Monument Valley is one of the most iconic landscapes in the world and is a typical backdrop for many Western themed movies.
But what is it about this place that makes it so inspiring?
The first thing you will notice as you enter Monument Valley National Park is the colour of the ground. The sand that covers it is like nothing you have seen before. A shade of red that you just can't quite describe. No pictures will do it justice.
Then, you will notice the vastness of the valley. It's huge and, apart from the dominating natural sculptures, completely empty. It is the kind of place that makes you feel very small and insignificant in the grand sceme of things.
Next, especially if you are visiting in the late afternoon and the sun hits the rocks just right, you will be amazed by the breath-taking beauty of this place. Each of these awe-inspiring monuments was created by nature over thousands of years. 'Wow' suddenly doesn't seem like a strong enough word.
Most of the monuments in the Valley have names such as Elephant Butte (pronounced bew-te, not butt as my tour-guide frequently pointed out), The Three Sisters and Totem Pole for example. These names are given to the monuments based on one's imagination and were decided by the Valley's early settlers.
The overwhelming landscape spans over 91,000 acres and stretches into both Utah and Arizona so it is easy to get a little lost when exploring on your own.
If you can tear yourself away from the views, there are several fun ways to spend a day in Monument Valley. Love a hike? Try hiking the Wildcat Trail, a 4 mile loop that offers some of the most spectacular views in the whole valley. Or if that sounds like a bit too much work, why not try a guided jeep tour to see the sights from the comfort of your seat. Although, comfort might be a stretch, after all these aren't paved roads so be prepared for a lot of bouncing around. The Navajo guides that run these tours are amazing and love to share their history with visitors.
The Navajo people have called the Valley home for many years and nobody knows it like they do. It is totally worth splashing out for the Navajo-guided jeep tour of this beautiful land (the most photographed landscape in the world) to really get an authentic look.
If you opt for an overnight stay with the Navajo's you are in for a real treat. While most tourists come to see the monuments at sunset or sunrise, you will be able to see both and more! Eat an authentic meal cooked for you by your hosts and watch as they teach you about their heritage through song and dance (Audience participation is usually encouraged). Part of me still thinks I accidentally got married during one of these ceremonies (I'm pretty sure the guide was kidding but you never know...) but it was an amazing thing to be a part of. The food was delicious, even for a picky eater like me.
When your thoughts turn towards bed after the day's excitement, prepare yourself for Monument Valley's best kept secret: The Stars.
During my trip to Monument Valley we turned down the generous offer to stay in our guide's home and chose instead to camp out under the stars. This was the single best decision I made during that entire trip and the memory of it will stay with me for the rest of my life. Admittedly, waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of dogs howling at each other (I thought they were coyotes to begin with...) and seeing one of them standing right near me was terrifying but the overall experience was way more than worth it!
Monument Valley spans for miles with nothing to dilute the beauty of the night sky. The stars here shine brighter than any you have ever seen before and there are millions of them. Words won't do it justice, you really have to see it to believe it.
I could spend days in Monument Valley and I'm sure you could too but if you only have a day, my top recommendation is to take a guided jeep tour. If you only do one thing, make that it. I promise you won't be disappointed! Enjoy your trip :)