How to go on a guided tour and not go bankrupt?
When I browsed pictures of the most beautiful arches in the US, I noticed that many of them were labeled as “Monument Valley”. But I’ve been to Monument Valley several times before and I have never seen a single arch. So where are they?
After a thorough investigation it turned out that those arches indeed exist, but are not accessible for visitors. The only way to see them is to go on a tour with a guide. The tour prices stated online shocked me, and when you multiply them by 4 people, they become insane. The tours online have their names and specified sightseeing programs. You can choose the one which suits you most. But from my last visit I remembered that there were small cabins next to The View hotel with signs Tours and Horses on display. So maybe we should try there? Maybe they will have cheaper tours? But what if not, and all of the tours will be sold out by then?
We decided to take our chances. After checking in at the hotel we headed straight for those cabins. In front of them there were rows of cars with Native Americans sitting inside with very much worn trip “catalogues” . In order to provide a support to an emancipation of women, we approached a Navajo woman and told her that we want to go on a tour, but we have a trip plan of or own. We showed her photos of attractions we wanted to see. She said that it is not a problem and that some o those places are a part of a standard tour and that they will simply add those that are not. She offered us a price 30% lower than online and asked when do we want to go. We booked our tour for 4 pm.
We paid the entire amount right after this short talk and of course we did not receive any type of payment receipt , so we were a bit stressed on our way to the parking, hoping that hopefully someone will be waiting there for us. The woman was at her post and she showed us a way to a yellow jeep on the parking. Our guide was waiting there.
You can describe the trip with one word: “a fairytale”! We were shown the places that we wanted to see and those that we didn’t even dream of. The car was a brand new, comfortable and sturdy Jeep, not a pick-up with a shed. This made it possible for us to return from the trip clean and not covered with sand. Our guide was very kind and helpful.
I highly recommend such trips. It takes approximately 4 hours. This is an option for those who do not want to enter the valley with their own cars, as the beginning of the trip runs through the Valley Drive. Do not forget to give a customary tip to your guide at the end of the ride. If you decide to buy a trip online, you can find tour operators authorized by the Navajo tribe here:
How about a horse ride?
That’s a great idea, an amazing adventure to remember for the rest of your life! It will allow you to feel like in a western movie, with the only difference that the Native American guide will be your ally, caring about your safety and well being.
To book a horse ride you can do just like we did with the car tour. Come to the cars next to the cabins in front of the hotel and ask about the price. You can bargain a little but do not overdo it. Generally speaking the more people you bring with you the better, as the price per person will be lower, so large families will suffer less. Same goes for car tours.
There is huge demand and competition here, so this the place to hunt for price.
We managed to find a satisfactory price and a fantastic guide. We made an appointment for a specific hour, he took us with his car to a stable in the very heart of Monument Valley. Everyone received a horse matching its riding skills and we went! The horses allow you to reach places where no car can go, and you can really feel like in the Wild West.
What if you do not have experience and you’ve never sat on a horse? Lack of experience is not a problem at all. Your guide will teach you how to handle the horse. It is not harder than driving a car, and what is more you do not need to know the traffic rules. A novice will receive a so called lazy horse, a horse which will slowly and gracefully glide through the prairies of Arizona. After about an hour you should get a hold of horse riding, and you should be able to sightsee the valley while trotting.
After such a horse trip it is highly plausible that your guide will offer you a discount if you book an additional car tour from him. It is worth to take advantage of this.
Once Upon a Time in the West, how we managed to find the remains of a movie set.
As a huge fan of this movie I came across some information that there are still remains of scenography prepared by the filming crew. Even though the film had been shot mostly in Spain, some of the most crucial scenes were filmed here. One of the most famous scenes in all of western movies, when the outlaw Fonda hangs a a Mexican man, was shot here, and apparently this brick arch, or what is left of it, still stands somewhere in the valley.
The best friend of every traveler – Google Earth – was deployed to help me in the search of the arch. I searched a huge area inch by inch., Using pictures from the movie and location of the buttes I narrowed the search area, and bingo, I think that is it! On my computer screen I saw a shadow and two straight stripes, which resembled tracks, on which a cart with a camera could be moved. I saved the GPS coordinates, hoping that I found the right spot.
During our next visit to Monument Valley we went to check if I had been correct. Our supposed location was quite a distance away from the park, and you had to navigate through a net of unpaved roads to get there. We kept heading more or less in the direction of the GPS waypoint and suddenly we started seeing a silhouette of the arch. There it is! We found it!
We were both euphoric and moved. We stood in front of the already weathered structure, with rusty cans lying all around us, from which we supposed Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson ate their beef and beans for lunch 50 years ago. There were also some glass bottles here, probably left by some prohibition opponents. There were long concrete tracks, which served as camera tracks, built next to the arch.
We spent over an hour here taking pictures and waiting for the sun to come out. Unfortunately it did not happen, stormy clouds were racing towards Monument Valley, just like in the movie…
A few words to sum up
The drive through Valley Drive alone should take you around 2-3 hours. If you are not planning on doing anything else here, you can reserve half a day for Monument Valley. If you are not staying for the night in the valley or nearby I recommend that you at least stay here until sunset, as it is truly breathtaking here.
Monument Valley is highly photogenic, but some locations are better photographed in the afternoon, an some in the morning. We usually come to Monument Valley in early afternoon, do a drive around or visit other attractions, and spend the night in the park. Then a mandatory early wake-up to see the sunrise and a morning tour of the valley, in order to photograph the ‘morning’ locations. This is of course an ideal variant. Coming to Monument Valley in the afternoon and staying until the sunset is a viable compromise here. 😊