Do chaotic crowds overpower the beauty of this not-so-hidden-gem?
You might recognize Antelope Canyon in Arizona from Microsoft's default computer background. It's one of those places that simply looks Photoshopped, and your pictures won't do it justice. I went in 2018 with some friends, and like many, it was on the top of my bucket list for a long time.
Unlike some of our favorite National Parks, seeing these canyons was not as simple as paying a fee before heading through the gates. Tickets sell out months in advance, and you need a tour guide from private operators to visit. Some of these ticket sites are so poorly designed they honestly look like scammers. The commercialism surrounding this place took some of the magic away from my experience, but I'm still glad I went. Before you head out there, here's some things that are useful to know…
It's on private Navajo land.
Antelope Canyon is privately owned and no, it's not a National Park. The morning of our tour, we had to meet at a Navajo convenience store before getting picked up in a Jeep. I only did the Upper Canyon tour. It looks like the canyon is back open after being closed for most of COVID-19.
There's an upper and lower canyon...do the lower.
I did the upper canyon and looking back on it, I wish I did the lower. However, at the time I honestly didn't even realize that there were different canyons until we were there. Lower is less crowded because it's a one-way foot path and arguably has better sights to see.
Tickets for Upper and Lower Canyons
Good luck getting a photo without anyone in the background.
You stay with your group the entire time and the tour guides were extremely strict. We tried to hang back a bit to get some photos without crowds of people in them and got in trouble for doing that. If you're lucky, you might have time to literally take one picture, so make it count. But also, it's about the experience (!!) so don't stress if you don't get the perfect shot.
It's not a serene experience like you see on Instagram.
On Instagram the photos look divine and peaceful with the sunlight peeking through at various times of the day. However, the tour that I was on was chaotic. It felt so commercialized like when you go to the zoo and kids are banging on the glass to get a chimpanzee to turn around. Poor guy. The tour guides, trying to save time, will take your camera out of our hand to show you the exact angle to get the “money shot”. I didn't like that.
Once you get over the crowds, it is really f*cking pretty.
When you zone the crowds out it really is a sight to see. I wouldn't tell someone not to go, but just to be prepared that it's not exactly how the pictures show it. If you do go, make sure to stop at Horseshoe Bend (11 mins away) as well as heading up to Lake Powell where there are boat and kayak tours.
Is there anywhere that you were really excited to visit but it wasn't everything you thought it would be? LMK.
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