Posted by: Gideon | April 9, 2011

Arizona with Kids: Canyon de Chelly – An incredible cultural and natural experience.

Hiking into Canyon de Chelly

We made our way to Canyon de Chelly (pronounced de Shay). This is an unforgettable place. It’s a deep valley surrounded on either side by huge walls of rock, like any canyon But, people actually live in the valley, and its green and covered in fields.

People have been living here for 2000 years, and still do. It has a bloody history. Ancient native american tribes were replaced by more recent tribes, who in turn were attacked first by the Spanish, and then by the US Army, who starved the Navajo inhabitants into surrender in 1864. The Navajo were forced to move, but later were allowed to return, and their descendents still farm the canyon today. There is a lot to do – there are great hikes into the valley to see ancient structures that are still standing almost intact, and one can drive along the rim. Finally, one can take a guided trip with a Navajo guide in a jeep, deep into the canyon, in areas where others are not allowed to enter. We did this – and we were taken to visit a “hogan” – a traditional Navajo house, watch them baking bread, and weaving textiles. None of this was at all touristy – our guide took us to his own house, where we met his sister, brother and other members of the family.

Canyon de Chelly

This place is an effort to reach, but it is so worth it. No crowds – I think we saw maybe another 5 tourists while we were there. We stayed in Chinle, a Navajo town – at the Holiday Inn. It’s not much of a town. The restaurant served Navajo dishes – something we had not come across before – Fry Bread is a big thing – it is just this – a big fried round piece of dough – kind of like a huge flat doughnut – not very healthy.

After some great hiking and a really interesting time meeting the local people, it was time to  leave the Navajo Reservation and we entered New Mexico.

PS: I plan great trips for families to destinations worldwide. Click here for more details.

Learning how a Navajo oven works.

Navajo weavings.


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