on May 31, 2012
When my husband and I did a road trip around the US, the Grand Canyon was our first stop. I have actually been before, but even previous visits can’t prepare you for the breath taking beauty of the place. You’ll need a set of batteries and a memory card for your visit here alone because every step you take brings another wonderful sight and photo opportunity – it simply is that good! We went to the South Rim area known as Grand Canyon Village, which is almost 300km away from Las Vegas, driving along highways and interstates. The drive is very easy (we have never driven abroad before and found it to be a doddle) and the views on the way are great.Entrance to the park is $25 per car, regardless of how many passengers are in it and that fee allows you unlimited access for seven days from issue. This is fantastic if you are there for a couple of days and still worth it even if you are only there overnight like we were. It also has the added bonus of meaning that you can choose to stay in a cheaper hotel outside of the park gates and drive in each day without incurring extra charges. We stayed inside the park at one of the park’s five accommodations. We chose the cheapest of the bunch – Maswik Lodge – which was fantastic. It had a feel of a hostel to it, but the rooms are private and have plenty of facilities including a fridge and a huge 42" television, which has to be the most redundant thing on the planet when you consider the view outside of the window. All of the accommodations are understated and blend in with the surrounding nature and at around $70 per night, we thought this one was great value and perfectly suitable. The other places offer the full range of standards right up to the luxurious El Tovar, so you can find whatever you want.Grand Canyon Village is aptly named because it is very much like a little village in that it has restaurants, café, bars and shops. Pleasingly though, it isn’t in any way tacky. The shops are all part of the various hotels and so blend in nicely. They tend to sell basic things including snacks and a range of essential items, but at slightly inflated prices, given the location. If you are staying over and want a drink, I’d totally recommend the bar at the Angel Lodge hotel which is a wonderful little place offering, amongst other things, a wide selection of cocktails. The bar is a cosy place that is gently lit and often has live music on.You can drive around parts of the park, although I’d highly recommend parking up in one of the many (free) car parks and using the (free) shuttle buses to explore. There are three routes called Red, Blue and Yellow (original hey?) and they pretty much cover all of the accessible areas of the park. They run completely regularly and are very reliable and convenient. Each of the bus stops details the route and the other stops available, as well as the bus timetables so they are very easy to use. We took full advantage of the bus and found it a very handy way of exploring. There are lots of different viewpoints that you can visit and the buses cover all of them. They also give you an exact distance between the stop that you are at and the next one each way. We really enjoyed walking between bus stops too – you can ride the bus out to the end and then alternate between walking and getting the bus to ensure that you aren’t wasting time waiting for buses.The park itself is absolutely stunning, as you would imagine, from whichever way you look at it. No amount of photographs can really do justice to the beauty that is literally all around you. I am really struggling to describe it without sounding all cheesy, but it really is like nothing else. The colours are fabulous and the shapes that the Colorado River has carved into the canyon are incredible – I could have spent hours just standing and staring and it is easy to do as there are so many things to look at. Squinting at the river at the bottom gives you some idea of the scale of the canyon, but there are placards around the edges that indicate spots in the distance are around 14 miles away. The placards also label some of the more interesting rock shapes and points in the canyon, as well as giving interesting facts about it. The signage is all done in a way that will engage everyone from children to adults and from casual tourists to keen climbers.You can take walks down into the canyon, although it isn’t as simple as just strolling down there. Thanks to the heat and the sheer distance down to the bottom, you really have to come prepared if you want to explore downwards. There are lots of information signs that warn of the dangers of going unprepared and alone. You can walk a little way down without too much strain, but to be honest we preferred walking around the edge and looking down at the view.One of the most amazing things about Grand Canyon Village is how much thought and care they have given to maintaining the natural feel of the place, whilst opening it up to visitors. The buildings are all low and surrounding by trees to minimalize their impact. There are a couple of rules that are strictly enforced, such as no littering and making sure that pets are kept on a leash at all times. The best thing though in my opinion, was the complete lack of light pollution. There are very few lights in the village – just enough that you can see where you are going but not enough to ruin the fabulous view into the sky at night. It is worth staying over for this alone. I don’t think I have ever been able to see as many stars in the sky as you can here, it really is quite spectacular. Remember that it is the desert though and so it does get cold at night, so bring warm clothes for that. Needless to say, I absolutely loved the Grand Canyon and I firmly believe that it is one of those places that you should visit in your lifetime if you can. It doesn’t have to be expensive because there are places to stay and eat that suit every budget and it isn’t just about the walking – there is a great atmosphere around the social part of the village too.
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