A tour of Antelope Canyon had been in my sights for some time. I had seen so many wonderful photos of this place which looked like a magical grotto, that I really wanted to see it for myself. I was disappointed that we had missed it previously when we were in Page. On that occasion we had toured the Glen Canyon Dam and also hiked up to Horseshoe Bend, but at that point we had not even heard of Antelope Canyon. The chance came to rectify this omission a little while ago: our trip from Phoenix to Colorado was going take us via Flagstaff and I pointed out that from there it was just a short detour (65 miles) to Page. I got my way!
A tour of Antelope Canyon: the tour experience
We booked our tour of the Upper Antelope Canyon with Antelope Slot Canyon Tours and had to check in at their shop in Page about a half hour before the tour was due to commence. A fleet of four wheel drive mini-buses was waiting. Our driver was also our guide. There were ten people in our group and four buses went in convoy to the Upper Canyon. Other buses set off for the Lower Canyon. When we arrived at the canyon, there were also groups from other tour companies. Yes, it is a popular place!
The bus ride from the centre of Page to the entrance to the Upper Canyon took approximately 15 minutes. The latter part of it was over sandy terrain, hence the four wheel drive vehicles.
When we arrived the guide took us directly to the entrance of the canyon. We struck lucky in that our guide was also a keen photographer and knew exactly which settings to use on various mobile phones to get the best shots. Unless you are a skilled photographer with a sophisticated camera, I think the best results are achieved with a good mobile phone camera. They have some really advanced settings these days which can be used to enhance the photographs. One person in our group had an SLR, but from what I could see, the results were not so good.
The guides all seemed to work together to make sure that one group did not encroach upon another group. In spite of the fact that there were so many people visiting, we did not feel that it was crowded in the canyon or that we were rushed through. The guide took the time all the way through to point out the various features of the canyon and to explain how it was formed. He also showed us the best angles from which to take photographs and how to get the best shots.
Inside the Upper Antelope Canyon, it is wider at the bottom than the top and this how that “Wow Factor” is achieved. The sun’s rays come down through the canyon, catching on the various folds and formations in the sandstone, creating those wonderful effects. Are the colours as vivid with the naked eye as those you see on photographs? No, the eye struggles in the low light, but the camera compensates for this by capturing more of the available light. But it is still awesome, a real magical grotto!
Let the pictures speak for themselves
These photos were all taken on a Samsung Galaxy 9+. The guide advised us to set the white balance to about 6500K. I have compressed the photos in order to post them here, but have not changed them in any other way.
This is one of my favourite photos from inside Upper Antelope Canyon. Our guide showed us how to position the camera and catch the light on the walls of the canyon to create this heart effect.
The purple hues on the wall of the canyon and the way the light catches on the rock are amazing.
The golden light from the sun streams in at certain points, adding a different dimension to the picture.
Yes, this one is posed, but the guide insisted!
I love the way the rock curls round here and one can see how the water rushing through the canyon has worn away the sandstone and rock.
The guide showed us how to create this effect by shining a green laser pointer through my diamond ring. It projected on to the wall of the canyon. Magic!
The sun is just peeping through and highlighting the shapes of the rock, worn away by water over many centuries.
These narrow crevices are everywhere in the canyon and just fill with light and colour.
Filled with fire!
Another favourite photograph from our tour. The sunlight shining down into the canyon looks like a ribbon of liquid fire pouring down. It is incredibly beautiful.
A Tour of Antelope Canyon: know before you go
Can you visit Antelope Canyon by yourself?
The short answer to this is No. The canyon is on Navajo land and you have to be accompanied by a Navajo guide.
Are tours expensive?
Well, they are not cheap, but having bitten the bullet on this one, I can confirm that the experience is definitely worth it. There is a variety of tours to choose from: the Upper Canyon, the Lower Canyon, a boat tour….and various combinations. We took the tour of Upper Antelope Canyon and this cost $70 each. I am already planning to return to take the tour of Lower Antelope Canyon – but have not told Peter yet!
Which tour is best?
Having only taken the tour of Upper Antelope Canyon (so far!), I cannot give an answer based on personal experience. However, research suggests that Upper Antelope Canyon has the “Wow Factor” and Lower Antelope Canyon is more exciting in that there are ladders to climb and narrow channels to negotiate. Find out more about the Lower Antelope Canyon experience from my blogger friend at KMFiswriting.
Do you have to be fit to tour Antelope Canyon?
The walk through Upper Antelope Canyon is flat and easy. If you are mobile and able to walk on sand, this should be manageable. My understanding is that the Lower Canyon is rather more challenging physically.
Do you need to book?
Yes. Visits to the canyon are limited and without a prior booking, chances of getting on a tour are slim. Some people book months in advance; we booked a couple of days prior to our visit and had difficulty getting on a tour – and that was on a week day in the middle of January!
When is the best time to visit?
The tours run year round and research shows that the best light in the canyon is mid to late morning. Tours will not run if there is any danger of flooding. The tour will be cancelled if there is a risk of heavy rain.
What to take on the tour of Antelope Canyon
Visitors to the canyon are only allowed to take cameras and water. Bags are not allowed and neither are selfie sticks and equipment such as tripods. This is understandable given the beauty of the site. We went in January and it was quite cold in the canyon so I was glad of my jacket. Summer in Arizona can be very hot, but it will be cooler in the canyon itself.
Is it worth taking a tour of Antelope Canyon?
Yes, absolutely. It really is a bucket-list memory.
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