Is Antelope Canyon Overrated?

by Jan 22, 2016Arizona, North America, USA, Video4 comments

First of all, I’ll just make one thing clear: Antelope Canyon itself is a pretty cool place to visit. Upper Antelope Canyon (there’s also a lower section) is a tall, narrow canyon of wavy red rocks that looks like it was put there as part of some huge art exhibit. Although it didn’t completely take my breathe away as it has for others, I wouldn’t describe Antelope Canyon itself as overrated.

The Antelope Canyon Tour we took though…

Our vlog from the day is at the bottom of this post so scroll down or click here if you want to jump straight to it

Getting to Antelope Canyon

Our day started well enough. We followed what we had read online and skipped the tour companies that take you from the town center in Page over to the Antelope Canyon car park. From what I gather all these “tours” offer is an overpriced taxi service to the car park. Fine if you don’t have a car, but we did so we saved some money driving ourselves there.

Once we made it to Antelope Canyon is when things started getting annoying.

First, the cost.

The Cost of Antelope Canyon Tours

Online info was a bit scratchy but we knew we were going to have to pay the Navajo fee and and a tour fee which we hoped might be worth the price. There is no other way of getting into the Canyon.

To see Upper Antelope Canyon, there is a Navajo Fee of $8 per person and then a tour fee of $40 per person. $96 for the two of us to join a tour which we thought was a bit expensive even beforehand but hey, maybe the tour would be interesting and good value in the end.

We were excited to get into the canyon that we’ve seen in so many pictures and we also couldn’t wait to try and get some great photos ourselves so had our tripods ready to go.

We didn’t realise that tripods are banned from the “sightseeing” tour that we were booked on. This was, of course, our own dumb mistake but in our defence we hadn’t seen or heard anything about there being different types of tours and when we paid, there was no mention of this despite the fact we were both holding friggin tripods.

Only after we had booked and paid did we realise our error when we saw signs saying “NO REFUNDS” (not a great sign I think) and “NO TRIPODS” on the sightseeing tour. So we begrudgingly left our tripods in the car when we returned for our 12pm tour.

The photography tour that allows tripod requires an $80 per person fee (plus the $8 Navajo fee) so even if we did know in advance I don’t think we would have both paid the extra.

Side note – I’ve since read reviews that suggest the tripod toting photography tour is not worth the extra money because you are so crowded by fellow tourists that you still struggle to get good photos. Maybe it’s worth it on a quiet day?

We booked on the 12pm tour to be in the canyon at solar noon (about 12:25pm in December). This (apparently) gives you the best chance of good light shining down into the Canyons. From what others have said, the light in summer is much better than in winter (offering a better chance of seeing those classic rays of light shining down into the canyon).

So What Does an Antelope Canyon Tour Entail?

Not much.

We were expecting to hear a bit about how the canyons were formed, how and when they were found, whether they had any cultural significance to the Navajo people, what the different chambers within the canyon were called etc etc.

What we got was a 30 second explanation of the camera settings everybody should use (which were a bit iffy to anyone who’s ever moved their camera out of Auto mode) and then intermittent pauses on our walk through the canyon in order for our guide to point at spots to take photos. We were happy to get tips on where we should take photos but not just that.

What about the rest??

I think maybe this is partly an indictment of tourists today. The Instagram generation. Maybe too many have come through now and complained that they didn’t get the photos they wanted and that is all they appear to care about? Maybe the only way the guides get tips is to skip everything else and just work on getting tourists the photos they want?

I have never left a tour with so little in return for my fee. The guide behind us seemed to still be a bit checked in; he provided a few bits of commentary on the chambers etc that we eavesdropped on at the back of our group and he even played the flute a bit.

The tour was meant to take 1.5 hours from what we were told but ended up being only an hour (guess it goes quicker when you skip any of those time consuming informative bits of a tour). For that 60 minutes we competed against crowds of other tourists to squeeze through the narrow confines of the canyon.

The amount of people was too much to really enjoy the actual site in my opinion. You would rarely be left for more than 2 seconds to enjoy the view before being elbowed in the ribs as someone squished past going the other way (the tour goes out through the canyon then back through the same way so you are constantly competing against a stream of people going the other way as well).

I think our enjoyment of actually seeing Antelope Canyon was lessened by the feeling of frustration and annoyance at the way Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours ran their business. We were too frustrated with our guide to really enjoy it so maybe on another day we too would get more of an amazing experience like others before us have described.

Even just knowing all of this in advance would have meant we didn’t have any unpleasant surprises and maybe would have enjoyed it a bit more. Hopefully that means if anyone reading this goes on to do the tour they’ll enjoy it more!

I would say our guide did do one thing right though.

There was a family there with what appeared to be a very spoiled, brat-ish son. Maybe 8 years old. The family was trying to get a group photo taken in front of the canyon (which the guide was nice enough to be taking for them) when the brat wouldn’t co-operate. He started by dragging his heels and walking as slow as possible over to them and then followed that up with the classic, face-the-other direction approach.

Our guide’s response:

“What’s wrong little buddy? You need your diaper changed?”

More information on Antelope Canyon

How far is Antelope Canyon from Page?

It’s less than 8 miles from town so it’s only about a 15 minute drive.

What time to go?

The light is best when the sun is high in the sky so around solar noon. Apparently the tours can sell out and are VERY busy in summer. We were there on a Monday in December and booked on to a 12pm tour when we turned up at 11am (solar noon was at 12:25pm that day).

Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon

Upper Canyon is more expensive one, being the tall and narrow one. We opted to skip the Lower Canyon to avoid another annoying tour experience but by all accounts I’ve seen it is worth the money to visit (and it also is fine to see it outside of when the sun is high because the canyon lets in a lot more light).

How much does a tour of Antelope Canyon cost?

Upper Antelope Canyon costs you $8 for the Navajo fee and a $40 tour fee per person for the sightseeing tour. For the photography tour (which allows tripods), it costs $80 for the tour fee (plus the Navajo fee).

Lower Antelope Canyon also had the $8 Navajo fee (although this is only payable once if you visit both) plus a $25 tour fee for sightseeing or $50 for photography.

Where to stay near Antelope Canyon?

As noted above, the town centre of Page is only about 15 minutes drive. Page has a few options for hotels but we decided on staying at the Best Western View of Lake Powell Hotel. The breakfasts were pretty good but the part we liked the best was the little gym (we used it most days and it was completely empty except for us).

*Some of the links used above are affiliate links – there is no difference in cost to you but we do get a small commission if you book or buy through the link. As always, we only ever recommend and link to accommodation that we have stayed at and thought was good or things that we use ourselves.