If you can only do one, do LOWER Antelope Canyon. We visited Upper Antelope Canyon (first), then Lower Antelope Canyon later that day. I had researched Antelope Canyon prior to visiting, and I was always so perplexed by the reviewers that said that Upper Antelope was disappointing and that Lower Antelope was better. I paid no attention to those reviews. I had seen those amazing photographs of Upper Antelope Canyon and those beautiful rays of light, so I just thought those folks critical of Upper Antelope didn’t know what they were talking about.
But, after actually taking both the tours, I now understand the previous reviewers. While Upper Antelope Canyon was quite beautiful, you just can’t enjoy it because it’s way too crowded. Literally wall to canyon wall of people. There are multiple tour guides shouting and giving bad photography tips (Turn up your ISO to the max? Sure, if you want super grainy looking photos!) and since there’s only one access point to the canyon, people exiting the canyon are always bumping into the folks still on their tours going into the Canyon. Plus, the tour is just so rushed because there is just such a constant flow of people, the tour guides have to keep visitors constantly moving to avoid jams, affecting the time to take photographs. We visited it in October, so I can’t imagine what it’s like during peak summer crowds. The Upper Antelope Canyon tour offerers should take the high road and really limit the number of people they take into the canyon at a time so that visitors can actually take their time and enjoy how beautiful it is. But, I’m sure they won’t do it because, after all, they get $40 per person and kick out the visitors after just one hour. At least at Disney World you pay $89 but get to stay for 12-14 hours. The per hour value of the Upper Antelope tour is just terrible. (No, I am not actually comparing Antelope Canyon to Disney World. I’m just using that as an illustrative example for per hour cost).
Later that afternoon, we went to Lower Antelope Canyon. And just WOW. It was $20 per person (we didn’t have the pay the $6 p/p Navajo Park fee since we had already paid for it earlier that day at Upper Antelope Canyon), and it was such a spectacular experience. No, Lower Antelope Canyon does not have the sun rays like Upper Antelope, but even without them, Lower Antelope Canyon is even more beautiful. Plus, it’s so much more peaceful. We saw maybe only two dozen people during our entire 2 hour photography tour, compared to the hundreds we were bumping shoulders with at Upper Antelope in just one hour. While Lower Antelope Canyon is much more narrow than Upper Antelope, it is much larger in the sense that it takes a lot longer to walk through it. Or maybe that’s just because were actually able to stop and take pictures.
Lower Antelope Canyon is more physically taxing than Upper Antelope, mostly because of some steep ladders and steps throughout the canyon that take you to different levels. The ladders / steps range from one small step with no handrail to probably close to 20 steps with a handrail. I’m 31, in not great (but not terrible) shape, and consider myself to be a klutz and relatively accident prone (I stumble on perfectly smooth sidewalks), but I was able to deal with it just fine as long as I took my time. The first three ladders as soon as you enter the canyon were the most difficult for me, especially since they were very steep, had probably 3-6 steps each, and no handrails. For comparison sake, I had to give up on the Fiery Furnace hike at Arches National Park after the first five minutes because it was too much for my klutzy self. Luckily though I am not claustrophobic, as I can imagine that someone who does not like small or tight spaces might feel uncomfortable. It’s nothing you have to crawl for or not like an obese person would get stuck. It’s just that the walls narrow significantly at certain spots.
Be aware of the potential for disappointment at Upper Antelope Canyon, but still give it a visit if you can. But, if you only have time or money to visit one of them, definitely choose Lower Antelope Canyon! Bring a tripod for both canyons! Even most simple point-and-shoot cameras have a spot to attach a tripod. If you do not bring one, your photos will come out blurry or dark!
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