The best from my travels so far – Lower Antelope Canyon

The best natural attraction I have been to yet is the Lower Antelope Canyon, situated on the Navajo land east of Page, Arizona in the United States. There is a separate Upper Antelope Canyon as well just a few miles from the Lower one, and it is touted to be more photogenic (thus is expensive), but I found the Lower to be more adventurous.

The Slot Canyons were formed by erosion of Sandstone, mainly due to flash flooding, but also due to sub-aerial processes. As the water picked up speed and sand in the narrow passageways, it made the canyon deeper and smoother along the edges, thus forming the ‘flowing’ shapes in the rocks. Even today, during the monsoon season, this phenomena occurs, and the tour companies close-down the visits.

We had decided to cover Lower and Upper on separate days and bought our tickets with separate tour companies (you can’t go on your own).

This post is just about the Lower Antelope Canyon. It is reachable with five flights of steps of varying width. It is also longer (1.1 miles), shallower, narrower at places (but wide at top), and sometimes even proper footing can be a challenge (compared to its Upper counterpart). The canyon itself is V-shaped.lower antelope canyon.jpgwhat to see in arizonaAs you make your way through the canyon, you can only marvel at all kinds of patterns formed by the natural processes. Add too it the numerous colors you are entertained to, and you are transported to another world! Just imagine how the force of water sculpted each section of the canyon.photography antelope canyonbest best wonderf of natureAs you walk through, you will have to climb stairs to make your way out of the canyon.

Notes (for the Lower Canyon):

  1. The sightseeing tour ticket fees for both Lower and Upper includes the Navajo National Permit and their Tax. The current total price for Lower is USD40 per person and USD78 for Upper (for 10.30 and 1:00 tours, $10 less for 8:30 and 3:00 tours). We went with Dixie Ellis tours for the Lower Canyon (there are just 2 companies for the Lower, the other one being Ken).
  2. Book your tours at least a couple of days in advance since the preferred slots fill up quickly and a group has limited number of reservations (approximately 15) allowed with a touring company. There is a tour every 30 minutes with either company.
  3. The time it takes to cover the canyon is 1.5-2 hours. It takes about 10 minutes from the company booth to the entrance of the canyon and the wait to enter the canyon could be up to 3 hours during the peak season.
  4. The lighting is better in the early hours or late morning. Being narrow at the bottom and wide at the top, the Lower Canyon feels brighter and warmer than the Upper one.
  5. There are no photography-only tours for the Lower canyon (but is available for the Upper one).
  6. You can take your own camera and tripod without any charges. Your guide most probably will help you shoot the famous spots.
  7. The canyon being deep, most likely you would feel cold inside. It’s advisable to take a jacket or sweater along.
  8. The Upper and Lower being the most visited, some people think the adventure part has just about vanished from them. Worry not, there are hundreds of other slot canyons near-by. They are free, except for the standard Navajo hiking permit.

We also have one of our favorite shots from the Lower canyon 🙂natural wonders in the world

Year-End Special: Niagara Falls and Winter Festival of Lights

As we were planning to relocate to Canada in May this year, my only wish was to see Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, from where the Horseshoe Bend and the American falls are clearly visible in all their glory! And we did take a trip on the very first weekend.

I had read about how the falls can look like frozen during the winter time (they don’t freeze completely, just that the flow-rate gets reduced), so I had that on my mind as well. Also, with the year-end Festival of Lights (FOL) going on these days, there couldn’t have been a better time than to visit now. So, last Saturday, we made an excitement-filled trip to the attraction known to spellbound anybody. After reaching around 2.30pm, we parked at the paid parking (charge is flat at $20 for a day) right across the street opposite to the Horseshoe falls. Having seen the falls at the peak of Summer, I couldn’t help admire the contrast now. Though it is not yet the peak of winter here, snow has fallen a few times already. And the effect was clearly visible around – apart from the falls, pretty much everything else was frozen.frozen niagara fallswinter in canadahorseshoe falls usaamerican falls canadaIt was so cold even with the layers of clothes we were wearing that Saru had to head indoors (just adjacent to the falls – there are a few shops to grab souvenirs and eat as well). However, if you are adventurous and more inclined towards spending your time outside (like me), you can take a walk along the falls from Horseshoe to American and even further till the Rainbow Bridge (connecting Canada and United States). The route map is here.niagara in winterOnce it was dark (around 5pm), we picked up our car and started driving towards the Dufferin islands, home to Festival’s Canadian Wildlife Displays, including some three-dimensional ones also. Considering that a lot of people are visiting just to see the lights, be ready to encounter traffic, but it is also an opportunity to admire the displays along the road. Since there are 2 lanes each way most of the time, you can stop at non-crowded places (be sure to switch on the parking lights) and click a few shots. Once in dufferin islands, there are designated parking slots for you to get down and go close to the illuminations. wildlife in canadacanada wildlife photographyfestival of lightsdufferin islandsWe spent a couple of hours in the islands before heading back towards the falls. I stopped at a few places on the other side of the road now to take some shots (my favorite is that of the flag – it alternated between Canadian and American one).niagara falls folcanadian american flagNotes:

  1.  The illuminations are on a stretch of 8 kilometers as in map above – it is up to you to make the most of them. One can easily spend a few hours just marveling at the beauty of the falls themselves!
  2. If you are looking to park your car for just a couple of hours to view the falls, check short-term parking slots around – there are many along the main road (they would be cheap). We should have gone with them this time!
  3. This year the FOL is from Nov 18 to Jan 31. There is no fees to view the lights. However, donations are welcome at the exit of the Dufferin Islands.
  4. We didn’t see the fireworks over falls this time, but here is the schedule if you are interested.
  5. Do check the weather conditions if you want to head over. Canada is known for its extreme weather! Consequently, it would be wise to carry all of your winter essentials, even an extra pair of clothes, and an umbrella (the mist off the falls creates showers sometimes).

The scenery to die for!

In my earlier post, I had covered the snow-capped mountains from our California road-trip. On the same trip, we experienced another aspect of similar landscapes – the ones that were lush-green.

We didn’t mind stopping at each such worthy stop as we had plenty of time…that’s the biggest benefit of driving on your own. I was so overawed by the postcard-perfect views that Saru had to drag me at times to get back to the car 🙂

Below shot is of the New Melones Bridge on the lake with the same name, though it is more of a reservoir.

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Having driven more than 1,700 miles across the state, I would say that California has every aspect of natural beauty, thus making it perfect for a long vacation break.

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