Just east of Page on Navajo territory lies Antelope Canyon, a set of two incredible slot canyons. Upper Antelope Canyon is above ground, while Lower Antelope Canyon looks like a large crack in the earth that visitors descend into using a set of narrow stairs. We chose to go to Lower, as we heard that Upper was a bit more crowded and hectic.
Since Antelope Canyon is on Navajo land, the Navajo Nation requires that all visitors book a tour to see the canyons, in addition to the reservation fee ($8/person). You can choose a standard tour or a more expensive photographer’s tour (which requires you to have your own SLR camera and a tripod; tripods are not allowed on the standard tours). Unfortunately, the photography tours do not allow for you to bring a guest along if they do not personally have a tripod and SLR. However, when we got there, we understood why this was the case. Jolyn booked the standard tour while I indulged in the photography tour. It was absolutely, 100% worth the money! (More on that later.) We booked our tours through a company called Dixie Ellis Lower Antelope Canyon Tours, which offers a discount if you book in advance. We highly recommend them, as do TripAdvisor users.
Although we were advised that Upper was crowded, Lower was pretty busy in its own right. You will not be the only one at Antelope Canyon. Jolyn went on her tour while I went on the photography tour (thanks, honey!). If you have a DSLR and tripod and you’re remotely interested in photography, you should absolutely splurge for the photo tour ($42 instead of $20, if you book in advance.) The walking tours are informative and you can observe the beauty of the canyons, but they are crowded in a very narrow canyon. Jolyn experienced a full arrangement of spoiled children and obnoxious selfie-stick wielding tourists on her walk, while my four-person photography tour was granted the luxury of lingering in a spot and enjoying the scenery while we set up the perfect shot. (I felt a bit like Jerry Seinfeld enjoying the perks of first class while Elaine floundered in coach.) During the photo tour, the crowds were herded to another part of the canyon, and the photographers had the entire area to themselves. Additionally, the photo tour lasts nearly two hours, which is almost twice as long as the standard walking tour, and you really get your money’s worth with the free, uncluttered space.
Another major perk of booking the photography tour is being able to take advantage of the expertise of the Dixie Ellis tour guides. The Navajo tour guide that worked with me, Armando, was extremely helpful and knowledgeable about photographing the canyon. I was easily the least experienced of any of the photographers on our tour – the other three people were all professional photographers, and I would consider myself an “amateur/hobbyist who enjoys photography,” at best – and Armando was with me every step of the way. While I have basic knowledge of using my DSLR in manual mode, he showed me some awesome tricks on how to tailor my settings to properly shoot Antelope Canyon. I have never taken a photography course – like most endeavors, I often prefer to just teach myself – but I felt like I had taken an impromptu DSLR class with Armando. I could not recommend him and Dixie Ellis Tours more.
As for the canyon itself, well, it’s spectacular. It was really incredible to see the canyon change colors as the sun moves. We went in late March and booked the 10:30 tour, and the lighting was perfect. I recommend booking either the 8:30 AM or the 10:30 AM tour – not only is the coloring perfect, but the crowds get larger in the afternoon. Aside from that, I can’t say a whole lot about the canyon, because it’s better to let the pictures do the talking.
(Images are reduced in quality on WordPress – for full quality images, go to my flickr album.)