Antelope Canyon truly is a unique and stunning natural beauty, but I came very close to skipping it because I was aware that it’s a mega tourist monstrosity (i.e. a beautiful place ruined by an excessive amount of tourists), but I figured I should go since I was in the area and I wanted to see for myself.
Many people choose to visit both the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons, but I knew one would be enough for me so I chose Lower Antelope Canyon and here’s why:
UPPER ANTELOPE CANYON
- More popular
- Ground level, so no stairs or ladders
- Light beams from the sun (which are more common in the summer) are more prevalent than in Lower Antelope Canyon.
- Books up further in advance
- More expensive
- The entrance and exit are the same, so you have to turn around to come back the same way you came to exit, which makes the crowding twice as bad
- It’s so crowded that backpacks and selfie sticks are not allowed
- Once you turn around to leave Upper Antelope Canyon, you aren’t supposed to take pictures because they want and need you out ASAP
Aside from the light beams, that sounded like everything I hate.
LOWER ANTELOPE CANYON
- Less popular
- Doesn’t book up as far in advance
- It’s cheaper
- Less light beams
- There are stairs and ladders at some parts, thus eliminating some people
- The entrance and the exit are separate
Supposedly, the above factors mean that there are less people in Lower Antelope Canyon, but it was still horrifically packed and I honestly cannot imagine there being any more people than there were…
I booked to go to Lower Antelope Canyon in the late morning in early October. I had to wait about an hour until my group got called to go. Then we walked over to the top of the canyon, where we had to stand and wait almost another hour with a few hundred people, luckily under a shaded cover. So we made it inside the canyon in the early-ish afternoon.
The guides are local Navajos and mostly students. They’re very sweet and they do the best they can, which is very difficult to do, considering the circumstances. They know all the good spots to take the iconic pictures, so they take them for you. You’ll get a few chances where they take pictures of you too, but it’s so rushed and they don’t care because they don’t have time to care. So the pictures of you will likely be garbage. If your eyes are closed, too bad. You get one rushed shot only. And they put their fingers on my camera lens 🙁
I feel nature is best enjoyed with a peaceful surrounding and I find it difficult to enjoy nature when you have to wait for hours with hundreds of people just to get herded and rushed through a beautiful place, with hundreds of people, in a very small, narrow space. Which is Antelope Canyon. It was also a shock after traveling in Utah (where I had arrived from that morning), which has some of the most beautiful landscape in the world (including slot canyons), yet there’s next to no one there; and then to come to Antelope Canyon, where everyone and their selfie stick was there. I found it to be a very uninspiring and unenjoyable experience. And it wasn’t cheap to visit either.
I hate to say it, but I kind of hated it.
Antelope Canyon would be amazing without the crowds and without being rushed, but unfortunately that’s not possible. The off season (winter) would be less crowded, but the light inside the canyons will also be different. Different times of year make different, optimal light times, so research before you decide on a time. Different times of the day also create different colors within in the canyon, so there isn’t really a bad time to go, it’s just different.
What about all those amazing pictures you see of Antelope Canyon? Luckily, most pictures are shot looking up, thus avoiding the crowds, which is great that you can still get amazing pictures despite the insane amount of people there.
I was able to get some very cool pictures, but I wasn’t really able to get any good pictures of myself in the scenery (aside from the garbage, rushed ones the guides take of everyone), which was really disappointing.
Both Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope offer regular tours and photography tours. For the photographers tour, you’ll need a tripod and a DSLR camera. I did the regular tour, but I met people who did the photographers tour and they also said it was very rushed and you get one shot only at each spot. Regular tour is one hour and the photographers tour is over two hours.
Upper Antelope tours are $48-58US for the regular tour, depending on what time of the day you go, and $195US for the photography tour.
Don’t make any set plans for after your tour, just in case the tour runs late, like mine did.
Adventure level = 0
If it’s raining, the tours will be cancelled due to risks of flash flooding.
Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell are also conveniently close. Aside from these sights, there isn’t much else to do or see in the sleepy, small town of Page. But the Navajo art, textiles and crafts are beautiful and definitely worth at least a look.
The south rim of the Grand Canyon is about a 3 hour drive away.
Overall, I am glad I went to Lower Antelope Canyon and I did get some great pictures, but it wasn’t an enjoyable experience.