximum of -2 °C in December and January.

Particularly in the central areas of the Rocky Mountains, heavy snowfall can occur in winter, making the terrain difficult to access for long periods of time. The southwestern part of Idaho, on the other hand, is less affected by maritime influence. Rainfall is less here, and temperature differences are greater. In the city of Pocatello, for example, the thermometer drops to -10 °C in winter.

Best time to travel to Idaho

Summer or winter – exciting adventures await you in Idaho in both sunshine and snow!

Idaho in summer

For sun-seekers, we recommend the period from June to September for a trip to the state of Idaho. Pleasant temperatures and little precipitation provide the best conditions for hiking, mountain biking, and, of course, rafting on the rapids of the Snake River.

Idaho in winter

If you love the snow, Idaho is the place to be. Sun Valley, Bogus Basin, Schweitzer Mountain, Tamarack Resort, Silver Mountain, and many more: the Gem State's great ski resorts guarantee pure winter sports fun!

Traveling to Idaho

In Idaho's largest city, you'll find the state's main passenger hub, Boise Airport (BOI), which is used by about 1.9 million people a year. Other airports in the state are:

  • Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA)
  • Friedman Memorial Airport (SUN)
  • Lewiston–Nez Perce County Airport (LWS)
  • If you want to fly from Europe, e.g., Frankfurt am Main, London, or Paris, to Boise in Idaho, you have to plan a stopover in another American city. We found the cheapest flight from Germany with the airline Condor. It brings you from Frankfurt am Main via Seattle to Boise for about € 600. Flights from Paris, for example, go via San Francisco and start at € 800. From London, you can fly via Dallas or Seattle for about € 900.

Flights to Idaho

Travel authorization Idaho

Don't forget: If you are not a US citizen or Green Card holder, you will need a visa or ESTA to enter Idaho.

ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!

Airport transfer in Idaho

Upon landing at the airport in Boise, you have several transfer options to get into the city. At the exit near the baggage claim, you will find color-coded curbs that mark the departure points of the various means of transportation.

Public transport from Boise Airport

Greyhound buses and Valley Ride buses stop at the purple curb. The latter will take you to downtown Boise in about 15 minutes. You can purchase either a one-way ride for $ 1.50 or a day pass for $ 2.50.

Shuttle from Boise Airport

Before you travel, find out if your hotel offers a free shuttle service. Hotel shuttles depart from the green curb at Boise Airport. If your hotel does not have a shuttle, you can also use a paid service. These shuttles depart from the blue curb and also run to Burley, Idaho Falls, Jerome, Mountain Home, Twin Falls, Pocatello, Rexburg, Island Park, West Yellowstone, Logan, and Salt Lake City.

Taxi from Boise Airport

The cab waiting zone at the Boise airport is marked by a black curb. You pay a basic fare of $ 2.60 plus $ 1.49 for each kilometer driven.

National Parks and natural wonders in Idaho

Aside from Alaska, no other US state has as many wild uninhabited landscapes as Idaho. So put on your hiking boots, strap on your backpack, and head out to the Gem State's unique natural wonders.

Craters of the Moon National Preserve

Even before the first man set foot on the moon, this bizarre landscape was named after Earth's satellite. South of Arco stretches the lava field of the Craters of the Moon National Preserve, which served as a training ground for NASA astronauts for the Apollo project in the 1960s. Today, you can set out on your own personal moonwalk from the Visitor Center. Tip: At the entrance station, you can get free permits to visit the five caves on the site. Especially in summer, the cave tour will be a welcome change to the sometimes scorching temperatures outside.

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area

If you thought the Grand Canyon was unbeatable, we have some interesting news for you: Hells Canyon on the Snake River is even deeper! The record-breaking canyon stretches some 250 km along the Northwest Idaho border with Oregon. If you follow the river on a rafting trip, you'll see the spectacular rock formations of the Seven Devils Mountains, among other things. Alternatively, numerous hiking and horseback riding trails offer you the opportunity to explore the terrain on land.

Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness Area

What is probably the most pristine piece of nature in Idaho is called the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area. Named after Senator Frank Church, the preserve around the Salmon River is so remote that adventurous travelers must be dropped off here by helicopter. Motorized vehicles and mountain bikes are strictly prohibited in the pristine wilderness, often called "The Frank" for short. But the somewhat circuitous journey more than pays off, because here you can admire majestic mountain ranges such as the Salmon River Mountains, the Clearwater Mountains, and the Bighorn Crags, and see numerous species of animals, some of them endangered, such as grizzly bears, cougars, wolves, coyotes, and more.

Top 10 sightseeing highlights in Idaho

You can find Idaho's most beautiful landmarks in the great outdoors! These top ten Idaho attractions are sure to take your breath away:

  • Craters of the Moon National Monument
  • Shoshone Falls
  • City of Rocks National Reserve
  • Redfish Lake
  • Old Idaho Penitentiary Site
  • Bogus Basin
  • Schweitzer Mountain
  • Brundage Mountain Resort Idaho Ski Resort
  • Silver Mountain Resort
  • Silverwood Theme Park

City highlights in Idaho

Amidst the beautiful nature of Idaho, you will find picturesque places that will immediately captivate you. Put the following two city highlights on your travel bucket list.

City highlights Boise

Idaho's capital, Boise, has a population of only 230,000 but is bursting with life! Rafting, hiking, mountain biking – every imaginable outdoor pleasure is available here! Winter sports fans can let off steam with snowboarding in the neighboring Bogus Basin. And if you're in the mood for a little culture in between, join a guided tour of Idaho's State Capitol, one of the most historically significant and magnificent buildings in the state.

These city highlights are waiting for you in Boise:

  • Old Idaho Penitentiary Site
  • Boise Art Museum
  • Boise River Greenbelt
  • Bogus Basin
  • Zoo Boise

Accomodation in Boise

City highlights Lewiston

Lewiston on the Snake River is the most important city in the Northern part of the state. Follow in the footsteps of the famous adventurers of the 1805 Lewis and Clark Expedition and discover this thriving city, where you can enjoy some of Idaho's most scenic views. For example, you can head out from Lewiston to explore the Hells Canyon, Salmon River Canyons, and Hells Gate State Park.

Don't miss the city highlights in Lewiston:

  • Nez Perce County Historical Society & Museum
  • Hells Gate State Park
  • Lewiston Levee Parkway
  • Lewis-Clark Valley Wine Alliance
  • Clearwater Canyon Cellars

Accomodation in Lewiston

Roadtrip in Idaho

Still haven't seen enough of Idaho? Then join us on a road trip to exciting attractions you won't want to miss when you're in the Gem State.

The Sun Valley around the town of Ketchum is one of the liveliest places in Idaho. Not only have many celebrities, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, built their own vacation homes here, the sunny valley is also one of the most beautiful winter sports areas in the entire state.

We then travel on to the town of Twin Falls, where the impressive Shoshone Falls rush 65 m into the depths. Also known as the "Niagara Falls of the West," this natural wonder is a full 14 m deeper than the original in New York State.

Are you now in the mood for a little climbing adventure? You can challenge yourself on the boulders and towers of the City of Rocks. The granite rocks in southern Idaho are not only known in the international climbing scene but also a highlight for mountain bikers, bird watchers, and photographers.

Instagram hotspots in Idaho

Is there a better background for your photos than the indescribably beautiful landscapes of Idaho? We don't think so – our top Instagram hotspots in Idaho are sure to get your followers buzzing.

  • Hells Canyon
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument
  • Shoshone Falls
  • City of the Rocks
  • Lewiston

Food and drinks in Idaho

In Idaho, you can treat yourself with these regional delicacies:

  • White Sturgeon Caviar (also known as The American Beluga)
  • Baked Idaho Potatoes (potato halves baked in the oven garnished with butter, sour cream, chives, parsley, bacon, and chili)
  • Idaho Ice Cream Potato (vanilla ice cream shaped like a potato, covered with cocoa, and topped with whipped cream)
  • Ice wine
  • Huckleberries

Idaho fun facts

Interested in learning even more about Idaho? We have collected some interesting and curious facts:

  • The name Idaho probably comes from the word "Ee-dah-how" from the Shoshone language, meaning "light on the mountains."
  • The Gold Rush of the 1860s marked the beginning of the widespread settlement of Idaho. Within two decades, $ 55 million worth of gold was mined in the Gem State.
  • In the Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I) near the town of Arco, electric power was generated in a nuclear reactor for the first time on December 20th, 1951. Arco was also the first municipality in the world whose energy needs were completely covered by nuclear power.
  • Potato producer J.R. Simplot developed the method for deep-freezing French fries in the 1950s and led his company to success through a contract with McDonald's. Today, the J.R. Simplot Company still supplies more than half of the fries for the fast-food giant.
  • At Albertsons Stadium on the campus of Boise State University, not green but bright blue artificial turf was installed. Because of the unconventional color for an American Football field, the arena was nicknamed "Smurf Turf."

Immigrate to Idaho

If Idaho has impressed you so much that you want to stay right away, read the following tips about living and working attentively.

Working in Idaho

Idaho is increasingly transforming itself into a hub for the high-tech industry. The city of Boise has made a name for itself in semiconductor manufacturing since the late 1970s. It is also the headquarters of Micron Technology, the only producer of DRAM chips in the United States. Hewlett-Packard operates a production facility in Boise as well. However, traditional economic sectors such as the cultivation of potatoes, wheat, and wine continue to be of great importance in Idaho. Tourism and hospitality professionals, on the other hand, have good job opportunities in the state's numerous ski resorts.

Living in Idaho

In Idaho, you can not only have great vacations but also live a very good life! According to the Cost of Living Index, the cost of living here is about 5 % below the American average, with savings mainly on transportation costs and food. You will have to dig a little deeper into your pocket for housing. This is especially true in Boise, where housing costs are 30 % higher than the US average. In terms of quality of life, the cities of Moscow, Meridian, Garden City, Sugar City, and Ketchum also rank high.

To Idaho with a Green Card

You would like to settle in Idaho? Then you need a Green Card, which allows you to live and work in the USA indefinitely. A good chance to get a card is to sign up for the Green Card Lottery, in which the US government gives away 55,000 of the popular immigrant visas every year. Register now!

Green Card Lottery

Win one of 55,000 Green Cards in the official Green Card Lottery of the US authorities!