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What Do the Navajo Call Antelope Canyon?

Last Update on July 26, 2022
by Maxtour
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The Navajo name for Upper Antelope Canyon—Tsé'bighanilí—translates to “the place where water runs through.” Their name for Lower Antelope Canyon is Hasdestwazi, meaning “spiral rock arches.”

Most visitors agree that photographs don't prepare you for the spectacular beauty you see when you come face to face with towering Antelope Canyon. The bright colors of cream, orange, pink, purple, and red can only really be appreciated in person, meaning the best time of day to visit the canyon is usually during sunset, when these colors are made all the more vibrant..

The canyon came into being thousands of years ago through wind, rain, and flash floods. The result is one of the world's most spectacular places—a surreal geological feature filled with shifting shadows and light. 

To see for yourself, check out our article on Antelope Canyon tours from Las Vegas.

What’s in the Name?

The canyon derives its name from the pronghorn antelope that grazed nearby hundreds of years ago. The Navajo have been familiar with the Antelope Canyon for a long time, and it holds ceremonial, historical, and symbolic significance to the Navajo people.

There are a few stories that detail how settlers learned of its existence. One version is that the canyon was discovered when cattle wandered over to graze in the uncharted area, another is that a girl stumbled upon it when herding sheep. 

Upper Antelope

Upper Antelope Canyon towers over 120 feet in the air and is known as “the crack” because of how the light beams enter the roof of the canyon and fall on the canyon's walls. Upper Antelope is one of the most photographed places on Instagram, and the world's most expensive photograph was taken there.

Lower Antelope

Lower Antelope Canyon is for those looking for the whole tour experience. It's easy to access because the entrance is at the bottom of the canyon, and like its counterpart, it doesn't disappoint. The V-shape allows plenty of sunlight in to bounce vibrant colors off the canyon walls. Lower Antelope tends to be less crowded than the Upper Canyon.

Wondering if Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon is more popular–we’ve got you covered! Take a look at our latest article.

A Photographer’s Paradise

The major attraction of Antelope Canyon is the beautifully colored beams of light. They change depending on the time of day, so from morning to evening, every hour is a different experience. And it’s not just the colors—you can also experience changing shapes such as the heart, the crack, and the corkscrew.

What to Watch Out For

Visitors are encouraged to wear comfortable and sturdy shoes. The canyon is located in Arizona, so carrying enough drinking water is crucial. Of course, visitors should also be sure to leave the place as they found it to ensure many generations can enjoy this natural wonder.

There's more to the antelope canyon than meets the eye. To the Navajo people, it's a place that holds spiritual and historic significance passed down for generations. 



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