So you are heading out to the American Southwest and you wonder to yourself, “Should I visit Antelope Canyon?”. There are some definite reasons to go and some very compelling reasons not to go. Just to be clear, I am talking about Upper Antelope Canyon outside of Page, Arizona sitting on Navajo Nation Land. I visited in late 2017, outside of the height of tourist season so take that into consideration. I also booked a photo tour, no regular sightseeing tours for me! Lets start with the negatives…
First off, it is expensive. Doubly so for the photo tour. I purchased the photo tour that included Upper Antelope Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon and the cost was $170! And that doesn’t include the polite tip of your Navajo guide. Second, if you want to do anything commercial with your photographs you need a permit which is an additional $50 or so and is very hard to get. Not that they don’t give them out, but the hoops and hurdles you have to jump through are very confusing. Start early on your permits, I started late and didn’t get approved until the day of my tour which was nerve racking. Third, Upper Antelope Canyon is crowded, even in November when I went. The sight seeing tours were constantly in the way and had it not been for our tour guide photography would have been impossible. Lastly, the photo tour guides set you up to take certain pictures and give you a certain amount of time to get that picture. There was limited room for creativity unless, like me, you wander off a bit and kept looking skyward. But don’t get too far away, the guides are attentive and will notice you if are missing.
Now, lets be clear here. The guides are nice, know their stuff, and are essential if you are going to get any pictures. My guide pushed the sight seeing tour groups out of the way of our shots and kept everyone away from us. They know where the best pictures are and know how to deal with photographers who need time to get those pictures. So should you go? In my opinion, yes, but probably only once.
This is truly a bucket list level place to visit and it does not disappoint with its natural beauty. Just don’t image yourself alone with a tour guide, those packages are a bit more pricey. The colors are sublime although if you go outside of certain times of year you will not get the light shafts that reach the floor of the canyon. In November there were none, so no pictures named “Ghost” for me.
That’s it. One real reason to visit. It is shockingly beautiful. End of story. Expect to be crushed by tourists. Expect to be treated like cattle. But also expect to remember your visit forever.